How to Take a Christmas Card Photo of Your Dog- For a Personalised Family Christmas Card
How to take a great Christmas themed photo of your dog, so you can create a custom Christmas card- by Amy Elizabeth Fine Art- Pastel and Coloured Pencil Pet Portrait Artist
The first Christmas I had my dog Monty, I decided on a whim to try and take a Christmas themed photo of him, in order to send it out as our family Christmas card. It went down so well, I have felt the need to create a Christmas themed photo of him every year since. I thought it might be nice for me to write a post on helping you to create something similar of your dog.
What do you think of when you imagine a dog themed Christmas card? For me, there has to be a few things included.
-Some kind of Christmas themed background
-Christmas themed clothing
I don't think you need all 3 of these Christmas items, but 2 out of the 3 is good to aim for.
I would recommend having a read through this whole post on taking a Christmas card photo of your dog, before then having a research on what you could possibly do with your dog.
So, how do I get a Christmas themed background for my dog photo Christmas card?
There are a couple of ways to get a Christmassy background. Either you can purchase a photography backdrop on eBay. (They are only about £7), you can make use of your own items in your house, such as Christmas trees, and prettily decorated areas of your house or you can go outside.
What kind of Christmas clothing should I use?
The kind of clothing you might want your dog to wear is highly dependent on what they will tolerate! There is no point getting thoughts in your head about a lovely photo with your dog wearing a Santa hat, if there is no way on earth they will tolerate wearing one.
For my previous Christmas cards, I have used a fleece red scarf, a Santa dog coat and a nice knitted jumper (which Monty was not impressed by).
What kind of lighting do I need?
Firstly you need to think about the lighting of where you are wanting to shoot your photo. For outdoor photography tips please see some of my other blog posts. If you are shooting your photo indoors, the brighter location you can get the better. You may be limited on where you have space to put up your photo background or tree though.
Secondly, you need to work out what Christmas lighting you are using. For two of my Christmas cards, I have used lighting that was on Christmas trees, and for another, I used some nice "curtain lights" (about £8 on Amazon), which provided a lovely low effort backdrop.
Now we have got an idea of what kind of things go into taking a dog Christmas card photo, let us have a look at a few examples.
Here is the first Christmas photo I took of Monty. I had sewn the little red scarf myself.
I would say something like this is a lower effort type of card, the only thing you need is an item of Christmas clothing for them to wear and a bit of editing to make it a little more Christmassy. If you are newer to photography and are using a smartphone, something like this is probably the place to start.
Whilst Monty looks lovely and calm in this photo, the first time I went out with him for a photoshoot, he managed to get the scarf off and then spent ages galloping round the garden at high speed with it in his mouth..
For this kind of photo, I would recommend reading a few of my other photography guides, to help you with positioning, lighting and how to get your dog to pose.
This photo was taken for the next Christmas. I purchased a winter scene photography backdrop off eBay, used a Santa dog coat I had bought and a white Christmas tree we already had at home, to try and make the background more realistic.
For the snowy ground, I used an old white bed sheet.
Using a dog coat for the clothing was a good idea, as Monty was okay about wearing it, not like if I had tried getting him to wear something on his head.
I think this one has to be my favourite.
For this Christmas card, I used a roaring fire Christmas photography backdrop, which actually did include a Christmas tree in the photo. However, I decided to put my own tree in front of it. This created a far more realistic look and allowed me to have some real Christmas lights in the background.
Another thing that helps in creating a Christmassy feel is using a fur blanket on the ground for Monty to sit on. This gives a little texture to the photo and is a much more pleasing effect than just my kitchen floor.
Monty was not a huge fan of this knitted jumper, but it did at least mean he sat very still in it, as he didn't want to move!
For this Christmas card, I used curtain Christmas lights, my fur blanket, a hamper and I made both the bow and the Christmas present.
This photo did require some dog training, so I was able to get Monty to stay in the hamper. I did this by rewarding him for staying in the hamper and slowly increasing the time between treats. It is far better to take the time to ensure your dog will do what you want before you start trying to take photos. This will avoid a lot of frustration.
How do I get set up for the Christmas card photo?
Once you have worked out what kind of design you want to go for you need to get set up. If you have purchased a photography backdrop, I have found the easiest option is to just stick it to the wall. You need to then set up any other bit you need, such as lighting or Christmas trees.
Take the time now to try and set up in the best location you can find, the brighter the area the better.
Typically you want a distance between your dog and the background, this means in the pictures your Christmas photography backdrop will be more blurry, and will therefore less 'fake' looking.
For all the photos I have taken so far, it has required me lying down on the floor, in order to be at a good angle. You will get a far better photo at a low angle, than trying to take your photos standing up or even crouching.
Here you can see a bit more of my photography set up. I had the photography backdrop stuck to the wall, and my Christmas tree stood relatively closely, in front of where the tree was on the background. I positioned Monty a good distance away to aid in getting a more soft, blurred effect in the background.
He was sat on a fur blanket, which helped in making the floor look more visually appealing, as I wanted a photo including his full body, therefore the ground was going to be included. This is not as much of a consideration if you are only taking a head shot type photo.
As you can see it is a similar set up again here, using a background, with the curtain lights for added interest. I made a fairly large distance between the background and where Monty would be posing, in order for the background to be blurred.
How do I actually take the photo?
Before you start, you want to get your dog in the right mood for being your model. If they are really hyper, it is not going to be easy to get a good photo. Give them chance to get tired out and ready to pose.
It is good to have an assistant on hand to help you with positioning your dog. That way you can focus on taking the pictures, and they can be getting your dog into position and holding up treats so they look in the right direction. A nice bit of cheese held right where you want them to look usually works nicely.
Once they are in position, you need to get down on the floor and lie down with your camera/phone.
You want your dog to be in focus and the background to be more blurry, so use a portrait mode with a smaller number for the aperture. If you are using a smartphone, you will probably be best with portrait mode.
It may take a while to get the perfect shot, especially if you're a bit of a perfectionist like me.
Don't worry if it takes a little time to get things set up right and your dog doing what you want, you may end up with photos like this one!
If you reading this post, there is a fair chance you like to have nice photos of your dog to remember them by. As a pet portrait artist who works from photos taken by my clients, I love people who have nice photos of their dogs, as they are fantastic to work from. A pastel pet portrait makes a lovely special keepsake of your pet, to remember them for years to come.
If you were thinking about commissioning a pet portrait, why not check out some of my previous work here.
If you have some nice photos of your dog, I would love to see them, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are looking for more general photography tips, you can find my pet photography specific blog posts here.