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The holidays are my favorite time to photograph animals – whether it is my own dog or dogs at my local animal shelter. It’s especially fun to include them in holiday family photos. But just as with taking festive photos with children, it can be a struggle to get that perfect shot of your furry friend!

Here are a couple tips to make your holiday pet portraits easier:

Festive Themes

Whether it’s an ugly sweater, Santa hat, or a fun holiday themed costume – like an elf – your subject will most likely love or hate these props.
If you are working with a dog who is okay with props – that makes it really fun.

But if your subject does not want to deck the halls, you’ll be able to tell that they are uncomfortable – and that’s not the kind of holiday memory you’ll want to keep! There are many other ways to bring the holidays into your photos.

Primary Red Seamless Paper is always the backdrop that I use around the holidays. If you’re photographing a dog with white fur, be conscious of color casting – but that is something you’ll be able to correct in editing if it does occur. (Remember to shoot in RAW!)

Focus on other ways to bring the holidays into your photos. Think about the backdrop instead! You can also show off a tree, gift bags and wrapped presents, and holiday toys – this will all help you set the mood.

Post Production

A great holiday photo can be hindered by things like leashes. If you’re shooting in a shelter, or even with an energetic dog at home, you may need to use a leash to keep them from running off your backdrop paper. No worries! There is an easy way to remove dog leashes in Photoshop.

If you select sections of the leash with the Lasso Tool, and then hit “Delete,” it will take elements from around the leash and blend the selected area with them. Be sure you’ve selected “Content-Aware” in the Fill > Contents window. This is the default option in Photoshop CC.

If you’re not comfortable with Photoshop or Lightroom, there are a variety of apps you can use on your phone. FaceTune and Snapseed can be helpful, and you can easily sharpen your photos, change the highlight levels, and increase brightness.

Amanda Strozeski

Savage Universal Featured PhotographerAmanda Strozeski is a professional animal rescue photographer based out of Pennsylvania. She is a member of HeARTs Speak, an international nonprofit organization uniting art and advocacy to increase the visibility of shelter animals. She is an Instagram influencer, along with her constantly smiling dog at @itsmisterbarclay. She also works on the marketing team at Olympus, and is an advocate for the wonders of shooting mirrorless. She has spoken at events like Imaging USA and loves to share her photography experiences with others.  


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