The holidays are upon us! The decorations have been put up both inside and out, the presents have been bought and wrapped (although not put under the tree since Rosee happens to like ribbon and tissue paper), and the tamales and other sweet treats have been happily eaten. Lastly and certainly not least however, the holiday cards have been mailed.
Truth be told I have never been great with sending holiday cards out every year. Don’t get me wrong, I always make plans to send out cards. I even buy them early, and tell myself that I’m not going to forget. Yet, when the time finally comes…I forget.
Although, since Simon and Rosee have come along holiday cards have become a must when the holidays come around. It’s pretty much due to the fact that I enjoy sending out holiday cards with a family photo that includes both dogs.
I love including the dogs in our annual family photo for our holiday card, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy to actually take the photo. With people it’s easy to take a picture (or perhaps just easier since my stepdad always manages to have a weird look on his face). Yet, with dogs the picture taking process can much more challenging. It can be somewhat of a chore to position them, it can be difficult to get them to stay for long periods of time, and it is definitely not easy to get them to actually look at the direction of the camera.
So, here are a few tips I’ve learned that can be helpful when it comes to taking an adorabull holiday photo.
Sit, Stay, Focus!—In order to have a fabulous photo it helps if your dog has a strong understanding of these three commands, but “lay down” can also be substituted for “sit.” “Sit”/ “lay down” are helpful to use when you first position your dog. Some people may try more interesting poses. For instance, this year I tried to get Simon to stand up with his front paws on a hay bale, which did work, but took a little more time and patience to get him to do it and hold it for the picture. If your dog has a good grasp of “sit” or “lay down” though, then it is much easier to direct them to stay while you wait for the camera to snap a picture. My family uses a timer on the camera to take the picture so it’s a must for Rosee and Simon to know “stay.” Furthermore, “focus” is a good command to have knowledge of since it helps you direct your dog’s attention to where you want them to look. Typically, this command is used to help your dog learn how to maintain eye contact with their person. Fortunately though, I have found that it can come in handy when trying to get both dogs to look in the direction of the camera for a festive photo. Usually we leave a treat next to the camera and tell Simon and Rosee to “focus” then simply wait for the flash.
Lighting—The lighting of your photo is one of the most important things to consider. No, really, I mean it. Really. I would recommend using natural light. That can mean either taking a photo outside, such as in your backyard, front yard, or perhaps another outdoor space, or just taking a photo during the day as opposed to at night. I would caution, however, not taking a picture right in front of an open window during the day because usually the window will cause a glare. Similarly, try to avoid having direct lighting in the photo such as a lamp because you’ll have the same issue.
Keep Things Simple—Holiday photos are pretty fun to take, at least in my opinion. I enjoy setting the scene, coordinating outfits, and generally putting things together. After much practice I have come to the realization that simpler is best. Sure, it’s fun to dress up your dog in a pawsitively adorabull outfit that will have others oohing and aahing. However, if your dog’s not used to wearing those pawsitively adorabull outfits or just plain doesn’t tolerate them, which (much to my dismay) Rosee and Simon enjoy ripping off of each other, then it’s probably best to forego the outfits. Instead, simply dress your dog is a holiday themed bandana, bowtie, tie, or headpiece. Also, it can be helpful to let your dog get used to wearing whatever you plan on them wearing ahead of time. Even if it’s just for a few minutes a couple times a day. Next, keep the poses natural. For instance, if your dog is used to sitting in your lap, then let them. If they’re more comfortable sitting, then have them sit. Finally, don’t have an overly complicated background. It’s probably easiest to keep the setting in a comfortable and familiar space. That way it can be easier for them to stay focused, rather than trying to smell or watch everything going on around them. Of course, simple doesn’t mean it can’t be holiday inspired. In fact, my family’s own holiday card was fall inspired and everyone wore either a black or orange shirt to go with the pumpkins we had gathered in one corner.
Treats, Treats, Treats!—The use of treats can be helpful when trying to get your dog to do what you want them to do. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve found that treats are most helpful when getting Simon and Rosee to “focus” on the camera. However, treats are also pretty helpful when first getting them in position. For most dogs treats provide the proper motivation, and treats can really take on any form. They can be food like pieces of fruit, vegetables or plain old dog treats. Otherwise, they can be special toys. Although, if your dog is an excellent sniffer, then I wouldn’t recommend keeping any food treats in your pocket while you pose next to your dog because they will most likely try to get into your pocket instead of “focus” on the camera.
Give Yourself Time—Taking a good holiday photo really can’t be rushed. It’s a process that is going to take time. The important thing to remember is to actually take the time. Dogs aren’t always easy to work with, and it may take a few tries to get them to cooperate with what you want. It might also help if you tire your dog out a little beforehand by playing fetch or something. Just so that they are a little more compliant and some excess energy is burned off. Most importantly: Don’t get frustrated. Instead, try going with the flow (if you will). The photo may not necessarily turn out the exact way you pictured, but in the end it might actually turn out even better.