Contributed by:  Erin Hession, Erin Hession Photography

Lots of couples are opting to include their four-legged family members in their engagement session nowadays, so we came up with some helpful tips to make sure your photo shoot goes smoothly!

Plan to shoot where your pet is most comfortable

Cats typically need to be photographed in their home, where they’re familiar with their surroundings. If a dog is involved in a photo shoot, take into consideration the type of breed it is and what it’s like around people and loud noises and how distracted it can get when it sees other people or pets. I have a few favorite locations around Indy that are secluded, such as Holcomb Gardens, where there aren’t a lot of cars and people around so dogs can focus on looking at me when I’m trying to get their attention. Some pet owners prefer photos that are more urban looking so we’ll go downtown to take photos of them with their dogs, but some dogs are too excited around new people or they get scared at loud noises so they can’t focus on me and it makes for a more difficult session. You also have to be considerate about the time of year in your region. Indiana summers can be very hot and most dogs don’t do well in the heat for that long. We try to find shade and cooler locations for them or suggest that they take the photos during the Spring or Fall when it’s cooler outside.

Make sure your photographer is pet-friendly

Make sure your photographer is pet-friendly and understands that they need to approach your pet slowly so that the pet can get to know him or her and be comfortable with the photographer and their camera. When I first meet the client’s pet, I approach it very slowly and with a hand out so that it can sniff me. I usually bend down to the pet’s level and talk sweetly to it so that it knows it can trust me and that I’m an animal lover. Some breeds are just excited and happy to sniff a new person and they jump up and love on me right away but others are more timid, so your photographer will have to adjust their approach depending on the breed of pet. I usually don’t let most pets see my camera at first too, instead, I’ll let it just sniff me so we can bond a little bit.

Bring treats!

I always bring treats with me whenever a pet is involved in photos, we’ve found that most dogs really love the Natural Choice Crunchy Treats, especially the ones that smell like blueberries: . We become fast friends when they realize that I have treats! Once I introduce the camera and take a few shots, I’ll have my assistant hold the treats next to my face so that the dog is looking at the camera.

Get groomed!

Make sure you plan ahead and get your pet(s) groomed ahead of time so that they’re camera-ready and bring anything with you that you’d like photographed with the pet. Sometimes we photograph pets with their favorite toys or even save the date props so clients need to pack those items and bring them with them to the photo shoot. If the pet is a picky eater, I also suggest bringing their own treats so that the pet cooperates. (And of course, be a good pet owner and bring some plastic bags with you to pick up after your pet)

Allow extra time & pack accordingly

We allow extra time for sessions with pets, knowing that it might take extra time to pose the pet where we want them in photos and it may take extra coercing to get them to do what we want them to do. We also pack a squeaky toy, treats, a portable water bowl and extra bottled water so that our clients know that we care as much about their pet as we do about them! We purchased our portable water bowl at Three Dog Bakery in Indy, they are rubber collapsible bowls that are very portable. You can purchase them online at:

Bring someone with you!

If you want your pet in some photos but not all (and your photographer doesn’t have an assistant with him or her) then bring someone with you who can take care of Fido when he isn’t needed in photos.


Erin Hession is a high-demanded, award-winning wedding and corporate photographer based in Carmel, Indiana. Partnered with her loving husband of 10 years, John Wooten, Erin memorializes weddings in greater Central Indiana with her fun, and unique, style of wedding photography. In addition to being a renowned Indianapolis Wedding Photographer, Erin is quite possibly one of the nicest and most caring people you will ever come across. Check out her blog today: Learn more about Erin at