How to take a Christmas Card Photo with Dogs

Creating Christmas cards has become a popular holiday tradition because in this digital age, there’s just something about receiving a card in the mail that makes you feel connected to your family and friends no matter how busy life gets. As the holidays are quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to start thinking of your family photo – which of course includes all the four-legged members.

Including your dog can be a challenge. They have tons of energy, a very limited attention span, and can’t be let off leash. But with proper preparation you can overcome these obstacles to create the perfect shot! Here are some tips and Christmas card ideas with dogs for you to try:

Plan, Prepare and Pamper

Make sure you pack extra batteries, a tripod, toys, and plenty of treats. Take your dog for a walk to burn off the excess energy before attempting photos. If they are in a good mood when its time for photos you’ll probably get a happy expression so shower them with what they love the most. That could be playtime with a favorite toy, treats, or just some affection.

Coordinate Your Outfits

The days of family photos in matching white shirts and blue jeans are long gone. Instead, you’ll want to choose complementary colors and coordinating patterns in everyone’s outfit. Stick to 2-3 main colors and most importantly make sure its comfortable and something you don’t mind getting dirty (this is inevitable at a doggie photoshoot!).

Include Props

Pet stores carry a wide variety of holiday outfits to get your dog into the Christmas spirit. Whether it be a Santa suit, ugly sweater, reindeer, elf, or snowman costume, make sure it’s not too tight and that they can move freely. If your dog is uncomfortable it’ll show in your photo! For those anti-costume dogs, opt for a holiday collar, bandana, or bowtie instead.

Keep it Simple

Choose a location that will provide a basic, uncluttered background. This way you’ll keep the focus on your family and minimize any distractions. If your outfits have mostly dark tones, look for a light background and vice versa. Here are some of my favorite locations for family photos:

Makapuu Beach

Waialae Beach Park

Waialae Beach Park


Papa’iloa Beach

Central Oahu Regional Park

Kailua Beach Park

Forgo the Flash

Turn off your on-camera flash to avoid the dreaded redeye for people and glowing eyes for dogs. Utilize natural light whenever possible, but avoid shooting during mid-day light when the sun is directly overhead and casts unflattering shadows. If you must shoot indoors, look for areas facing large windows.

Attention Getters

When it comes to getting your dog to look at the camera, consider their personality. Some will perk up with treats, toys, or even animal sounds. If you are taking your own photos, having a friend behind the camera to hold a treat next to the lens or squeak a toy right before pressing the shutter will definitely help. Keep shooting in burst mode. You never know which moment will produce the perfect candid shot. Most of the time our favorite photos are the ones not posed!

Short and Sweet

If you sense your dog is not cooperating, don’t get frustrated. Just remind yourself to take frequent breaks throughout the shoot as dogs tend to get bored and lose focus quickly. Let them drink some water and roam around for several minutes before starting over.

Have Fun!

When you look back at your Christmas Card, you’ll want to be reminded of how much fun it was to create that shot with your family. So always try to make your photoshoot a fun experience for both you and your dog. Include some elements that are special to your family like a favorite beach or activity. Last year, our dog Kobe was relentless in exploring our kitchen trashcans and shelves for food while we were gone. Despite our best efforts, he always persevered! So we decided to recreate his shenanigans for our card, what do you think?

Fun and Festive Ideas

There are many ways to incorporate your dog into the Christmas card. While a group family shot is always nice, you can get creative with some solo options too:

Hopefully, these ideas have inspired your next Christmas card and these tips will make it easier for you to capture it. Your dog is a special part of your family and your Christmas card should reflect that. If you rather sit back and relax without the pressure of getting that perfect shot, there’s still time to book a session in time for the holidays. Contact me and we’ll plan something uniquely fun!

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