American Foxhound show dog poses during spring photoshoot in Florence, South Carolina during dog portrait session.

So, you booked your dog's photoshoot. What's next?

You've decided that it's time to take the leap and have professional photos taken of your dog. Congratulations! You're in for a super fun experience, and when it's all over you'll have images and wall art that you'll treasure for many years to come.

Some dog owners may feel like they have no idea what to do to prepare for their dog's photoshoot day. That's totally normal.

I'm here to give you some tips on how to prepare for your dog's photoshoot. As a Charleston, SC dog photographer and breeder/owner/handler of several hound breeds, I've learned a thing or two over the years that will help you feel more relaxed and ready to go on the day you meet with your photographer!

Woman poses with Akita dog at Charlestowne Landing in Charleston, SC. Photographed by SC dog photographer.

Be YOU. I love seeing every client's style!

First Things First-Planning Your Attire

Some dog owners think that they will only want photos of their dogs alone, but I always encourage them to let me take at least a few images of dog and owner together. Whether you may want to be in a few images or you're planning on being in them ALL, it's a good idea to plan your outfit before the morning of your dog's photoshoot.

Comfort is key. You might love the look of heels and a sundress, but if you think those heels will have you hobbling within 15 minutes (I get this, because that would be ME!) plan on bringing another pair of shoes you can change into for the majority of your shoot time. Likewise, choose an outfit that fits you in a way that doesn't leave you tugging or pulling at your clothes every few minutes. Make sure you FEEL good in what you wear! That confident feeling will transfer over into your photos, I promise.

Now let's talk colors. When I get dressed to show dogs, my general rule of thumb is to never wear a color that blends into the colors of the dogs. Which means, sadly, sometimes I have to forgo my favorite color to wear-black! For example, if I'm showing a dog that is black across his back I'll choose a top or dress that is red or purple, something of that sort.

Some colors and patterns just do not photograph well. I recommend passing over neon colors and overly busy patterns.

I also want to note, choose your attire to fit your personality, by all means. Whether you're preppy or a little edgy, we want your photos to reflect who you truly are. You don't have to make yourself something you're not for my sake!

Young lady & Border Collie photographed by SC dog photographer sitting on park bench in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Night Before-Preparing Your Dog

Photoshoot day is almost here! The night before is a perfect time to groom your dog in preparation for the shoot. Not only does this help you avoid feeling rushed the morning of, it allows the oils in your dog's coat to redistribute after being bathed.

Feel free to use any shampoo you normally use on your dog, but I love Exhibitor's Labs Quic Color line for my show dogs. They have a formula for brown/red toned dogs, black dogs, and a whitening shampoo that is FABULOUS. Click here to check them out. A little bit goes a long way! I've been using this brand on my show horses and show dogs since I was not even a teenager.

If you don't want to give your dog a full bath, I also love Shapley's Easy Out No Rinse Shampoo. It's great for touchup's the day of, or as an alternative to a bath for a dog that isn't caked in mud. You can find this product in the horse section at most Tractor Supply stores, or buy online here.

I also recommend making sure your dog's nails are trimmed. They'll look better, AND feel better.

If you want to deck your dog out in a seasonal bandanna or scarf, I highly recommend Modern Companion. They're a local, female owned business located in Chapin, South Carolina and their line of dog bandannas and scarfs are tasteful and chic. Check them out here. You can shop in-store or online.

I'll have baby wipes and a towel for last minute touch-up's at your session, so don't fret!

Woman with Akita's walks down avenue of oaks in Charleston, South Carolina. Photographed by SC dog photographer.

It's Your Dog's Photoshoot Day! What to Do the Morning Of

Are you excited? Maybe a little nervous? Guess what-I am too! But, let's talk about some things you can do before you head out to your shoot that will make you feel a little more at ease.

Is your dog high energy? Even if he/she isn't, I STRONGLY recommend a good walk or play session before you head out for your dog's photoshoot. This will help get out some extra energy and allow your dog to have an easier time focusing (and sitting still) when we begin to shoot. A tired dog is almost always a more willing dog!

Don't feed your dog heavily the morning of, especially if he is particularly treat motivated (be sure to bring some of his favorite treats or a toy that grabs his attention, if he has one!). This will also eliminate the need for multiple potty breaks and ensure that your dog doesn't appear bloated-yes, they can look bloated just like we can.

Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your scheduled shoot time. This will give your dog time to take in his surroundings and potty. It will also give the two of you time to relax a bit. Your dog will be much less fidgety during your photoshoot if you don't rush in at the last minute.

Senior tri-color foxhound is photographed in Mount Pleasant, SC by SC dog photographer.

Want to hear a secret? This guy had a collar & leash on when I took this photo!

Final Thoughts, and a Little Packing Checklist

I know this all sounds like SO much information. But please, don't fret. This is supposed to be fun. Don't worry about everything that "could" go wrong. I've seen it all! We will work around it, I promise!

Here's a little checklist to make sure you have everything you need when you get to your dog's photoshoot:

  • Your dog's collar & leash-bring something minimal if you don't want it to show too much in your photos. I always have a snake chain and show lead with me, but not all dogs will tolerate this setup.
  • Any bandannas or other dog attire you want your dog to wear
  • A baggie full of your dog's favorite treats and/or a favorite toy that grabs his attention
  • Poop Bags
  • Any extra pieces of your own wardrobe you may need (shoes, extra top, etc.)
  • A seasonal blanket if you wish to use one (this would normally be provided but...COVID. Ugh.)
  • A small water bowl

If you're a client that has booked a session with me, thank you for choosing me to be your South Carolina dog photographer. If you want to learn more about working with me please visit my website to view my work and my session offerings.

I can't wait to meet you and your dog(s)!

-Jessica O'Connor