6 Tips for Taking Festive Holiday Photos of Your Pets
This article is by guest writer Debbie Glovatsky, the girl behind the curtain of the cat lifestyle blog, GLOGIRLY.com, giving voice to the clever and witty personalities of her cats, Katie & Waffles. Their laugh-out-loud banter will keep you smiling and snickering while the beautiful photography and creative graphics bring their tales to life.
I remember the first Christmas with my cat, Katie. I was so excited to have my husband take a holiday portrait of us by the Christmas tree. In my mind’s eye, we’d each be wearing our Santa hats, smiling at the camera and perfectly posed. I don’t think I have to tell you how that turned out!
One thing is for certain, when it comes to photographing pets, the best plan is often no plan at all. Because in the end, our pets are just going do what they want to do.
The secret is letting them do what comes naturally with as much or as little holiday fashion flair as they’re comfortable with.
1. Choosing the right wardrobe for your pet
Most cats are not fans of fashion. Many dogs would concur. It’s important to know your pet and their comfort zone. The moment you force them into an outfit, no matter how adorable, is the moment they’ll let you know this is never happening again. It’s also the moment your holiday photo shoot will go south.
Look for outfits that are constructed like a harness, as opposed to something that has to be put over their head like a piece of clothing. Costumes with sleeves for arms and legs can also be problematic. Waffles, my orange tabby, is very comfortable in a harness and doesn’t mind wearing his Santa coat at all. It’s simple construction, with a soft Velcro-secured strap around the neck and tummy, makes it easy to put on and for Waffles, feels much like his regular harness.
For my tuxedo cat Katie, clothing is a four-letter word. And I don’t mean Meow. She’s far more comfortable in a simple collar. Look for soft, stretchy decorative collars or even simple add-ons, like a bow tie or flower, that can be secured to a regular collar.
Just because your pet isn’t feeling the love when it comes to dressing up, don’t be discouraged. You can capture beautiful holiday photos of them by simply creating a festive environment.
Try photographing your pet with holiday lights in the background. Get down low so that you’re at their eye level and the sparkles are behind them or to the side. Toss in a couple of wrapped gifts or a stocking. Not only does this add a festive touch, it will give your pet something to investigate and engage with. When my cats lose interest and start to leave the room, I just add in another box. And another. And another.
2. Flash or no flash?
When possible, stick to natural light. This will keep the sparkle and glow of the holiday lights shining and will help avoid that deer-in-the-headlights look on your pet’s face.
When the light levels are low, it’s hard to hold the camera perfectly still though, so a tripod can make all the difference in keeping it steady. When I’m in a rush, I’ll sometimes cheat and rest the camera on a low table surface or even the floor.
3. Don’t Forget the treats!
I like to give my cats a small treat before and after putting on their holiday flair. It instantly focuses their attention on something positive.
Sometimes the treat bag can become too much of a distraction when shooting photos. I like to wear something with big pockets so I’ve got a place to stash the goods while keeping my hands free for the camera and my pets.
4. Using a wrangler
You may not always have the luxury of help, but when you do, it can make your holiday photo shoot go quickly and smoothly. I like to position my assistant (a.k.a. my husband) behind me so that when he gets the attention of my cats, they’re looking towards the camera. Sometimes all it takes is dangling a toy in the air to focus their attention right where I want it.
If I’m having a hard time getting my cat to sit in one spot, I’ll send my assistant over next to him to calm him, pet him and talk to him. Then he just pulls his hand back out of the frame so I can take the picture.
5. Listen to your pet
The holidays can be stressful even for our pets. They’ll let you know when they’re done. Sometimes all they need is a little break. Try not to force anything and give them the space and quiet they need. The more comfortable they are, the more you allow them to just be themselves, the better your holiday photos will turn out.
6. Get Creative
With so many fun and free photo editing programs out there, it’s easy to add festive embellishments and greetings to your pictures…because we all know the cutest holiday cards ever are the ones with our own adorable pets on them.