How To Take Dog Christmas Card Photos

It’s the time of year when everyone wants to take beautiful Christmas card photos. Some people want to show off their homes, new offspring, and for a select few – their dogs. Children can be fussy enough, but dogs that are not particularly well behaved probably take the cake in the category difficult to photograph. But today we’re sharing a few tips that will show you how to take dog Christmas card photos!

How to Take Dog Christmas Card Photos

How to Take Dog Christmas Card Photos

This one is easy because essentially you can give them a treat and tear up some wrapping paper. It looks like they got into their presents early!

1. Find Good Light & Position Your Dog to It’s Advantage

One of the first things you’ll ever learn in a photography class is that you need good light. Nothing will make up for that. Good light can make or break a photo. If you have a window or glass door this is probably where you would ideally find good natural light within your home. Here are a few tips to help you accomplish this:

  • If you are indoors, plan around when you have the most light to work with! You will also probably have a larger quantity of light when the weather is clear and when the sunlight is harshest (most likely around 12 PM or 1 PM) in your home. Pay attention to the patterns of light in your home and plan accordingly.
  • If you are outdoors the best light can be found an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset.
  • It never hurts to have a mirror or sheet of white poster board to bounce light back to fill in any shadows, or at least make them less harsh.
  • Don’t ever position your dog directly in front any light. Your camera’s light meter will read the light coming in from the window or sunset and will make the dog too dark if you are not using flash or are in auto.

Never underestimate the importance of light in taking dog Christmas card photos.

I went for the classic outdoor holiday bow in this shot. It was easy to wire onto the collar and only like $1 at Walmart!

2. Shoot In Manual

Now I know shooting in a standard auto mode sounds great. It works fine if you don’t care what’s in focus and have lots of light. But if you’re shooting these photos indoors, you will not have near the amount of light to work with as you would outside. Shooting in manual allows you to control the amount of light that comes into your camera and what is in focus for your dog Christmas card photos.

You’re going to have to play with your settings. But I would recommend that if you are taking a photo of your dog where they are sitting still indoors you can manage for low light in three ways – through your Aperture (F-stop), shutter speed, and ISO (film). The settings I recommend to start with are below:

  • F Stop (Aperture): 4
  • Shutter Speed: 1/80
  • ISO (Film): 12800

Your aperture will control what is in focus. In addition to probably not wanting to show the world every part of your home, you’ll most likely want to lower this down pretty far. The lower this number the wider your lens is open, the more light can be let in and the depth gets more and more shallow. The smaller this number is means that less light will be let in and more things in the background will be in focus.

If you are working indoors in low light you will want to lower your shutter speed. Again – this is only going to work if you are not taking an action shot. If your dog is moving it will be blurry and you will have to raise it. The more light you have available the faster your shutter speed can become to make sure your photos are properly exposed (have the right amount of light in them). But you’re probably going to be working in relatively low light indoors.

As far as ISO goes this is your actual film. It controls how sensitive your digital film will be to light. The higher the number the more sensitive your film is to light but your images will also become more grainy.

These are the settings I would recommend starting with if you are indoors. If you are going to be working outdoors your settings will probably be very different, but all of these settings still control getting a high quality well exposed photo. A good rule of thumb outside in full thumb is going to be a minimum of an F stop of 1/16 and a shutter speed of 1/100 with your ISO set to auto. There are a lot of charts that can help you learn what settings to start with before tweaking, you can find one here.

After taking a few test shots to determine if your images are bright enough/not too bright as far as the background goes then you can add the dog!

I really liked this idea! You can either send a card like this with two taglines: When your friends and family ask what they’re getting for Christmas and you’re like I’m the gift. Or, It’s been 23 days and the humans still haven’t noticed.

3. Stick to The Rules

There are some basic rules that you can follow to really make your photo stand out. For instance, you can always draw attention to your subject by placing it in a third of the frame. Instinctively you may want to put your subject right smack dab in the middle – but don’t. This makes it that much better. You can see this reflected in the first photo best!

4. Have Patience & Be Prepared

Take your test shots without your fur baby – they can get impatient. This is very important in learning how to take successful dog Christmas card photos. Be patient with them, they do try to please you but it takes them awhile to get there sometimes. Finally – be prepared! Have your camera charged, a clean SD card and any props already set aside.

I find¬†taking Christmas dog card photos is easiest in a pretty natural position. I.E. sitting or laying down. It’s just like photographing newborns when they are sleeping – sometimes this can be easiest. Just put some props next to them or on them on the couch with good light and bam! In fact I just used gift wrapping supplies (which are way more affordable than actual Christmas themed outfits). It makes for some really cute photos!

Do you love Christmas DIY? Don’t miss out how to spruce up your basic wreath, make a Christmas advent calendar and our FREE Christmas printables to deck your halls!

Have you sent out a Christmas card yet this year? Will you be sending one of your dogs? Now you know how to take Christmas card dog photos to impress all your receivers!


Thanks for reading!




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