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DIY Dog Product Photography on a Budget: Embracing Pet Models

Professional dog models have their place in the world of TV, film, and advertising of course -but we believe embracing pet dogs can be equally effective with the right approach! Plus it also keeps costs considerably lower for your small business and can help you keep to a small budget.

We also have a soft spot for pet dogs and love photographing dogs of all ages, breeds, and personalities. We think there is something really special about capturing a real dog having fun and showcasing products in a natural and authentic way.


Here are our top tips on photographing pet dog models and getting the best out of them on camera.

1. Get your dog model used to your products

Before the shoot, introduce your dog model to the products they’ll be interacting with, such as a toy, harness or lead. This helps alleviate any anxieties they may have about wearing or using new items during the shoot. It can also prepare you for making any last-minute changes if you find your dog model has an aversion to the product; for example wearing harnesses that go over the head. Spend some time allowing them to sniff, touch, and become accustomed to the products, using plenty of treats and positive reinforcement. This ensures they feel comfortable, confident, and familiar with the products ready for when the camera comes out! Too many new things at once can be overwhelming.

2. Set your model up for success

Minimise any triggers on the day of the shoot by preparing your dog model ahead of time. Ensure they are well-rested, have had a nice sniffy walk somewhere quiet and with low distractions, and had lots of opportunities to relieve themselves. It’s also important to make sure the dog’s routine hasn’t changed too much, so work around their schedule. Consider any potential triggers on the day and take steps to mitigate them, for example, a car journey to the location of the shoot may be triggering for a dog who doesn’t love the car, so give them time when they arrive to settle down before getting started.

3. Choose a familiar location with minimal distractions

When it comes to location, the first thing you’ll need to consider is whether you need any permits and permissions for using the locations. That’s why we tend to stick to public areas and avoid any recognisable landmarks. Also consider any lead laws or local rules in the area you’re visiting.

Once you have some options, it’s best to stick to familiar areas and areas that are quiet with minimal distractions. A low distracting environment means your model is more likely to interact with your products, you and the camera. Distractions can be anything from squirrels in the trees, cyclists, other dogs, to even extra people around. You could even use your own back garden or living room if you have suitable decor and space. You want the dog model to be relaxed and happy and not overstimulated and stressed.

4. Let your model be a dog!

Candid shots of dogs being themselves and enjoying your products will resonate more with your audience than overly posed shots as dog owners want to visualise how your products will fit into their lives. Allow your model to have fun and be themselves, and capture their authentic reactions and behaviours. This is why your dog owner can help assist you with your doggy model or alternatively you could bring an assistant with you. Avoid giving too many commands and use them sparingly in between bursts of play and breaks. Give your doggy model the choice to walk away. If you feel you’re losing focus, then allow them to have a break, this will actually give you more time in the long run rather than trying to force them to keep going when they're not feeling it.

5. Condition your doggy model to the camera

For dogs new to being photographed, take the time to familiarise them with the camera and the shooting environment! Cameras can be very strange to dogs, and even the noise of the camera can be intimidating. Use high-value treats (such as boiled chicken) to create positive associations with the camera, allowing your dog model to investigate it at their own pace. Incorporate breaks and rewards to keep the experience enjoyable and stress-free. Make sure you do this in advance so you have time if the dog needs a bit longer to get used to it. It’s important that you go at the pace of the dog and not push it if they aren’t happy with the camera.

6. Help them look their best

If possible see if your owner can schedule a grooming session a few days before the shoot to help the dog look their best (and minimise time photoshopping) however please don’t schedule a groom the night before or the day of the photography session as this is far too much for a dog to do in one day - especially if they don’t like being groomed. If this isn’t possible then opt for some pet-friendly wipes, a brush, and doggy dry shampoo for a quick touch-up before shooting.

7. Keep everyone happy

If you’re working with a friend's dog or a micro-influencer who is getting involved, think about the value you’re offering their owner too - even if you know them well! Is it the experience? Discounts? Free products? Or maybe they are wanting to grow their Instagram account. Make sure to look after your dog model owners too. You can do this by having clear communication beforehand on what to expect and keeping in touch all the way through the journey including afterwards. You can do things like sending them sneak peek shots and thanking them for their time with a free product from your shop, it's important to keep everyone happy so they continue to be awesome brand advocates for your business.


If you’d rather work with someone who can sort everything for you get in touch with us to discuss your project. We work with all budgets and we have lots of adorable pet dog models ready to fall in love with your products and brand. We believe pet dogs can make the perfect brand models for your business and showcase your products in an authentic and engaging way!

[Below - Sierra Cross Breed / Neville Dachshund / Digby Golden Retriever]


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