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How to Include Dogs in Portland Family Photos

August 5, 2020

Filed in: Families

Updated: For 2023, I’ve come back through and updated this post with my top tips for clients who want to know how to take their family photos with their dogs! This is something so many of my clients request and I am HERE for it, so let’s chat about how we can work to make it a super successful family photo session for you and your dog!

This summer has felt like the summer of families bringing their DOGS to sessions and I’m so excited about that!!  If you’ve read my past posts about family pictures with a dog, you know I love those doggos, and I adore when families include their dogs in their sessions. It involves a little extra planning and a willingness for everyone to go with the flow a little more, but that generally means more opportunities for candid moments of sweet family togetherness. If you’re wondering how to include your dogs in Portland family photos, I’ve assembled a few tips to help!

family photos with dogs: photo of woman and dog


Tips for Portland Family Photos with Dogs

  1. Let me know if you’re planning to bring your dog before we decide on a location

    Many locations I like to photograph at are nature parks with sensitive habitats, so they don’t allow pets. However, there are plenty of options in the Portland area that do though, so just make sure you let me know as we plan your session that you will be bringing your dog. I also like to choose a location that has a bit more open space and less foot traffic so that we can give ourselves plenty of space and make it harder for your dog to get distracted by people walking to do family photos with dogs - family of four with dog in a field

  2. Do a practice run with your dog

    Ideally, your family pictures won’t be the very first time your puppy has ever been to a park or on a car ride. Try to get them used to car rides and park visits well in advance of your session so that family photo day is not a stressful time for them! This will also give you an opportunity to see how they react when they’re at a park and plan your session accordingly in case they need extra training. My puppy’s still…exuberant (read: hard to control) on her leash, so we’ll probably wait a while before we try family photos with her!

  3. Don’t forget your dog’s wardrobe!

    All of my locations require dogs to be on their leash at all times, so your dog’s leash and collar will be in all of the photos. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you might not want it to distract from your photos with super bright or clashing colors. Simple and neutral is a good way to go, such as a tan leather collar and matching leash. I also love these rope leashes from Foggy Dog.

  4. Be ready for a more candid session

    When dogs are included in family photos, we’ll follow their lead a little more. That means more candid, interactive photos and less perfectly posed photos. My goal is usually to just have the dog near you, preferably with his face facing me. That’s it! Please don’t stress about giving your dog commands to sit and stay the whole session. Just be on a walk at the park with them and we’ll get great candid photos of your family together. If you prefer mainly posed, looking at the camera photos, consider leaving your dog at home or bringing a dogsitter (see tip #6!)Portrait session with dog in Newberg Oregon

  5. Arrive early

    Typically, dogs need some time to adjust to their new environment and may even have some pent-up energy after a car ride, so plan to arrive at least thirty minutes early to walk around the park a little before your session starts. Bring some water and a portable dog dish so they can have a drink before we start, especially on warmer days. You’ll probably also want to bring doggy bags so your dog can have a bathroom break and still leave the park clean!

  6. Bring a “dogsitter” if your pup won’t be included in all of the photos

    So here’s the thing with bringing your dog to family photo sessions. You’re going to need to hold the dog’s leash at all times. Often we are shooting in open fields with no real spot to safely and securely tie your dog’s leash just out of frame. Which means that leash is going to be in ALL of the photos, and we may be limited on the poses we can do if we’re working around your hand holding the leash. This is all totally fine with me and this is how many of my clients rock their session! But, if you’re envisioning a photo where your dog is not included, we’re going to need a solution! Enter: the dogsitter! Enlist a friend or family member to come along to the session. We can include your dog for the first fifteen minutes of your session, and then the dog can take a walk with your dogsitter for the rest of the session, freeing you up to fully engage in the session with your (human) family members. I especially recommend this for sessions that include small children who need to be held, because that is quite a bit of juggling for the parents to do! A dogsitter can totally save the day when clients want to include dogs in their family photos. Here’s an example session of a family with an infant who also brought their dog, and the dogsitter helped us get sweet, snuggly, calm moments of the three of them by taking the dog for a walk after the first fifteen minutes.

I hope that this helps you as you prepare for your family session. I just love when I get emails from clients asking how to include their dog in their family photos because it means I get to meet a new dog! Portland is such a dog-friendly town, and it’s such a great place to do your family photos with your dog. With a little bit of planning ahead, we can make it your best family photo session ever.

light and airy hillsboro family photos with a dog

I always tell families who bring their dog to their session to prepare for way more candid photos, but sometimes, we get lucky and the dog decides to be all majestic. Loved this sweet moment with them!

light and airy hillsboro family photos with dogs in a field

Ready to Plan Your Family Photos with Dogs?

Friends, if this post has you thinking of including your dog in your next family photo session, 1) YES PLEASE–bring on the floof 2) Get in touch with me to start planning your family photos with dogs. Or, check out this post to see more beautiful family pictures with a dog!


comments +

  1. […] at this park. That means that dogs are NOT allowed on this trail. While I love to photograph families with their dogs, we’ll have to choose a different location if your pup is […]

  2. […] was so excited that Joni was bringing their dog. If you’ve followed along, you know I LOVE family photos with dogs. This one was no exception, and I totally loved how Joni picked up a coordinating leash for Molly […]

  3. […] Dogs are allowed in most of Champoeg State Park, excluding a portion of the field at the back of the park. Dogs must be on a leash at all times. If you’re planning to bring your pup to your session, read my post on how to include dogs in your family photos here! […]

  4. […] I love to include dogs in family photos! Is your pup is up for adventure and you’d like to include them in your family photos at the Columbia River Gorge? Let me know early in the planning process so we can be sure to select a location that allows dogs. Most Columbia River Gorge photo spots allow dogs on a leash, but a few locations are nature preserves where dogs are not allowed. Don’t forget to read through my tips on what you can do to have successful family photos with a dog here. […]

  5. […] It’s no secret that Champoeg State Park is one of my favorite places to take family pictures. See here, here and here as proof. I love that it’s huge, so there is plenty of room to spread out even on crowded park days. There are also a ton of different backdrops that change throughout the season, so even though I photograph several families here throughout the year, no two sessions look the same. It’s also one of the natural areas around Portland that allows dogs in most of the park, which means it’s one of the best places to take family pictures with your dog! […]

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