Taking pictures of your pets for your Christmas card

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Our annual Christmas card picture consists of our fur babies. It is next to impossible to get a good picture of the whole family, so we resort to just taking one of the cutie pies in the family. I am a hobbyist photographer. I love photography and I do my best, taking classes here and there and reading things online, but I am no expert. Since so many people enjoy receiving our Christmas card every year I thought it would be nice to share how we do it.

First of all it is a two person job. One person to hold the camera and one person to position the subjects and point their attention to the camera. Dogs that know the commands sit, stay and look are also highly recommended. I use a DSLR Canon Rebel T2i, but you could use a regular camera. If you’re using a regular point and shoot you will want to make sure you take the picture during the day when it’s nice and bright in the house so that you don’t have to use the flash. The flash will reflect in their eyes and cause red eye, and if you’re using a backdrop consisting of any Christmas lights they won’t look as nice if the flash goes off.

1) Set up the backdrop and put an object in the frame to practice on before involving the models or assistant. This will ensure they don’t get bored and frustrated while you are setting up. For my equipment along with my Canon Rebel T2i I used an external flash, Yongnuo YN560 and wireless triggers, Yongnuo RF603C, recommended by improvephotography.com. I am very new at flash photography, this being my second time using this equipment. External flash was necessary for this shoot because although I took the picture during the day, it was cloudy out and my house does not let in much light. Either use a tripod or make sure you find a comfortable position to work in as you will be there a long time. I sat on the floor for these pictures. Make sure the models have something comfortable to sit or lay on. We have laminate floors, so I laid down a sheer curtain at first but this was too slippery for the dogs so I switched it out for a crocheted blanket. I am going to buy a white fleece blanket or something similar for next time.

2) Once you are all set up, call in your models and assistant. In my case my models were already walking around, checking things out and trying to open the two presents I put under the tree for the shoot. My assistant was still in bed so I woke him up. After he made his cup of tea we started working. He positioned the dogs while I snapped away. Using treats to help them with their commands helps also. Getting them to look at the camera instead of the assistant is tough, he had to stand behind me to get them to look my way. I didn’t want to make any noise myself because I didn’t want to confuse them. After about 20 pictures and about 20 minutes or so I put the SD card in the computer to see how the pictures looked and gave everyone a break. There weren’t any winners so we went back at it. The process from starting to take the pictures until we finally found one that was good enough was about an hour.

3) Next is the editing. I didn’t really have to do anything besides crop the picture. I use Photoshop Elements to make the card. I opened up a 4×6 canvas, put the picture on it and then created two text boxes for the greeting and the scripture. After that I uploaded the pictures to persnicketyprints.com and am hoping to get them back and out in the mail by this weekend. The shipping usually doesn’t take long, only a few days. And their print quality is way better than any photo processor I know of.




So, that’s it. Having dogs that understand and follow sit, stay and look, having a lot of patience, setting up everything before hand, and having someone to help are the most important things for a decent photo.



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