How To Take Holiday Card Pics Of Your Pup That Are Actually Worth Sharing

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 30, 2015

Your dogs thought they were safe from embarrassing costumes after Halloween.

THINK AGAIN DOGS! It’s time for the annual holiday card!

That time of year when your family quietly laments that you’ve sent them yet another picture of your dog in a costume. Whatever mom, my dogs are going to look awesome in this year’s card.

So your first step in creating the best holiday card ever is to think of a theme. Do you want to do tacky sweater family?


A religious-themed card for grandma?


A very sad elf?


Whatever you choose, there’s a few easy things you can do to make sure you get the best pictures for your card.


Okay first thing first, stuff your pockets full of treats and clean your dog’s face. Nothing like an errant eye booger to pretty much ruin a photo. Stuff your dog’s face full of treats and use them as little bribes to get your dog to look at the camera or as a way to get them more comfortable around your camera.


Alright, let’s take some pictures! There are a couple of tools you’re going to need if you don’t have one. Aside from your camera, the most important thing you’re going to need is a tripod.


Not that kind of tripod! THIS kind of tripod!


Stop balancing your camera on a pile of books on your couch, your camera is expensive and tripods are pretty cheap. A tripod can make the difference between your card looking like a blurry Instagram selfie or like an actual card you would want to give someone.


You don’t need the fanciest camera to take good pictures of your pups – there’s just a few quick things to keep in mind when you’re taking pictures. Look for good lighting, a clean background, and use continuous shot (where you can hold down the shutter button and it keeps taking pictures). Now I’m pretty much an amateur when it comes to photography, but just by keeping these 3 things in mind, I’ve been able to get better results when I take pictures. If you’re an amazing photographer already, I’ll include some links at the end of this post with more advanced tips and tricks on dog photography.

Good lighting can make or break your card. No one wants to see your dog giving the tree some laser eyes.


So here’s a couple pictures in action of my unjolly dog to help give you an idea on the differences in lighting.

hank with all auto settings

So I took this picture with all automatic settings including the popup flash and automatic white balance. The picture is washed out, my dog hates the flash, and you get that weird reflecty thing in his eyes.

No matter what type of digital camera your have turn off the automatic flash. It’s the worst and should only be used if you have amazing Photoshop skills and can balance everything out. With automatic flash, anyone looking directly at the camera is going to be washed out and your dog will have laser eyes. If you have an external flash or some sort of diffuser then you’re golden and you can take all the indoor shots you want – if not, don’t worry, you just have to do a little more work.


In the past, I’ve taken many pictures outside with some pretty good results. As long as it’s a bright, sunny day, you should be able to get some good shots in. Try to avoid taking pictures when the sun is directly overhead or else you’re going to get a bunch of photos with a lens flare that would make J.J Abrams proud or everyone has weird unflattering shadows. If you’re able to, try to shoot around the magical golden hour aka just right after sunrise or right before sunset. Extra holiday card points if you’re lucky (unlucky?) enough to live somewhere where it’s snowing right now.


If you’re taking your photo indoors and you don’t really have a fancy pants camera/flash, or you don’t really understand all the settings, there’s a few easy steps you can take to make sure your holiday card photo still looks amazing. Dig out your manual and just look for the “white balance” settings. Go ahead and skip the auto feature, half the time it’s wrong. Don’t really know if the light in your house is considered tungsten or fluorescent? You can easily figure out which setting works best for you by taking a few test shots and just seeing which one you prefer.

different white balance examples

Above is a picture of my dog using three different white balance settings (auto, tungsten, and fluorescent) – so you can see the subtle difference that white balance can make. Go ahead and just do some test shots with different white balance settings to see if there’s a color that you prefer.

All digital cameras now come with different modes you can try out, so even if you’re a beginner and have no idea what aperture is or how to best set the shutter speed, you can use these modes to get some good pictures. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog that will sit still and let put all the props on them, you can try portrait mode.


If on the other hand you have a dog that won’t sit still, try sports mode (just make sure you have adequate lighting for this).


Get artsy and try the color accent mode or take a look at your manual and see what other modes you have. The beauty of digital is that you can pretty much take hundreds of pictures during one shoot. And it’s a big reason why continuous shot is awesome. Your first picture may not be the best, but the one that was taken a second later may be. This is also pretty helpful if you’re using the timer function, so you don’t have to run back and forth setting the timer again to take another picture.

Finally make sure the background isn’t cluttered. There’s nothing worse than realizing you took an amazing picture of your dog with reindeer antlers to only realize that you left a shoe or a drink in the background and it takes away focus from the only thing that matters on the card – your amazing dog.

So that’s it! Get out there and take some pictures and make the most awesome holiday card ever! Tag your photos with #happyhowlidays and we might post your picture over on BarkFeed!

Featured image via @avirup_666

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

November 30, 2015

Toothbrush-free dental care for dogs.

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A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.