Prepping for Your Pet’s Picture with Santa

Santa Claus is coming to town — are you and your pet ready?

If you’re anything like us, you’re going to want mega amounts of Christmas magic in your pet’s Santa photo shoot, so we consulted an expert for her best advice on capturing it.

Texas-based pet and people photographer Jenna Regan, who has photographed over 1,000 pets in her career so far, knows a thing or two about harnessing that holiday spirit.

It’s important to take time and slowly make the introduction,” says Regan, referring to your pet’s first meeting with the big guy. “And naturally, Santa giving some treats is a sure way to help the pets see Santa as a friend and the experience as positive.”

Treats, praise and attention are essential to getting great Santa snaps and so is the way the pet parent behaves behind the camera. Check out Regan’s tips and remember: rare is the pet Santa photo that nobody likes.

1. Look for photo session opportunities that are specifically pet-friendly. Places that welcome pets in Santa’s lap are ready for the cuteness (or chaos!) that these photo sessions can bring. “Everyone involved from Santa, to photographer, to assistants are much more prepared to work with and reassure your pet,” Regan explains. “And, of course, get great photos!”

2. Hang back and let the pros work their magic. Professionals who photograph pets on a regular basis know how to handle potty accidents, Santa-induced anxiety, and more. “Keep your calm and allow your pet to focus on Santa,” Regan says. “If the situation allows and your dog is able, it’s best to let the professionals handle your pet and stay in the background.”

3. Bring fun, simple props. A cute bowtie, a festive collar or your pet’s favorite toy — things that your dog or cat can wear or interact with could end up adding some extra special personality to your Santa photo.

4. Stay behind the photographer as this will help your pet look straight at the camera. You’re the apple of your pet’s eye, so if you are behind the camera they’ll look for you and react to your voice. “Wait for cues from the photographer about what he or she wants you to do,” Regan says. “You won’t want to overuse attention-getting phrases or actions before the photographer is ready to take the perfect photo.”

5. Most of all, have fun with it! Hey, your pet is aww-dorable, so no matter what happens in Santa’s lap it’s going to be cute. “Don’t stress if you’re feeling like your pet’s manners aren’t perfect,” she adds. “Sometimes outtakes and bloopers make the best photos, memories and Christmas cards!”

To see more of Jenna Regan’s pet photography, click here.

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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for People.com, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.