If you too are looking to take the ultimate Christmas card with your pet this year, you’re in the right spot. In this blog post I’ll share how I took Christmas photos of my two boys, my setup, and my top tips for your best dog Christmas photos!

This year in an effort to get a jump on the Christmas photos, I’ve decided to set up a scene in my office, to try and create something more fun than just the ever present “dog sitting in front of a Christmas tree” photo. To do that I came up with a list of dog Christmas photo ideas I wanted to try and a scene to hopefully create some Christmas magic (in fact, I came up with 12 non-boring ideas. You can access them here!).

Scene Setup for Your Dog Christmas Photos

Set up your scene against a fairly neutral wall if you don’t have a backdrop. I’d decided to use my white wall, covered in fairy lights. If you have a wall like that you can use, that’s perfect, otherwise any neutral coloured wall will do, or any other background that won’t look very busy in your dog Christmas photos, like matte evenly coloured furniture. In case you don’t have a wall or furniture like that you can invest in a cheap backdrop or hang up a plain bed sheet.

This is everything I had used in my setup:

  • One plastic Christmas tree: You can use one you already have set up, just move it around to find your best angle and best light.
  • A bunch of red and gold baubles: I chose red and gold specifically, because they’ll stand out against the green of the tree and the colours of my dogs, and because they’re classic Christmas colours.
  • Cardboard boxes stuck shut or wrapped in craft paper: I used old delivery boxes we had lying around rather than shop for new ones.
  • Red ribbon of various sizes, the thicker the better, so it can show up in photos.
  • Fairy lights, loads and loads of fairy lights. They create a soft, magical glow and warm up the entire scene.
  • Sheepskins or soft fluffy blankets for the “cosy” factor.

This is everything I had used, but you don’t need all of these. Even just a Christmas tree with some fairy lights works really nicely. The main point here is to be creative and work with what you’ve got.

I’d arranged a Christmas tree on one edge of the frame and piled the boxes against the wall in different heights for some variety. The ribbon is on boxes specifically so they’ll look like presents on camera. Some I could use as props as well as background. When setting up the scene, I was constantly chekcing and making sure it would look good for the camera.

My scene setup with all the props. This was done after we were finished which is why the boxes are in a bit of a disarray.

For props, I’d used:

  • a Christmas wreath
  • a Christmas hat
  • raindeer antlers
  • a wrapped box with a thick ribbon
  • a “video light” for inside the box – similar to this one.
Just the props (minus Christmas wreath).

If you don’t want to go out and buy props just so you can take some dog Christmas photos that’s totally fine! I wanted to create a bunch of Christmas photo ideas I had, so i went a couple and let my dogs decide what to do with them.

Lighting for Indoor Photos

Lighting for indoor photos is a whole different beast. It’s arguably one of the most important parts because we all want to see what’s going on in our photo and low light usually leads to lower photo quality. Sadly, unless you have studio lights or your entire wall is a window, chances are you are going to be in a fairly low light environment, compared to taking photos outside.

One of my top tips, if you don’t have any studio lights, is to set up your Christmas scene for photos opposite a window. Try to be as close as you can for the light from the window to appear soft. Keep in mind you’ll probably have to shoot from that direction as well, so give yourself enough space to move around while still keeping the light soft. It might require some testing to figure out the best position for you, your subject and the light.

My props with the Christmas tree and a model. (Side note: can you see the blue on his nose, that's window light coming in from the side, throwing blue casts)

Some other lights & props you can use are:

  • video or studio lights on a stand: I have these from Amazon and they make my product shoots and my life a whole lot easier,
  • other lights around the house: ceiling lights, etc. but be aware of different tungsten colour temperatures, colour casts and potential issues when editing, keep in mind that regular overhead lights result in strange shadows and are generally unflattering,
  • directional lights like reading lamps: if you’re using these, remember that they are very directional and create harsh shadows, so try to bounce them off walls or ceilings, or create a makeshift soft box by draping some sheer white fabric over it,
  • if you have a reflector, use it! They’re very useful for bouncing the light and bringing every bit of light into the darker corners of your house.
  • if you have a ring light, they can be useful too.

When you’re setting up, you should first think about the lights or windows you can use. Creating nice even light is essential for flattering dog Christmas photos.

My Gear

Like almost all of my photos, these are taken on my normal full-frame Sony a7iii. The lens I used for this photoshoot was the Sigma 35mm f/1.4.

If you have a 50mm lens, that would probably work perfectly in this situation, but I don’t own one right now and both my longer lenses were a bit too long for the space I was using.

Other than that, I was using the above mentioned studio lights from Amazon for lighting and video light, similar to this one, as a prop.

Create Magic with Sparkly Bokeh

This photo of Journey and Lok is from a previous Christmas shoot, but same sparkle magic applies. Just look at how cute they both are!

When you’re wanting to create magical dog Christmas photos one thing you could try to create to up the magic factor is sparkly bokeh. The most important ingredients of creating bokeh are lights and depth of field.

When you’re trying to create separation between the background, subject, and foreground it’s important to pay attention to a couple of things.

Lens & Aperture:

Using a lens on a wide aperture gives you a shallower depth of field, which means less of your scene will be in focus. For these photos, I used my 35mm f/1.4 lens, and have my aperture set to 1.4. Even though my lens is pretty short, the wide aperture gives me an advatage in creating the pretty bokeh.

Depth of Field:

This is especially important in creating the sparkly bokeh. You want your background fairy lights and the foregroud fairy light at a distance that far enough from your subject that will be in focus. It will in turn make sure that the lights appear blurry in your photos, creating the light bokeh.

For the foreground bokeh, I held the lights almost right in front of the camera, for the best effect. Some shots that included full body of my subjects, had the lights on the floor in front of my camera, and that worked as well.

For the background bokeh, my lights are hanging on my wall. What I did is move the Christmas tree and the subject away from the wall as far as I needed to to get my background blurry. You might need to play around with your distances between you, your subject, and the lights. I’ve written a blog post about getting sparkly dog Christmas photos before, so go check it out here!

Last year's Christmas photos were taken at a Christmas market, but I used the same fairy light in front of the camera trick!

Top Tip: Dog Christmas Photo Ideas

The best advice I can give you when you’re trying to stage your own dog Christmas photoshoot is to be creative and patient with yourself. Some of your ideas might end up looking better than you’ve anticipated, and some might not work at all! That’s okay!

If you’re struggling for ideas, I’ve created a lovely free course with fun ideas for dog Christmas photos and you can access it here by signing up for my mailing list!

Need help with this year's Christmas cards?

12 Festive Pet Photo Ideas

Inspawrational FREE course full of ideas, tips & tricks and behind the scenes clips to create holiday magic with your pets!

By signing up, you are joining our mailing list. We promise not to spam you and you can opt out at any time

Need help with this year's Christmas cards?

12 Festive Pet Photo Ideas

Inspawrational FREE course full of ideas, tips & tricks and behind the scenes clips to create holiday magic with your pets!

By signing up, you are joining our mailing list. We promise not to spam you and you can opt out at any time

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