Cold Nose, Warm Heart: 6 Tips for Taking Adorable Winter Photos of Your Dog

As winter settles in and the snow starts to fall, it’s the perfect time to take some photos of your furry friend frolicking in the winter wonderland. Here are six tips aimed at helping you get the best shots of your four-legged friend in the snow.

1. Bundle Up, Pup!

When it comes to playing in the snow, dogs can be just as susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia as humans, which is why it’s so important to take precautions when photographing yours in wintry conditions. If he’s going to be outside for an extended period of time, consider bringing along some dog boots to protect his paws from the cold and dress him in a dog coat or sweater. Petagogy, with locations in Shadyside and Greensburg, as well as Wagsburgh both offer a great selection of stylish and cozy outerwear from brands like Ruffwear, Canadian Pooch, and Kurgo.

Lastly, keep an eye on your pup for indications of cold exposure, such as shivering, whining, fur and skin that is cold to the touch, or lack of energy. If you notice any of these signs, bring him inside immediately and warm him up with a blanket or warm towel.

2. Look for The Right Light and Location.

As obvious as it may seem, look for a location that has plenty of soft, fluffy snow. This will help to create a nice contrast with your dog’s fur and produce wonderful shots of him playing or posing in the snow. A location that has interesting terrain, such as hills, valleys, ponds with charming footbridges, or rows of beautiful snow-covered pines is a simple way to add visual interest to your winter portraits.

If you’re drawn more to an urban location, head downtown where you’ll find diverse and eye-catching architecture, the inviting glow of city lights, and neutral, muted tones that complement the beauty of winter.

Be sure to pay attention to the lighting conditions too. If possible, try to avoid photographing in direct sunlight as this can create harsh shadows and glare. Instead, seek out diffused, late afternoon lighting to give your photos a warm, natural glow, or venture out on a cloudier day and use the gray sky to your advantage. as nature’s softbox, which again, will provide a flattering and even diffused light.

3. Add the Spice of Life.

How can you ensure your winter photos are fun and varied? Well, it’s not much different than photographing your dog in any other season!

First, get down on your dog’s level. Doing so will introduce you to his perspective, giving you a better view of his world and his face.

Speaking of his face, be sure to take plenty of close-ups. Dogs are known for their expressive faces, so get in close to document all those snow-dusted details. Think white whiskers, the sparkle of holiday lights in his eyes, and the endearing snow nose of a northern breed. A macro lens is particularly well-suited for capturing shots with more detail and more impact.

Once you’ve got some close-ups, step back and snap some wider shots as well. These photos will show off your dog’s gorgeous wintry surroundings that you scouted using the tips above and really encapsulate the feel of the season.

4. Be Ready with Your Camera Settings.

Watching your dog play in the snow is a guaranteed good time, but if you’re not quick on the draw with your camera, you may miss all the action! Dogs play in the snow differently than they do in any other season, so you’ll want to be ready to capture those moments when yours is at his fullest expression of winter joy.

Given that winter photography often presents its own set of challenges, consider using manual settings for better control over exposure. If you’re more comfortable using automatic or semi-automatic settings though, make sure you adjust the exposure compensation to +1 so that brighter tones will be recorded correctly and mid-tones appear bright against snow.

Set your camera’s aperture between f/16 and f/22 for a narrow depth of field to ensure that both near and distant elements are in focus or create stunning bokeh and a slightly blurred background where the focus is primarily on your pooch with a wider aperture of f/2.8 to f/5.6.

A shutter speed of 1/250 is a solid starting point if your dog is sitting or standing still, but once he’s moving, you’ll want to bump that to 1/1000 or faster to correctly expose the shot without any motion blur from your pup’s movements. With how fast Hunter is, even at 13 years old, I prefer not to drop mine any lower than 1/1250, particularly when we’re doing action photos.

5. Have a Dog Gone Good Time!

The portraits captured with your pup flying through the air and kicking up mounds of powdery, glistening snow produces expression-filled photos like none other, but for that to happen, you’ve got to be OK with your canine companion getting a little dirty. Dogs are natural explorers who love to run, play, and fetch…and who excel at finding every ultra-nasty pile of snirt…you know, that dark brown combination of snow and mud that often accumulates along the sides of the road and that overruns most of Pittsburgh between January and March.

a playful Siberian retriever catches a ball and frisbee in a Pittsburgh snow

Photographing your dog in the snow, however, offers rewards far beyond adorable winter portraits. Snow provides a new texture and sensation that dogs enjoy exploring with their nose and sensory capabilities, bringing heightened energy and excitement, and contributing to overall physical and mental wellness.

Related: 8 Winter Activities to Strengthen Your Bond With Your Dog

6. Play with Props.

A few strategically placed props can really enhance the visual impact of your pup’s winter portraits and add to their overall meaning.

A bright scarf or classic flannel bandana adds an easy pop of color while a collection of snowballs can add a touch of humor and playfulness. You could also bring a sled or small sleigh for him to climb on.

Stumped on props? Keep it simple. Anything that your dog loves to play with is sure to make for some very memorable, joy-filled photographs! Hunter says you can never go wrong with a bouncy ball or a flying disc.

Snow Much Fun

Taking pictures of your dog in the snow is a fun way to capture magical memories of your furry friend during the winter months, but it’s not always easy. With a little bit of practice and these helpful tips, you’ll be able to take adorable seasonal portraits of your dog that are sure to warm your heart.

I can’t wait to see your favorite snow shots of your dog, so make sure to tag me in them on social media. I just may share yours!

Winter session dates are filling faster than ever before! If you’d like to reserve a snow session for your dog, now is the time to reach out. Choose your adventure below to begin.

Did you enjoy this post? Great, there’s more coming your way because it’s part of a photography blog circle featuring pet photographers from all over the world! In fact, it’s a blizzard of content focused on this week’s theme, “Snow Fun” and it all kicks off with Angela and Bella at Big White Dog Photography in Spokane, Washington, watching Christmas movies instead of enjoying all the snow. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here. If you get lost along the way, just look for the trail of dog hair. I won’t be far off…

12 thoughts on “Cold Nose, Warm Heart: 6 Tips for Taking Adorable Winter Photos of Your Dog

  1. Cahlean Klenke says:

    Great tips for winter portraits with your pup! I like that you noted some exposure compensation for more “correct” midtones as a big swath of white tends to throw off camera meters.

    Snirt – I LOVE IT! And we know it well here in Minnesota! We also get loads of slush and slop even when the temp is below freezing! The worst thing to step in.

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Oh, snirt is the most disgusting! It’s the landscape of February and March around here. I’ll take a crisp, fluffy white snow any day over snirt!

  2. Darlene says:

    I LOVE seeing Hunter running in the snow. I”m wishing you a white winter, just to see endless photos of your boy! These are great tips for photographing in the snow – thanks for sharing!

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Thank you! I’ll be sure to share lots of snow photos in honor of Kota once we actually get more than a dusting!

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Yes, for those who may not be able to do a professional pet photography session in the winter, these tips will provide a solid starting point—and a whole bunch of outdoor fun!

  3. Jon Reid says:

    I’m excited about taking some of my dogs to the snow and taking pics. This winter has been been crazy here in California and there’s tons of snow in the Sierra’s, like 50 feet.

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Snow photos are so much fun! I can’t imagine doing so in 50′ feet of it though. That would make for some epic action shots!

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