Who doesn’t want to capture the essence of their dog in a few treasured photos? Unfortunately, dogs don’t understand how to pose for the camera, so getting that perfect shot isn’t always easy. Getting someone else, especially a professional pet photographer, to handle the camera is a good first step, but what else should you do to make it easier? Here are our four tips for taking better photos of the dog.

1. Scout the Location

Want to get a shot of you and your pup in the outdoors? A lively green scene is a great backdrop for a pet photo and could even commemorate favorite walk spots. But there are a few things you should do to make sure you’ll get the best results.

First, ensure that the area allows dogs. Some trails, parks and favorite photospots forbid animals. Others allow them only if they are on a leash. According to Tracey Osterman of Tracy Osterman Photography, who frequently photographs dogs, using a leash is a good idea anyway.

“I had one session where a dog got out of the car and ran, off-leash, to roll in some goose poop immediately,” Osterman said, “as you imagine, it wasn’t a good look for a photo.”

Osterman also recommends that you arrive before your photographer to let your dog smell out the area where you’ll be taking the pictures. Otherwise, they are often too distracted to focus on the camera at first.

2. Bring Favorite Treats & Toys

Arm your assistant or photographer with high-value treats or toys that really grab your dog’s attention. This can be a big help to get their attention on the camera. Plus, you may also want to grab some action shots of your dog playing fetch, tug of war, or another game.

If you’re having a friend and not a professional take the photos, you may want to direct them to hold the treat out and occasionally throw one out to the dog. Dispersing treats at random intervals keeps a dog’s attention for longer than timing it with a queue, like a photo.

3. Keep Looking at the Camera

Most of the struggle of dog photography is getting the pup to look at the lens. However, owners are often so concerned about their dog’s gaze that they’re looking at the dog, and not the camera, the moment that the dog’s attention turns to the lens. The result is a lot of photos of the dog looking at the camera, but the owner is looking at the dog.

“Try your best not to look at the dog because when the dog is looking at me, I’ll be snapping photos,” Osterman says.

Sometimes your photographer might be aiming to get you both looking off into the distance or at something, so try to keep your attention wherever the photographer has directed it.

4. Be Patient

Dog photo shoots tend to take some time, even more than those with young children, as they are even harder to direct. At least kids can look at the camera! Be patient and trust that your photographer will make the most of their time.