How I pick a location to photograph dogs

July 23, 2021  •  4 Comments

This week we explore some of the key points I use to pick a location for photographing dogs.  As many of you know, a good portion of our photography of dogs is currently related to photographing rescue dogs.  We love to photograph dogs that already have their forever home too!  This week we will discuss several of the things I look for when picking a location to photograph dogs.

First, unless I am practicing photographing dogs in action, I do not photograph at a dog park unless I can be guaranteed that we will be the only dog(s) in the dog park.  This is not an ideal situation as there are to many other dogs as well as distractions that will have the dog looking everywhere but where you want them to look.

I've shared photographs of Riverhills Park and Scout Park (aka Boy Scout Park) in other blog posts and this is the featured location for this week.  A few things to be aware of (especially for dogs) are this park has wildlife - there are a lot of birds (including ducks), squirrels as well as the water critters which usually are not an issue as they stay in the water.


So, how do I pick a location?

Key Point #1 - The location must be dog friendly!

Any location where a dog is going to be photographed must allow dogs - that simple.

When you're models are ready but you haven't figured out if this is where you want to shoot or go someplace else - they tend to get a little bit bored and start well - looking around or hanging their heads low as if to say "Not again"!  (Thank you Abby and Jimbo for letting me take this candid photograph of you both!).

Dog friendly Riverhills ParkDog friendly Riverhills ParkRiverhills Park is dog friendly


Key Point #2 - Accessibility

What are the hours the location is available?  Is the location available from sunrise to sunset?  Or are the hours more limited to less desirable hours (say 10am - 4pm as this is a fairly common time frame I see at areas locally to us here in the Tampa, Florida area). This photo was taken in summer, early morning.  Keep in mind things change depending on the time of year as well as the time of day.

Early morning near the Gazebo at Riverhills ParkEarly morning near the Gazebo at Riverhills ParkEarly morning near the Gazebo at Riverhills Park

Key Point #3 - Shaded areas

I look for areas where I can get away from the bright sun.  Contrary to what many people think, the bright sunlight can create harsh shadows that don't always make the best photographs.  Yes, there are photographers that shoot in the middle of bright sun - and I've done that too - especially with black dogs.  But is this my favorite place?  No.  It's hot in central Florida and the dogs typically are looking for shade within 15 minutes and we are too.  This is typically all year except winter (defined by when the trees lose their leaves, not the temperatures).

Large oak trees near riverLarge oak trees near riverLarge oak trees near the Hillsborough River at Riverhills Park

Key Point #4 - Variety

Does this location have more than one option for photographing the dog(s)?  Or is there just one location and all the photographs will look very similar?

Scenes at Riverhills ParkScenes at Riverhills ParkVarious scenes from Riverhills Park, Temple Terrace, Florida

In the early morning hours (particularly non-weekend/holidays) the boat ramp is quiet and shaded.  In late afternoon, often there is a beautiful sunset that can be used in the photographs on or near this boat dock by the boat ramp.  This was taken in June.

Early morning near the Gazebo at Riverhills ParkEarly morning near the Gazebo at Riverhills ParkEarly morning near the Gazebo at Riverhills Park

Key Point #5 - How busy is this location?

Are there going to be a lot of distractions - whether it's people, dogs, cars, etc.  Working with a well rounded and socialize dog this may not be an issue - in fact, often times you can get some people walking by that will give you just what you're looking for - the dog is alert and actively looking in your direction.  However, with rescue dogs, often times they are not as comfortable as they have been through a lot in recent weeks and are trying to find someplace they feel 'safe'.

Late afternoon during certain times of the year (this was taken in January), the sun will shine through and light this area up beautifully.

Entrance to Boy Scout Park trailsEntrance to Boy Scout Park trailsAt sunset on a beautiful day the entrance to the trails at Boy Scout Park is lit up.

So there you have it - these are the key points that I look for when I pick a location to photograph dogs.  This week's dogs was photographed at one of my favorite locations, Boy Scout Park, located just a couple of blocks from our home.  I will admit that Dolly was a great sport in posing for these photographs - but we decided to cut this photograph session a little short as the mosquitoes were a bit on the vicious side in the early evening hours.  In case you're curious, both Dolly and Lola have loving homes (they are not rescue dogs).

Boy Scout Park meets all the criteria listed above.  We went to a shaded area in the late afternoon where we could get away from everyone and any distractions that might be area (except of course those darn mosquitoes!)

Dolly, female dog, posing for the cameraDolly, female dog, posing for the cameraDolly is a mix of blue heeler and hanging tree breeds creating a beautiful blend.

We headed to the area where lots of ferns grow with little trails through out the ferns.  It's all natural back here - no man made things and definitely a dog treat here in Florida.

Black and white dog in the woodsBlack and white dog in the woodsBlack and white dog in the woods

The soft greens in the background provide just the right amount of color and blur for a pleasing background without distracting from the beautiful young dog - Dolly - a blue heeler and hangin tree hound mix.

Beautiful black and white dog face portraitBeautiful black and white dog face portraitBeautiful black and white dog face portrait

These photographs were taken about 2 hours before sunset.  It's shaded and a little on the dark side since it is very wooded.  Dolly was a little scared each time the flash (Adorama AD200) went off inside the softbox.  I think this was her first official modeling job.

Dolly's cousin, Lola, has grown a little bit since I last photographed her - she is now almost 5 months old.  They got the pleasure of spending a week together.

Blue heeler face portraitBlue heeler face portraitBlue heeler face portrait

This last photograph, we decided to let Dolly climb an oak tree that was at a great angle to allow a dog to climb up a few feet.  This is one of a couple of trees that have a portion of the trunk that travels at a low angle making it an ideal location for dogs and people to be photographed.

Black and white dog sitting in treeBlack and white dog sitting in treeBlack and white dog sitting in tree



This week's post is primarily about how I pick locations to photograph dogs - why?  Well, I photograph cats on occasion too, but cats tell you where they are going to allow their photographs to be captured - so there isn't as much input coming from us as photographers.  I always photograph cats at their home where they are most comfortable.

Blogging with Pet Photographers

This is a personal project that I try to participate in each week (as much as possible).  This post is part of a 'blog circle' which is with several other Professional Pet Photographers around the world.  Each week a different theme is provided to the group and we, as pet photographers, interpret the theme in our own way.  Follow the link provided at the end of each of my blogs to the next pet photographer's blog - and when you arrive back at my blog - you've completed the entire circle of blogs for this theme.  For more pet photographers sharing their take on this theme, head over to visit Nicole Hrustyk shares her 3 tips for finding the perfect session locations in Mount Charleston, Nevada


Interested in a Pet Photography Session?

If you would like to discuss or book a custom pet portrait session, send an email to [email protected] or give us a call/text Linda at 813-610-2671 in the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough/Pinellas/Pasco/Polk counties in Florida).  We have flexible rates and packages to fit most everyone’s budget as we believe that having wonderful photographs of your pet is important to so many people.



Tracy Allard(non-registered)
Ok, that's it. Next time I visit my mother in Florida I'm crossing the state to photograph in Riverhills and Scout parks - that Spanish Moss is to die for!
Love, love, love that tree in the ferns! Such an inspiring spot!
Those mossy trees are amazing!
Perfect backdrop for Lola and Dolly
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