The 2015 Tiny Dog Calendar voting contest began late last week. To give you a brief re-cap on how it works: I put out a “model call” on facebook and via email. Friends tell friends and before you know it, I have TONS of people sending me snapshots of their dogs, hoping I will like what I see and offer them a free modeling session. I choose the dogs that I think will send the right message (and look cute of course) and we photograph approximately 20 dogs over the course of a few weeks. These dogs then compete for votes (votes are $1 each) and all the money from voting goes to the Legacy Humane Society – one of my favorite local animal charities. The 13 dogs with the most votes get in the calendar. The TOP DOG also gets a $350 gift certificate to my studio. So competition is fierce! We will be selling the calendars online starting in October — but if you’d like to see the contestants and place a vote or two, please visit the Teresa Berg Photography blog and click on 2015 Tiny Dog Calendar.
And don’t forget — calendars make great gifts!
A very successful adoption day was held on Saturday here in north Texas. Over 2200 animals were adopted in one day. Why not try it in YOUR area? Yes, adoption fees were waived, and so the shelters didn’t get their customary fees to help defray the cost of rehabilitating adoptable animals — but look at the positive interest in generated in the community! Thanks to good local news media coverage and lots of social media by the individual shelters, it seemed like everyone in the Dallas area was at one shelter or another on Saturday. Congratulations to all these hard working people.
I’ve had lots of requests to show how I make the bow ties that I use on rescue dogs — but this is so much better! I’m planning to stop at my local thrift store and stock up on some wild ties and get busy!! Have fun and glam up those handsome four-legged boys…
Often I hear about volunteer photographers who get “turned away” from their local shelters because the shelter staff believes that their photos are already good enough. I always encourage these photographers to ask for a 60 day trial — just to prove how much difference it will make in speeding up adoptions. Sometimes the shelter staff is not even willing to do a trial. At this point, the photographer doesn’t have a lot to lose — so they might as well throw a few “before and after” shots on the table and hope that these dramatic visuals do the trick.
Here is an example from my friends at the Dallas Fort Worth Dachshund Rescue Foundation. We photographed this little girl at our workshop this last weekend and the rescue group was shocked when they put the two photos side by side. You can do this!
My wonderful assistant, Jessiree and I just finished photographing adoptable dogs at the Rockwall Adoption Center in Rockwall, Texas. They have a great staff and a wonderful facility — and thanks to the generosity of Dallas businessman, Jack Knox, they have photography equipment on site. So all we had to do is grab our cameras and some props and show up for a day of photography. The shot you see posted here was done at the shelter. We used (obviously) the yellow background paper and the Westcott TD6 continuous light system with a 24×36″ softbox and a 42X72″ reflector. Our pull back (set up shot) is included here so you can see the placement and the equipment. They have a conference room and keep the equipment set up in the corner just as you see it. This way it is also available for “intake” photos if they have someone there who can use their camera. We used an ISO of 640, a shutter speed of 400 and an fstop of 2.2 for most of the images we shot. We’ll post more examples soon. Publish your questions as comments and we’ll do our best to answer them promptly! Yes, this does involve sitting on the floor quite a bit, as most of the dogs were medium to large sized. You can do this!
If you are close to the Rockwall, Texas area and you would like to volunteer as one of their photographers and use this equipment for your adoption photos, the nice people there will gladly sign you up as a volunteer! They have a helpful group of people and really need some help with their photography. Visit their website and give them a call.
This time of year our local shelters are overrun with beautiful kittens! The challenge becomes how to photograph them quickly and easily to get them noticed. I recently spent the day at a local shelter photographing kittens on site. We brought one studio light with us ( a Westcott TD5 with a shoot-through umbrella softbox) and a reflector. This type of lighting is one of my favorites to use with shelter animals because it doesn’t flash. It’s a constant, bright daylight-balanced light source that is very soft and easy to use. It also doesn’t get hot, which is a plus. For the background I used a wide roll of paper that I bought at a teacher’s supply web site. It’s thin like wrapping paper, but designed for teachers to use as a background for their bulletin boards in the classroom. So it’s wider than wrapping paper — in this case, 42″ wide — which is the same width as the folding table I used.
pet photography in the shelter can be challenging
With my wonderful assistant and a volunteer from the shelter that would pull kittens from their cages and walk them to our photo “corner” we were able to photograph over 40 cats in one day. We were set up in separate room that was usually used for adopters to fill out their paperwork, but the shelter was closed that day.
It’s always a plus to find a quiet space to work, as cats are wary and easily spooked. Kittens are easily distracted with a string or a toy, so my assistant used toys, feathers and treats to keep them happy while we quickly photographed them. I would advise shooting at 2.8 to make it a little easier to get the eyes in focus, and use paper without a strong horizontal pattern, as that always distracts the eye when it’s not “level”. Other than that, I was happy with our project. Kittens are a lot of fun and using a table enabled us to work standing (I sat in a rolling chair when I was shooting) instead of sitting on the floor which is a big plus. A ribbon or some jewelry gives them that little pop of color and they don’t seem to mind. Good luck with kittens!
I “borrowed” this wonderful graphic from National Geographic GEO because I think everyone involved with rescue should know more about Pit Bulls. There are so many misconceptions tossed around. Please share this information!
I’m constantly teased because I like creating portraits in unexpected places. And for weeks I’ve been looking at the bright blue dumpster behind my studio letting ideas bounce around in my head — until today’s rescue dog showed up. He was a pretty blonde golden color and I decided to shoot his adoption portrait in front of my big glowing blue dumpster. I’m posting it here for all of you that constantly tell me they don’t have anything to use as a backdrop on site at the animal shelter.
Even a big blue dumpster will work as a backdrop!
Why get excited about a dumpster? Imagine you’re shopping online for a dog and you scroll through hundreds of little tiny blurry thumbnails on Petfinder or some other site. What jumps out at you? A pop of color! And if you read this dog’s listing and want to go back to it at some point, how easy is it going to be to find? VERY. That’s it in a nutshell. Call me crazy, but I will shamelessly use color, props or any other device to save a dog’s life.
I’ve included the exposure info on the pullback below. I shot these photos at 4pm on a very bright day and sat ON THE GROUND where the red X is drawn. The foster mom tried her best to keep the dog sitting in that little strip of shade cast by the dumpster. These images (and everything I shoot) was shot in RAW and during post-processing I upped the clarity and the whites in ACR to intensify the blue. I photoshopped out the leash and that’s it! An easy shot on a very bright day that took about 10 minutes. Go forth and conquer!
Your local shelter or rescue group will tell you — spring brings litter after litter of unwanted puppies and kittens to their doorstep. So now is the perfect time to plan an all day adoption photo event. Plan a few weeks ahead and notify several of your favorite animal rescue groups that you will be at a certain location all day to photograph their adoptable puppies and kittens. NOTHING is cuter than a puppy or kitten but after a certain age they enter their awkward in-between stage and they’re much harder to adopt. So plan to photograph puppies around 7 weeks and kittens at 5-6 weeks — and take advantage of the great spring weather (at least here in Dallas it’s spring!) and set up a great outdoor set with some flowers and some shade. Make sure puppies have had their shots as there are certain soil borne pests you don’t want to expose them to. Can’t visualize an outdoor studio? Scroll down and read one of our previous posts about shooting outdoors at the shelter.
Or if you prefer to shoot indoors, use some light spring like colors for your backgrounds. Your photos will JUMP off the screen compared to all the other bland out-of-focus shots on Petfinder or facebook. Getting these pets adopted is all about how to make them stand out in the crowd, so don’t copy what someone else is doing, come up with something different. And make it memorable! How cute would it be to photograph puppies in a little red wagon on the sidewalk (maybe even in front of a picket fence)? Or at the playground on the merry-go-round, or in a dolly buggy. The great thing about puppies and kittens is that they like to huddle together — so find something fun to put them in and start making some great photos.
learning to photograph pets in the studio is not as hard as you think.
Remember to stay in the shade, get down on the pet’s eye level (very important) and keep the background simple and clutter free. You can do this!
Does the shelter or rescue organization that you work with have a surplus of older dogs? Black dogs? Kittens? Chihuahuas? Chances are that you see some trends and it’s smart to try and anticipate what kind of “marketing” you’ll need for whatever that surplus seems to be. I tend to bounce from one specialty group to the next, like most people, putting out fires. Right now it seems to be the senior dogs that are getting overlooked. Maybe because it’s “puppy season.” Well, to me that’s just a shame because older dogs make great pets for many families. So when I photographed this older guy, Rex, recently for Operation Kindness we decided to build a campaign around the idea that older dogs are not all used up! So we photographed Rex leaping for a tennis ball –one of his favorite activities. We don’t want to mislead anyone — so if he really wasn’t a tennis ball lover we would have found some other way to highlight his good qualities — but you get the idea. Figure out what makes that certain group that you want to “market” special and then make a few cute photos to illustrate those points and let them fly on social media. Print a poster for the lobby (if you’re working with a shelter that has an adoption center), ask if you can put up a poster at the local bank or market. There are dog lovers everywhere so don’t be shy!
a few clever words can make your message travel
We still have some openings for our DOG SHOTS class held at Teresa Berg Photography on Saturday, May 31st — so if you’re a beginner and still having issues with your camera or you just want to learn it the right way — call the studio at 972-250-2415 and we’ll answer any questions you might have about the workshop. It’s a full day of learning for beginners with Teresa and some very handsome live dog models.