We do several dog calendars each year and they are lots of fun…. but not all calendars are good money makers. Here are five tips to get you started off on the right foot (paw)….
1. Plan out all the finances in advance and only partner with a reputable rescue group. Do NOT offer to pay all the expenses. A good rescue group should see the value and raise the money for printing costs. The more calendars you print, the cheaper they are per calendar, so set a realistic number and figure the costs up front.
2. Decide where the profits are coming from — will you sell ads in your calendar? sell sponsorships? One page of ads could cover ALL the costs of printing and make calendar sales a lot more profitable. Some groups even sell the positions — so maybe you have a supporter that’s willing to spend $500 to get their dog in the calendar. What would a local merchant pay for an ad in your calendar? Ask them! Then ask them if they would sell the calendars in their shop.
3. Line up plenty of volunteers to help you on shooting day(s). You can easily shoot the whole calendar in one day if you have helpers and a great location with lots of shooting options. This year’s Dachshund calendar (for 2016) was shot on the campus of Southern Methodist University, which gave us lots of variety in one place.
4. Work ahead. Calendars only sell between September and January. Anything you don’t sell before February 1st goes in the recycling bin so shoot now and plan to start selling them early in the fall!
5. Be sure and get a model release signed by every dog owner — you need permission to publish the images. You can google and find a form that works for you. Good luck!
Dallas isn’t exactly known for it’s lush gardens — but we do have BLUEBONNETS. It’s our state flower and Texans are just crazy about them. We decided this year, since we were setting up for client sessions in the bluebonnets that we would invite a few of our rescue groups to bring their puppies to our location for some bright spring photos. They are popular on facebook (any photo that travels helps get dogs adopted!) and look great on websites. Try it in your area. Use a landmark, some local color or famous spot to show off adoptable dogs –and see what happens!
One of the organizations I volunteer with is Operation Kindness the oldest and largest no-kill shelter here in north Texas. They ended up (on the same day) with one orphaned chihuahua puppy and one orphaned kitten about the same age. So they paired them up to see if they could comfort each other and the rest was just magic. Their videos have over 4 million views on Youtube and the have their own facebook page. And I had a photo session with them, too!
My point is that this type of social media attention can really help bring in donations and positive attention for a foster care program at YOUR local shelter. Operation Kindness uses foster families to care for puppies and kittens that are too young to safely live at their facility. In fact, we foster kittens for them here at the studio (more about that later). Look for these stories in your own communities, photograph them, video them and share them with your local news agencies. Chip and Adele have been on NBC, Good Morning America Online, Buzzfeed, ET Online, and this weekend, The Dallas Morning News. Every one of these media outlets is looking for a positive feel-good story with good photographs. It’s easier than you think to get their attention. So take it from Chip and Adele — a little good news is a wonderful thing.
We love color and the way it JUMPS off the screen — especially when potential adopters are searching a long list of adoptable dogs — we like the way the color reaches out and says “PICK ME.” So this week we’ve been working with a couple of favorites – the savage seamless paper and the blue and yellow you see below. If you go to www.adorama.com or www.bandhphotovideo.com and you will see a dazzling array of different colors (just type BACKGROUND PAPER in the search box). This narrow width is very portable and perfect for one dog — and affordable! Less than $30 per roll — and one roll will last a very long time, since the only wear and tear is where the dog or cat actually stands. No more wrinkly tablecloth backgrounds!
In this case, we just cut off a piece and taped it to the wall at the top and the floor at the bottom so we didn’t even need a background stand to hold the roll of paper. This works great if you’re working in a space where you don’t have much room or if you’re like me and hate to use more gear than you really need. We set up two colors side by side on a day when we’re expecting a lot of rescue dogs, that way we have a quick and easy choice and the chance to put a little variety on their website. I will say that almost every dog we photograph looks good on this dark blue, so if you’re only going to try one, try BLUE!
If it’s one thing we always find at animal shelters and around our neighborhoods, it’s concrete. Instead of passing it over for the grass or dirt — make it work to your advantage. Concrete makes a great natural reflector! Putting a black dog on a sidewalk or driveway can make a huge difference in your final shot. And it’s one reflector they are sure not to be afraid of! If you can find a spot of color in the background (like the row of pine trees in the photo below) you’ve got a little bit of magic. What you don’t see is that there was a parking lot behind the pine trees –which we neutralized by throwing the background out of focus (this was shot at f2.0 with an 85mm lens) and laying flat on the ground to shoot slightly “up” at the puppy. So take your fastest lens with you and use the concrete to have some fun!
We still have three spots left for our Portfolio Shooting Day in Minneapolis in August. Leave a comment on this blog if you’d like more information.
If you’re interested in moving past the basic automatic settings on your camera and taking PRO quality photographs, we have a couple of great workshops coming up this summer.
First, we’re doing some portfolio shooting in Minneapolis on August 1st (and possibly August 2nd if we have enough people interested in a second day). This is for photographers that know a little bit about their camera but are tired of making “snapshots”. They’re looking to add depth and interest to their compositions and expand their tool kit when it comes to lighting and posing. We won’t be shooting in a studio at all — it will be outdoors or possibly indoors but on location, not using studio type lighting. This type of workshop will be learning as we move from location to location setting up shots and getting the lighting right. No sitting in a classroom, no business lectures, no paperwork or handouts. We will set up shots, troubleshoot, talk about composition and lighting as we go and learn, learn, learn. Lots of walking and lots of fun. The cost to you is $500 per day. Maximum of 6 people in the group shooting with live models.
Secondly, we will hold our third annual Studio Shooters Unleashed at Teresa’s studio in Dallas on July 10-12. July in Dallas is a great time to stay indoors and experiment with light and all types of equipment. We’ll use anything and everything to create beautiful studio portraits using Teresa’s props, backdrops and equipment. All you bring is your camera. Because we have a little more time, we’ll go deeper into exposure, metering, adding people to your shots, multiple dogs, litters of puppies, using unusual props, and more. We cater in lunches so we can maximize our time. We’ll have an optional group dinner at the end of the first day so everyone can relax and get to know each other. Cost for this two day workshop is $995. Maximum of 10 people.
I you are interested in either of these workshops, please email us at TERESA@TERESABERG.com or call the studio at 972-250-2415 and we will send you the registration email with more details. Payment in full is due when you register and is non-refundable. If you find out later that you cannot attend, you can sell your seat to another photographer, but we do not issue refunds.
You can pay via paypal, credit card or check. Discount hotel rooms will be available in Dallas (tentatively $59 per night at the Marriott Quorum which is 1 mile from the studio) You will not need a rental car in Dallas as we usually have plenty of drivers to shuttle people back and forth from the hotel to the studio. Lunches and snacks are included.
If you’re reading this blog you’re probably interested in pet photography and saving homeless animals — and about a billion of us are also on facebook — so why not use every possible resource to speed up adoption? My friend, Erin Hannigan, is not a photographer –she’s a world-class oboist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra but she is always looking for ways to get dogs adopted.
A couple of years ago she started posting photos of her foster dogs on facebook and because she had a following of music lovers, she tapped in to a whole new market for adoptions. Most of us have lots of dog lovers as our facebook friends so we see endless (BAD) photos of dogs on the euthanasia list at the local shelter or see photos our friends post. But Erin started doing quick little cell phone videos and cell phone photos of her fosters and TELLING THEIR STORY. People LOVE stories! Now people tune in on a daily basis just to see what the latest foster is up to over at Erin’s place. And it’s working! She has so much web traffic that her fosters almost always get adopted before it’s time to place them in the shelter (she fosters Moms with their pups). Music fans (and her personal friends) all over the country have shared the adventures and adopted Erin’s puppies. It’s a true success story. Here’s Erin with one of her foster pups.
So how can you use social media to help homeless pets? Maybe a blog? Or a facebook page talking about your adventures in pet photography? Or make some cute little videos with your cell phone and post them on YouTube! You don’t have to have professional photos. But make them clear and uncluttered. Play the cute card. This is just one creative way to help dogs get adopted. She’s now set up a facebook page just for her foster dog stories — so check it out and click LIKE so you’ll get the latest updates!
Possibly one of the toughest assignment for any pet photographer is photographing pets on site at an animal shelter. If you’re just starting out, I strongly encourage you to work with a rescue group and photograph pets that have had some time in a foster home –they’ll be more socialized and calm and your job will be much easier. We all know that pets in a shelter are not relaxed and a quiet corner for photography may be hard to find. So do yourself a favor if you’re new to this and start with pets that live in foster homes. It’s not cheating! Every pet that gets adopted makes room for a pet that might be euthanized because rescue groups pull many of their pets from the shelters.
If you’re not already connected with a rescue group they’re easy to find. Google is your friend. Take the time to research the group you’re interested in –make sure they’re organized with a good track record, professionally managed with a good web presence. Social media is huge for getting pets adopted.
Do you need something in writing? Yes. But it does NOT necessarily have to be a five page contract with witnesses and notary signatures. A simple one page (even one paragraph) letter signed by both parties is usually sufficient. You can spell out what you’re willing to do for them and what they are allowed to do with your images.
I personally do not give shelters or rescue groups printable images. The images I give are sized for the web only. Usually 4×5″ at 150ppi. You could even send smaller images (72ppi is common for online use). All of the images I send are watermarked because I own a business and images are how I make my living. You do not necessarily need to put your name on your images but if you don’t, other people will use them as their own. If that doesn’t matter to you, save yourself the time and send them without your name. When one of the groups I work with needs an image for their website or advertising or promotional purposes they simply call or email me and ask permission. If the image is to be printed in their brochure, or other collateral materials, they give me photo credit and I send them files that are larger and without a watermark.
If you have questions about re-sizing your images there are literally thousands of good tutorials on youtube.com here but you will need software like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (the lite version of Photoshop), Picasa, or even in a pinch, Microsoft Picture Editor. Here’s a typical adoption photo with my standard watermark.