Sunday, September 13th we’re planning our popular beginner workshop: DOG SHOTS at the Teresa Berg Photography studio in Dallas. If you’ve got a DSLR and you need some help with composition, lighting and managing those four-legged models, this is a great place to start. Many of our attendees are doing photography for shelters and rescue groups but not getting the results they want. Some are thinking of opening their own business some day and are just “testing the waters” and some are just pet lovers who are tired of struggling with their cameras. If any of these describes YOU, then join us in Dallas, September 13th. It’s very “hands on” –you will use YOUR equipment and work through beautiful shots with live models, step by step. And meet other people who love it as much as you do! The class is $295, and we only take 10 people, so when it’s full, it’s full. Call the studio to sign up: 972-250-2415. Credit cards or paypal cheerfully accepted.
It’s calendar time again — so if you have a little spare change and you’d like to buy a few votes, the Legacy Humane Society would be VERY grateful. They save 650 dogs and cats in my area each year on a very tight budget. And they do a great job. The calendar is colorful and fun this year — take a look! http://tinyurl.com/tinydog2016
I know a lot of shelters are short on space…. in fact, they often say they have “no room for photography.” We all know that sometimes getting your foot in the door is the biggest obstacle — so having a small portable studio that travels is something to think about. In the photo below, we took half a v-flat and simply clamped our background paper to it. The great thing about v-flats is that they stand up on their own. A v-flat is simply two very thick foam core poster boards hinged together with gaffer’s tape. You can google “gaffer’s tape” — it’s a photographer’s best friend — and pick it up at a photo supply store or order it online from Adorama or B and H Photo. You’ll find a million uses for it. Our v-flat is black on one side and white on the other, so we used white tape on the white side and black tape on the black side as our hinge. As you can see, the side that doesn’t hold the background paper becomes your white reflector. If you set this up next to a big window or patio door, you don’t need a light. We used a Westcott TD6 in a huge softbox, but you could use a smaller softbox or umbrella (much cheaper) to diffuse the light and take up less space. Each side measures 4’x4′ – so if you don’t have an SUV or a truck, this idea may not work for you as you won’t be able to get it into an average passenger car.
Once you’ve hinged your two pieces of foam core together (we sandwiched two 3/8″ pieces back to back because we couldn’t find 1/2″ think foam core) you’re ready to shoot. You can even shoot on the white or black WITHOUT attaching a roll of seamless background paper, but we wanted colorful shots that jumped off the screen, so we bought a few fun colors (53″ wide –from the same place you get your gaffer’s tape!). A few colorful bandanas or flowers and you’re all set. This setup really only needs about a five foot square area — but then you need a place for the photographer and the helper holding the dog’s leash, so a quiet 10’x 10′ corner would work nicely. We can even use a small chair (for little dogs to sit on) and not run off the background. Once they see how fast the dogs get adopted with nice photos online they will be falling all over themselves to give you the space that you need!
We often photograph adoptable dogs outdoors — but we don’t always have time to scout interesting locations. Most of the time we’re restricting ourselves to what we find just outside our door. At my studio we are located in a business park with a lot of asphalt — but across the street we have an office building with a strip of green grass between their parking lot and the (very busy) street. Our challenge is always how to create an engaging photo that will stand out in a crowd of other photos and help get that dog a new family.
So, lately we have been using quilts as backgrounds. They are easy to wash and carry around, and they even cover up the not-so-pretty spots where the grass isn’t filled in. The only trick is that you have to be able to use a fast lens (in other words a lens that will open up to an f-stop with a very low number) to throw the backgrounds out of focus. Too much sharp detail in the background distracts from the dog. In my opinion, the soft blurry colors of the quilt make a sweet summery backdrop for a dog portrait! These shots were done at ISO 200, using an 85mm lens and an f-stop of 1.6 and 1.8. Not every lens will get you there, but there are some pretty good lenses for under $500 that will do the job.
This month we added the dogs names to their photos — we’re hoping that see the name with the face helps people remember that dog and come back to their photo when they’re ready to make their decision! A little pop of color around the dog’s neck helps complete the look. Start visiting garage sales and even places like Overstock.com and add some quilts to your collection.
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!