First, I would like to thank Teresa for sharing what she has learned about photographing rescue dogs. I am fairly handy with a camera, and even I had a few “aha” moments in her webinar. I recommend it to anyone who wants to see, and hear what works for her. She makes magic with good lighting, a few simple tools, and patience.
Along with good photos, I think it is helpful to also use video to show a pet’s personality. On sites like petfinder, you need a captivating thumbnail to capture the attention of visitors. And you can add a short video. It doesn’t have to be very long, in fact, shorter is often better. Some dogs can look rather menacing in a still photo, even if they are a sweetheart. If that dog is playing with a toy, video can show what a sweetheart that the dog is. So I think you need both- photos and video.
I keep a point and shoot digital camera at my veterinary hospital. It takes decent pictures to share on my blog. Clients aren’t there for a portrait session, so I try to make it fast and get what I can. Let’s face it- the only thing cuter than puppies, are puppies with puppy breath. Sometimes puppies and kittens are too wiggly or distracted for a photo. So I would shoot a video with the camera and go with that. So I started keeping my camcorder at the office, and I discovered a trick that I wanted to share. The trick that I learned by accident (ahem-reading the manual) is that my camcorder could record a photo from a video frame. My camcorder would record video to a mini-dv tape, and photos to an SD card. I would watch the video and stop at the right frame- looking at camera, ears up, etc. – and press the photo button. The photo file size isn’t very large, but it is large enough for a blog post or to use or share on petfinder and facebook. This year, I upgraded to a HD camcorder, with 2 SD cards. Being HD, my photo file of the jpeg is larger than my older camcorder.
The photo is sometimes a tad blurry and I try to correct that a little in Photoshop. Is it a Teresa Berg quality photo? No. Does it look okay in a petfinder thumbnail or in a blog post? Yes. It is a photo that I wouldn’t have been able to get with my digital camera due to the lag of the camera.
Here’s an example. This blog post about a little Pit Bull puppy named Rocky Balboa. The photo in the blog post is lifted from the video. If you click on it, it will enlarge little and you can see that it is slightly blurry. But I was happy with it. http://andymathis.blogspot.com/2011/11/meet-rocky-rocky-balboa.html
So I wanted to share that trick with anyone trying to get photos of pets when everything is going wrong and everyone is too wiggly. Shoot a video and try that instead.
To edit videos, I use imovie to trim the ends, add text, etc. iMovie came with my Macbook. For a PC user, I think Windows makes Movie Maker that would do the same. I am sure there are other programs as well.
For most jpegs, I usually tweak them a little in photoshop a little. I have horrible lighting in the exam room for photographs (flourescent overhead), so your situation might be different. Bump up the brightness a little, sometimes the contrast a little, and adjust the levels. If you don’t have the full professional version of photoshop, you could try programs like Gimp, Picasa, or Picnik (from Flickr). All free.
One of the best sites to learn photoshop, imovie, or any other software out there, in my opinion, is Lynda.com. It is $25 a month, but you can watch and learn a lot in one months time. It totally rocks.
Another site that a rescue might find handy to make a video of their potential adoptees is http://www.animoto.com . You drop your jpegs into their program, and it makes a video that can be shared on a website, youtube, blog, or facebook.
So that is my little tip and trick about using video to help place pets into their permanent forever homes. The faster that happens, the more animals that can be helped.
Dr. Andy Mathis is a veterinarian from Georgia. You can find him at his blog- http://andymathis.blogspot.com – or his website- http://www.andymathis.com – or on Facebook and Twitter. He is a signature member of the Georgia Watercolor Society and a founding member of Art Helping Animals.