The smart people at Hearts Speak are setting up photo studios and training shelter volunteers to make better adoption photos in NYC. Yay!
Normally we don’t add people to adoption photos, but sometimes it’s helpful when you’ve got a dog that just doesn’t settle down, or you get a request for a “happy ending” portrait that you can use to advertise your success! When it does come up, here are some helpful tips:
1. Location RULES! Don’t pick the location for any other reason than the light – and the comfort of your subjects. If the dog’s not comfortable on a slatted bench, then don’t frustrate yourself by trying to make him sit there. For a basic warm and casual portrait, It’s always a good idea to get the people and the dogs faces on the same plane. Preferably close together.
2. Fresh people + Tired Dogs = Great portraits. Somehow, you want the dogs to burn off their excess energy before you sit them in front of the camera. Conversely, you want your two-legged subjects fresh and ready to go.
3. Minimize distractions. This is true for kids but doubly important for dogs. You’ll have a very difficult time creating the perfect dog portrait if Max is tracking squirrels and ducks with his eyes. Choose the time of day and the location to minimize these kinds of challenges. Noisy playgrounds, for example, are problematic for both types of subjects.
4. Casual beats Formal. The days of formal posed pet portraits are over! It’s far more important to get them laughing and playing together than to exhaust yourself (and them) for the perfect pose. Let them interact and prompt them occasionally to look at the camera while they are roughly in position. Shoot wider than necessary to allow them room to move. They will both love you for it.
5. What to wear? Since Max can’t really change his outfit, you better make sure your two-legged subjects pay attention to theirs. You want them to contrast with their pet but not compete. But watch out – too much contrast can make all that loose dog hair a photoshop nightmare for you later. A good medium range color that doesn’t distract the eye will usually save the day.