Month: June 2015

Tiny portable studio…


dog adoption photo teresa bergI 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!

teresa berg focus on rescue

Grab a quilt and a fast lens…


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.

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