I did a short spot on Fox News Good Day Dallas this week with some tips for photographing pets –and to promote our Tiny Dog Calendar. Maybe these tips will be interesting for some of you!
My wonderful assistant, Jessiree and I just finished photographing adoptable dogs at the Rockwall Adoption Center in Rockwall, Texas. They have a great staff and a wonderful facility — and thanks to the generosity of Dallas businessman, Jack Knox, they have photography equipment on site. So all we had to do is grab our cameras and some props and show up for a day of photography. The shot you see posted here was done at the shelter. We used (obviously) the yellow background paper and the Westcott TD6 continuous light system with a 24×36″ softbox and a 42X72″ reflector. Our pull back (set up shot) is included here so you can see the placement and the equipment. They have a conference room and keep the equipment set up in the corner just as you see it. This way it is also available for “intake” photos if they have someone there who can use their camera. We used an ISO of 640, a shutter speed of 400 and an fstop of 2.2 for most of the images we shot. We’ll post more examples soon. Publish your questions as comments and we’ll do our best to answer them promptly! Yes, this does involve sitting on the floor quite a bit, as most of the dogs were medium to large sized. You can do this!
If you are close to the Rockwall, Texas area and you would like to volunteer as one of their photographers and use this equipment for your adoption photos, the nice people there will gladly sign you up as a volunteer! They have a helpful group of people and really need some help with their photography. Visit their website and give them a call.
Attend Dog Shots and learn to photograph your dog
It’s time to schedule our spring DOG SHOTS workshop! This is a popular one for brand new pet photographers. So mark SATURDAY, MAY 31, 2014 from 9-4 on your calendars. We start with the very basics and teach you to see the light and use the manual settings on your camera. This is our MOST BASIC workshop — so even if you’ve only had your camera a few months, don’t be concerned. We’ll start at the beginning, working with live dog models in a variety of lighting situations. It’s one full day and it’s held in Teresa’s studio and the nearby park. The cost is $295 which includes your lunch. All you need is your DSLR, your comfortable clothes and your willingness to learn.
The fee is non-refundable but if you find at the last minute that you cannot attend, we will apply the fee to our NEXT Dog Shots workshop –which in this case will be in the fall. Use this paypal link to pay your fee and we will send you the information sheet with the details.
For those of you just learning about your cameras who can’t attend an in person workshop, I highly recommend the video tutorials at One Picture Saves a Life. Seth Casteel does a great job of showing the basics of photographing shelter pets with a minimal amount of equipment — and the videos are clear, concise, and FREE. Great job, Seth! Check them out and start saving lives at your local shelter….
Photographing shelter pets can be challenging, especially in the shelter environment where the noise level makes your subject extra nervous. But one of the other big challenges you may face is the background. As animal rescue volunteers, we love the little furry faces and learn to look beyond the messy cages and unattractive clutter. But we’re not photographing these dogs for ourselves, we’re in marketing! We have a “product” to sell to the public. Our goal is to showcase these animals and make them look BETTER than the pet store variety. So how do we do that?
Lighting, expression and background. Today we’ll talk about background — because in a way, it’s the easiest to change. When I set up a photo studio in a shelter setting I frequently use seamless background paper. It’s available in hundreds of colors, on 12 yard rolls, from big photo supply places like Adorama and B and H Photo or possibly your local camera store. If you’re only photographing one pet at a time, you probably would prefer to use the 53″ width which is also easier if you’re putting it in your car or storing it in a closet after you shoot. I prefer a neutral color (like a super white, or focus gray) because it works well with light or dark fur — but have fun and change it up a bit. At about $25 per roll it will last a long time and do a good job for you. You can extend the life of your paper even more if you don’t roll it out to cover the floor, or if you cover it with clear plexiglass from Home Depot. Just make sure if you don’t cover the floor that you at least have something clean and attractive for them to stand on, like these cool mats.
I realize that not every shelter has a budget for floor mats and background paper but trust me, it’s an investment that really pays off. If you can’t afford faux flooring, at least invest in some paper. Or if you are using the same corner over and over, paint the wall!
A background needs to be clean, wrinkle free and non-reflective. Set this up next to a big window or glass door (see the lighting diagram furnished in this blog) and grab one of the great reflectors we have written about and you have a very portable studio that will work in a variety of situations!
A window and a wall and you’ve got a studio!
A beautiful inspiring video for those of us who need to occasionally remember that human beings are often kind.
See more here: http://www.pawbonito.com/
I recently ran across this short video showing photographer Portia Shao shooting at her local animal shelter. It includes a great testimonial from the assistant manager of the shelter describing the effect that good photography has made on their adoptions. Please share the video! And be sure and look at the lighting setup. For those of you using studio lights, she gives a good look at light placement and backgrounds. Enjoy!
and a reflector and maybe a floodlight! Don’t underestimate the power of simple tools to improve your pet portraits. The $20 floodlight/bulb you see pictured here can dramatically improve your results. Use this simple light to raise the ambient light in the room by shining it directly at a white wall or a freestanding reflector which is angled at your subject. Don’t shine it directly at the dog or you’ll get those ugly harsh shadows!
As a added benefit, it may help enough to allow you to abandon the on-camera flash –and because it’s a constant light, it won’t flash and scare the subject. Some nervous shelter dogs don’t like lights flashing in their faces. Be sure and buy a “daylight” bulb for the best color of light and have fun experimenting with light!
Helpful tools for photographing pets indoors