I apologize –our live Periscope broadcast (which was scheduled for yesterday) had to be re-scheduled. Stay tuned for a date next week. While you’re waiting, sign up for Periscope and get familiar with how it works (you’ll need to have a twitter account first). It’s really simple and fun.
I’ve had lots of requests to show how I make the bow ties that I use on rescue dogs — but this is so much better! I’m planning to stop at my local thrift store and stock up on some wild ties and get busy!! Have fun and glam up those handsome four-legged boys…
Your local shelter or rescue group will tell you — spring brings litter after litter of unwanted puppies and kittens to their doorstep. So now is the perfect time to plan an all day adoption photo event. Plan a few weeks ahead and notify several of your favorite animal rescue groups that you will be at a certain location all day to photograph their adoptable puppies and kittens. NOTHING is cuter than a puppy or kitten but after a certain age they enter their awkward in-between stage and they’re much harder to adopt. So plan to photograph puppies around 7 weeks and kittens at 5-6 weeks — and take advantage of the great spring weather (at least here in Dallas it’s spring!) and set up a great outdoor set with some flowers and some shade. Make sure puppies have had their shots as there are certain soil borne pests you don’t want to expose them to. Can’t visualize an outdoor studio? Scroll down and read one of our previous posts about shooting outdoors at the shelter.
Or if you prefer to shoot indoors, use some light spring like colors for your backgrounds. Your photos will JUMP off the screen compared to all the other bland out-of-focus shots on Petfinder or facebook. Getting these pets adopted is all about how to make them stand out in the crowd, so don’t copy what someone else is doing, come up with something different. And make it memorable! How cute would it be to photograph puppies in a little red wagon on the sidewalk (maybe even in front of a picket fence)? Or at the playground on the merry-go-round, or in a dolly buggy. The great thing about puppies and kittens is that they like to huddle together — so find something fun to put them in and start making some great photos.
Remember to stay in the shade, get down on the pet’s eye level (very important) and keep the background simple and clutter free. You can do this!
A group of photographers and dog trainers set out to do a big job. The task? Photograph 249 large breed dogs that had been living in a boarding facility outside of Dallas. Abandoned there by the rescue group that had been paying their room and board, these dogs had been living in the kennel for (some of them) 2-3 years. Some had even been born there.
Needless to say, this is a very different challenge from following the family poodle around the house. Very different.
So we broke in to teams and set up at different spots around the grounds with the facility employees shuttling dogs to different photo teams all day. On the plus side, over 100 of the original group had been pulled by various local rescue organizations so our task was smaller than we originally thought — only about 120 big, strong, energetic dogs needed photos. The now-defunct rescue group had specialized in Pit bulls and Rottweilers so we knew going in that we would need some muscle and caution in handling these dogs. There were several dog trainers on the premises including Robin Terrell of Good Dog Fetch — so we felt pretty good about our chances but we triple cautioned everyone to be careful.
Because I can never do anything the easy way, I had already decided to put together some sort of simple outdoor set to use as a backdrop. I frequently get questions about what to do with a less-than-perfect shooting location so I felt that this would be a great opportunity to try something new. The flowers and roll up screen from the garden center (see previous post) were assembled in to a little shooting corner, complete with some nice clean mulch to stand on. We know everyone is on a tight budget so we kept the total cost to $100 — and everything (except for the mulch) went back in to the car to be used again. For shade from the midday sun, we pulled out a canvas dropcloth that we just happened to have with us. Other than that, everything came out of our $100 budget. For those of you that can find a nice solid privacy fence to shoot against, you can save the $25 we spent on the roll up reed screen… but for us, it was a life saver. I just happened to have a stand to hold my reflector in the car — and it was windy — so we used it to help anchor the canvas drop cloth we used as a shade screen.
The camera settings on this very bright cloudless day were iso 100, f2.0 with shutter speeds varying between 1500 and 5000. I used a white reflector between me and the dog and sat on a low stool with the reflector leaning against my knees for most of the shots. I used a 50mm lens on my Canon 5d MkIII.
Many thanks to Mark of Shagly Photography, Robin Terrell of Good Dog Fetch, Mica of The Dog Photographer, Lesa Truax, my assistant Jessiree Kubica, Daniel Thompson, Sheila Weaver and all the rest of the crew — you were amazing! The final step is spreading the love on facebook, google +, and on all of our different websites. Please share the story of the dogs and help them (and others) get adopted.
Wish me luck. Tomorrow a group of photographers is leaving Dallas and heading to a boarding facility called Camp Diggy Bones in Lavon, Texas. They’ve been in the animal rescue news lately because a now-defunct animal rescue organization called Happy Endings out of Waco, Texas abandoned 249 dog there. Yes. 249. They were being boarded there at a reduced fee when the rescue group went belly up and now they’re in limbo.
Please re-read some of my many posts about working with a responsible rescue organization! Lots of crazy things happen when well-intentioned people get in over their heads. Don’t get pulled down with them.
Because Camp Diggy Bones is out in the country and is NOT an adoption center, these dogs have little or no chance to get adopted without good adoption photos. They are the toughest group to find homes for — big dogs (many of them black) that look like pit bulls.
So we got some local pet photographers together and some Unleashed workshop graduates and we’re spending the day photographing these dogs. Our goal is to create portraits showing happy playful loving dogs who don’t look like every other dog on Petfinder.com or Adoptapet.com. The nice people at Paws in the City will list them and process the landslide of applications our photos will help create.
I am working on a portable outdoor set that I plan to take out there with me. Check back in a few days and we’ll post some of the results.
Whether you are using a camera-mounted flash, a studio flash (or monolight) or a continuous light system (which we recommend) setting up an on site studio inside a shelter can make a big difference in the quality of the photos you produce. Don’t misunderstand — any type of on site photography is tricky, because you’re dealing with frantic, sometimes traumatized dogs in a noisy scary environment. Our first choice is always to photograph the dogs and cats AWAY from the noise and smells of the shelter environment….but sometimes that’s just not an option.
So for those of you trying to make better photos ON SITE , I have this list of tips:
1. Use a seamless paper background. It’s cheap, comes in every color and adds a bit of professionalism to your photos. A wrinkly blanket or sheet is a lousy substitute for the clean crisp look of a paper background. You can buy a roll of background paper from a camera supply like Adorama or B and H Photo for around $30 and it can last a very long time.
2. Get as far away from the noise of the kennel as possible. If they have an outbuilding you can use or at the very least some quiet conference room, try that first. Your subjects will be much calmer.
3. Try to time your photo shoot for AFTER the pet has had some exercise. A tired dog is much easier to photograph.
4. Use a helper. You absolutely, positively will frustrate yourself if you try to do this alone. Plus, with someone holding the dog’s leash and shuttling pets in and out of the shooting area you can work much faster and photograph many more pets in the same amount of time. Trust me. Get a volunteer or another photographer to help you.
5. Use natural light if you’re lucky enough to find space next to a big window. If not, use some sort of BIG light source (tiny camera mounted flashes should be diffused or bounced off the ceiling) and do not use flash pointed directly at the pet. Continuous Lights like the Westcott TD6 make your job much easier because they don’t “flash” at the pet –and for beginners, offer a what-you-see-is-what-you-get light source that will work with any camera without fancy flash triggering devices.
Those are my top five tips! We have covered how important it is to read dog’s body language in previous posts and videos. So practice with your own pets until you feel comfortable enough to work at the shelter — but don’t give up. All those homeless cats and dogs need you!
The smart people at Hearts Speak are setting up photo studios and training shelter volunteers to make better adoption photos in NYC. Yay!