dog photography

Using a printed background…


Ever get bored with your options?  I am constantly looking for something interesting to do with adoptable dogs. And it’s great practice if you think you may someday want to photograph for clients.  So today I was setting up a 5’X6′ printed canvas background from one of my favorite professional photo labs  Simply Color Lab. If you haven’t discovered them, you can open up a free account and download their ordering software, by clicking the link.

We have an inexpensive backdrop stand which we spent about $90 for here . And a couple of clamps to hold the backdrop to the stand. It’s easy to transport if you’re working at a shelter. If you’re planning on using it all the time, invest in a better one — but for our occasional use, this one works fine.

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As you can see by the set up shots, we used an area rug to cover the bottom edge of the backdrop. We often find good deals on rugs at Overstock.com, or even garage sales and thrift stores. The rugs are the heaviest and most inconvenient part of this set up to transport. If they’re big enough for the big dogs, they’re heavy!  So I’d try and work with the smallest size that you can shoot on — maybe 4×6?  This one is larger because we used to use it in our reception area here at the studio. Some photographers use a strip of baseboard or molding to make a nice edge where the backdrop meets the floor. We like to use area rugs because they keep the dogs from slipping around, and the photos look like you’re at home, not a photo studio.  Beware of accidents, though — shelter dogs love to leave their scent (pee!) on our area rugs.

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The background is narrow, but usually ample for one dog. Beware of the pattern though — if you’re using a leash to keep the dog in place (which we highly recommend) you will need to photoshop it out of the background and the pattern makes that a slower process.  Like all of our adoption photos, we’re more interested in showing off the dog, not the props, so we kept the rest of the shot clean and simple. I’ve even seen a rug nailed up on the wall that makes a great backdrop, just avoid anything wrinkly. You can also use just the rug as your background by standing over your subject and shooting down at him. So stretch your wings and try something new!

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Up Periscope! Join us for a free live photo shoot with Periscope


Have you tried it?  Periscope is a new social media platform (owned by Twitter) that allows you to watch a live, streaming video on your smart phone or tablet — and interact with the person broadcasting the video by typing questions that he or she can answer.

When I saw my first Periscope video I thought — what a great way to show people how we photograph adoptable dogs!  So here’s fair warning:  If you want to be part of our FIRST Periscope broadcast and watch me photographing rescue dogs in my studio, all you have to do is download the Periscope app and get familiar with it!  It’s all F R E E.  And with a little practice, you can ask me a question during the broadcast.

Everything you need to know is in this Wiki:   http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Periscope

We’ll be broadcasting live on October 20th (start time to be announced, but it will be in the afternoon, Central Daylight Time) here at Teresa Berg Photography with some dogs, some treats, some crazy squeeky toys and, hopefully, YOU!

dog photography teresa berg

OOPS, I almost forgot — our ‘name’ on Periscope is TBERGPHOTO   See you there soon!

On site shooting at Camp Diggy Bones


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.

focus on rescue

Zola rocked the pink bandana


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.
teresa berg portraits

Violet poses at Camp Diggy Bones


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.
setting up

use wire or twist ties to hold the screen to the fence


adoption photos

building the outdoor set


on site adoption photos

Our PHOTO SWAT TEAM at Camp Diggy Bones


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.

Does your rescue group have an image problem?


Every group these days needs an online presence. If you are running a rescue group or even if you’re just an active volunteer with a group, sooner or later you will need to pay serious attention to the group “image.”  I’m not just referring to pretty photos (although photography is very close to the top of the list). I’m talking about website, blogs, adoption listings, logos, signs, and finally your ambassadors.

I know — you’re saving dogs– not working on an English degree, but you must communicate clearly and effectively with the world around you if you want donations, helpers, and credibility. Rescue groups are constantly interacting with city government, animal rights organizations, and community business leaders in order to save dogs. If you’re asking for donations for an event, or money to buy dog food, you need to make a good impression.

Many people don't know how many shelters have a constant supply of puppies. Don't shop, adopt!

Many people don’t know how many shelters have a constant supply of puppies. Don’t shop, adopt!

So if you’re not comfortable speaking to strangers, making eye contact and writing an informative email message, find someone who is and designate them an ambassador for your group.

Your group’s website needs to be up-to-date and error free. Keep the photographs fresh and interesting. Update the calendar of events. Nothing spells neglect faster than a website where nothing has changed in two years…

And finally, make sure your message is a positive one. No matter how angry you are at the local shelter for doing something wrong,  don’t make people feel bad just because they stopped by your website.  Very few people want to support someone who is constantly ranting and complaining. They want to help the one with a better idea!

Indoors or out? | Adoption portraits that save animals


There are any number of places you could choose to create portraits of cats and dogs for their adoption ads.  There is usually more light outdoors if you can find a quiet spot without a distracting background — and if you’re photographing dark colored dogs you need all the light you can get!  You should look for a bright shady spot away from other dogs, bicycles and noisey traffic–all things that are way more interesting to your subject that you are. If you want him to look at the camera (and you do) then isolate him from distractions.

Choose the background carefully (how about a hedge or a brick wall ?) and then face your subject towards the light. In other words, shoot IN TO the shade, don’t stand in the shade and have the bright sun behind your subject.  Get down on his eye level (yes, this involves bending at the knees and getting on the ground. It’s worth it) and surprise him with one sharp crazy noise — he’ll look right at you — and you’ll create a photograph that will reach out and grab someone’s attention.

unleashed pet photography workshops

What makes a dog look friendly? | Saving dogs with your camera


Sometimes, we’re so glad just to get a sharp clear photo that we forget to look at a dog’s body language.  Hurray! He’s looking at the camera and he’s in focus –CLICK!  But just because we can look at his photo and tell what breed he is doesn’t mean that photo will help him get adopted. You have to take it one step further.  My previous blog post talked about recognizing animal behavior — so now let’s build upon the idea.  Most dogs look friendlier with an open mouth, but you MUST pay attention to the ears.  Forget the wagging tail, it may not even show in your portrait of this pet –but the eyes and the ears are key.  The little guy pictured here was sleepy. You can see by the first image posted that we weren’t getting that happy alert face.  We photographed the whole litter and shot him last, hoping he would perk up, but all he wanted to do was slump down and take a nap. Plus, because he was almost all black, I really needed him to look friendly. No amount of coaxing made him a happy camper –so we placed him in a shallow basket with a couple of his litter mates (who were wide awake) and he started having fun. Then, we were able to photograph him alone for an individual portrait for his online listing. What makes puppies happy? Other puppies!  What makes a fat older dog happy? A treat! What makes a hunting dog happy? A ball or something he can chase –he doesn’t know you’re not going to throw it for him.

The bottom line: friendly dogs get invited to stay. Sad, frightened or mean-looking dogs get left behind. So do your best to learn what makes your subject tick, and then make him happy.  Just a couple of days until our next webinar!

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Animal Behavior specialist | Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM MS


I recently discovered a fabulous website with some really good resources for those of us who work with dogs.  Check out Dr. Yin’s website : The Art & Science of Animal Behavior.  There are lots of good tips and free downloads for us. Here I have included the download on recognizing fear in dogs. This is very important for photographers who approach unfamiliar dogs –not only do we need to know when to snap the picture, we need to know when to back off to avoid getting bitten. Know your subject! Thanks, Dr. Yin.

teresa berg dog photography workshops

Pet portraits boost adoption rates | Point & Shoot Cameras


I know that a lot of you are not prepared to sink a lot of money in to photography equipment and only want to photograph your pets and adoptable pets for a local group. So I am constantly trying to offer helpful hints that are easy on the pocketbook. This also supports my long held belief that it is NOT the camera that makes a good shot –it’s the skill of the photographer.  If you want to see a photographer bristle,  just say something like “wow! that’s a great shot –you must have a really good camera!”  They will not be able to walk away from you fast enough.

I recently stumbled across a great article on point and shoot cameras on Photoshelter that I wanted to share with you. This article talks about which p&s cameras professional photographers use. Those of us who actually make a living with our cameras LOVE to be able to have simple, lightweight cameras to take on vacation or just to have with us wherever we go –so professionals buy these cameras, too.  And some of them have price tags that will surprise you. So if you’re in the market for a new p&s camera and you want to see what they can do in the hands of a professional — read the article and look at the sample photos they have posted.  Remember that a fast lens is very important, so when you’re comparing, look for that low f number.  In other words, a 2.0 lens is faster than a 6.3 lens.  The faster the lens, the less supplemental light you will need –and wouldn’t we all be thrilled if we didn’t have to mess with a flash??

Happy reading!  http://blog.photoshelter.com/2011/11/digital-point-and-shoot-cameras-used-by-pros/

Dog Portraits | Better Marketing for Shelter Pets!


If you saw us recently on CBS The Early Show, you know what we’re all about. Saving dogs and other shelter animals! We found that these animals just weren’t getting the best marketing –and you can’t fault the employees of the animal shelters. They are overworked and underpaid, and have little or no time to perfect their photography skills. But that’s what it takes. Good photography and good marketing to raise the public’s awareness for the quality and beauty of these animals.

Over and over, we see TV commercials depicting shelter animals as pathetic, injured, battered and miserable. No wonder the average family goes to a puppy mill or a pet store — they sell cute little fluffy babies. What we never see is the living conditions of the animals that are left behind to breed litter after litter with little or no affection or basic health care.

We photograph animals for their online adoption listings, for rescue blogs, and for facebook. We make sure each animal has a clear photograph showing them at their best. No “jail shots” through the cage door with glowing green eyes. And no “cowering in the corner” shots. We pay attention to lighting and their body language and try to represent them as the beautiful little spirits that they are. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? We find that just a decent photograph can increase adoption rates up to 100%.

So join us in a national effort to give shelter pets better marketing! Reach out to a rescue group or animal shelter in YOUR community and volunteer. If you don’t have the photography skills, take one of our webinars (see the sign up page on this blog)– or even a class at your local community college. You don’t have to be a professional and you don’t even have to own an expensive camera. You DO need a few basic lighting skills, patience, and a deep love for your subjects. You can do this!

animal rescue photography teresa berg