Our 2017 Tiny Dog calendars are available this week –and until they’re sold out — at our Etsy shop here. But even better than that, these beautiful dogs will become a traveling exhibit of framed art to inspire people to adopt! We’ve taken 14 of the rescue dogs from the calendar model group and added their “rescue stories” in text on the photograph and then framed them for display. Stay tuned for photos of the exhibit. Maybe something that will work in your area?
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.
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.
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!
If it’s one thing we always find at animal shelters and around our neighborhoods, it’s concrete. Instead of passing it over for the grass or dirt — make it work to your advantage. Concrete makes a great natural reflector! Putting a black dog on a sidewalk or driveway can make a huge difference in your final shot. And it’s one reflector they are sure not to be afraid of! If you can find a spot of color in the background (like the row of pine trees in the photo below) you’ve got a little bit of magic. What you don’t see is that there was a parking lot behind the pine trees –which we neutralized by throwing the background out of focus (this was shot at f2.0 with an 85mm lens) and laying flat on the ground to shoot slightly “up” at the puppy. So take your fastest lens with you and use the concrete to have some fun!
We still have three spots left for our Portfolio Shooting Day in Minneapolis in August. Leave a comment on this blog if you’d like more information.
This time of year our local shelters are overrun with beautiful kittens! The challenge becomes how to photograph them quickly and easily to get them noticed. I recently spent the day at a local shelter photographing kittens on site. We brought one studio light with us ( a Westcott TD5 with a shoot-through umbrella softbox) and a reflector. This type of lighting is one of my favorites to use with shelter animals because it doesn’t flash. It’s a constant, bright daylight-balanced light source that is very soft and easy to use. It also doesn’t get hot, which is a plus. For the background I used a wide roll of paper that I bought at a teacher’s supply web site. It’s thin like wrapping paper, but designed for teachers to use as a background for their bulletin boards in the classroom. So it’s wider than wrapping paper — in this case, 42″ wide — which is the same width as the folding table I used.
It’s always a plus to find a quiet space to work, as cats are wary and easily spooked. Kittens are easily distracted with a string or a toy, so my assistant used toys, feathers and treats to keep them happy while we quickly photographed them. I would advise shooting at 2.8 to make it a little easier to get the eyes in focus, and use paper without a strong horizontal pattern, as that always distracts the eye when it’s not “level”. Other than that, I was happy with our project. Kittens are a lot of fun and using a table enabled us to work standing (I sat in a rolling chair when I was shooting) instead of sitting on the floor which is a big plus. A ribbon or some jewelry gives them that little pop of color and they don’t seem to mind. Good luck with kittens!
Thank you, Labradors.com for donating a lot of time and effort to support Lab Rescue groups around the country! And thanks for the recent article you can read here: http://www.labradors.com/resources/204/teresa-berg-saving-lives-with-the-magic-of-photography
Every time we get a new article published, more people find out how much improving their photography will improve their adoption rates!
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.
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!
The power of social media is no secret and facebook is definitely the leader of the pack. What I often see on facebook is desperate pleas for funds (which I understand completely) and graphic images of wounded or miserable dogs on deathrow. I get it. We’re all trying to do our part. But what if, instead of sad bleeding dogs, we saw dogs that were smiling, ready for their new homes? If you’ve stopped by here before I’m sure you’re already tired of this rant.
Now let’s consider facebook. If you or your rescue group or shelter has a facebook page (and they absolutely need one) you can watch the analytics and see which images travel. Try this experiment. Post a photo of a sad pathetic dog and watch the stats. THEN, post a cute photo with an uplifting or humorous quote and watch what happens. According to facebook, Teresa Berg Photography has 1750 friends –this image was shared (as of 9:26am) 394 times and has a “reach” or was seen by 4301 people. In less than 24 hours. Where else can your group get that kind of exposure? Just be careful what and how you post, encourage everyone you know to “like” your page, and post something positive along with a photo of an adoptable dog — then stand back and watch the magic.