We’re trying something new! If you’re interested in improving your photography skills, but you’re NOT planning to be a professional pet photographer, we have a new workshop. Just “all about shooting” for those of you who want to learn hands on! We’ll have live dogs modeling for us and we’ll set up a variety of different shots for you. Indoors, outdoors, with flash, using reflectors, etc.
This workshop is for people with DSLRs — so no point & shoot cameras this time. We’ll talk about lenses, creating some special effects, getting the dog’s attention and keeping him in one spot, exposure, metering, what equipment to use, etc. But it’s all shooting, no business, marketing and very little talk about working with animal rescue. Just learning to use your camera. One day only, shooting with Teresa in a small group setting. The fee is $295 which includes a catered lunch. I have been getting tons of requests for a workshop like this, so now’s your chance. Come shoot with me! If you want more details, check out my other blog: www.teresaberg.com/blog.
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.
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!
We’ve all done it. We share a photo someone has sent us with the hopes that one of our friends will know someone, ANYONE, who can give that dog some help. But when you post a photo online, please stop and think of the subtle messages that you create. Does that dog look adoptable? Friendly and healthy? Playful? If not, I’m suggesting that you may be doing more harm than good.
Research shows that more money, more volunteerism and more adoptions occur when we use sharp, bright photographs of happy dogs –as opposed to the quick snapshots of sick dogs lying in the bottom of their crates, or worse yet –through a chain link fence. Don’t reinforce the public’s perception of shelter pets as pathetic and unwanted. If you’re having trouble getting a good photo, use some of the tips shared on this blog and give them a much better chance. Show them as potential members of the family and very soon they will be!
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.
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!
Animal Sheltering Magazine interviewed me recently and they wrote a great article, complete with before and after photos and all sorts of tips. If you haven’t seen their publication, you can subscribe online – it’s a great magazine. It’s published by The Humane Society of the United States and the people that read it are serious in the world of animal rescue. They run shelters and rescue organizations all over the country!
The real reason I’m mentioning the article is that I constantly hear from people who have taken the webinar and are trying to get started with their at shelters and they meet with resistance from the shelter employees. So NOW you have some printed information to walk in the door with — ask them if they receive the magazine (they probably do) and suggest that they to read the 4 page article that starts on page 44. Hopefully, they’ll at least listen. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t appear on their website, just in their magazine — so I can’t link to it for online readers. But it’s well worth the price of a subscription 🙂
If you’re interested in the April webinar, we still have some room — see more info by clicking the “webinar sign up” tab above.
In 2009, two pet photographer friends and I started teaching a series of pet photography workshops called Unleashed. Since many of the readers of this blog only know me as the “lady who photographs rescue dogs” I thought you should have a little background information –especially since we have a workshop coming up in June.
My friends, Barbara Breitsameter from Chicago and Bev Hollis, from the Washington D.C. area and I were on a mission to improve pet photography as a business and to raise public awareness for the art form itself. When we started, pet photographers were known as the people who set up a booth in the aisle at the pet store and did $15 portraits. I can honestly say, three years later, that we have made amazing progress. We have taught workshops in Dallas, Chicago (twice), Virginia and now Dallas again for 2012. We keep evolving and learning and meeting wonderful photographers wherever we go. Many of our graduates have their own thriving pet photography businesses and are located all over the U.S. and Canada.
In 2011, we were honored to teach a full day at Imaging USA, the national conference for the Professional Photographers of America. We’ve been featured in Professional Photographer magazine and many other publications along the way and it’s been a wonderful experience for all three of us. Our dear friend Barabara has opted not to teach with us this time, but we feel honored to once again offer an Unleashed workshop in here in Dallas on June 2-4th.
If you love dogs and love photography it’s probably the most fun you will ever have at a workshop. You need a DSLR and a lot of energy –but most of all, a love for dogs. You can read all about it on the Unleashed blog. We keep the group small so that we can work “hands on” with all of our students, so if you’re interested don’t delay.
I’m including last year’s promo video here but I warn you –it will make you want to run out and become a full time pet photographer!
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??