Dallas isn’t exactly known for it’s lush gardens — but we do have BLUEBONNETS. It’s our state flower and Texans are just crazy about them. We decided this year, since we were setting up for client sessions in the bluebonnets that we would invite a few of our rescue groups to bring their puppies to our location for some bright spring photos. They are popular on facebook (any photo that travels helps get dogs adopted!) and look great on websites. Try it in your area. Use a landmark, some local color or famous spot to show off adoptable dogs –and see what happens!
If you’re reading this blog you’re probably interested in pet photography and saving homeless animals — and about a billion of us are also on facebook — so why not use every possible resource to speed up adoption? My friend, Erin Hannigan, is not a photographer –she’s a world-class oboist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra but she is always looking for ways to get dogs adopted.
A couple of years ago she started posting photos of her foster dogs on facebook and because she had a following of music lovers, she tapped in to a whole new market for adoptions. Most of us have lots of dog lovers as our facebook friends so we see endless (BAD) photos of dogs on the euthanasia list at the local shelter or see photos our friends post. But Erin started doing quick little cell phone videos and cell phone photos of her fosters and TELLING THEIR STORY. People LOVE stories! Now people tune in on a daily basis just to see what the latest foster is up to over at Erin’s place. And it’s working! She has so much web traffic that her fosters almost always get adopted before it’s time to place them in the shelter (she fosters Moms with their pups). Music fans (and her personal friends) all over the country have shared the adventures and adopted Erin’s puppies. It’s a true success story. Here’s Erin with one of her foster pups.
So how can you use social media to help homeless pets? Maybe a blog? Or a facebook page talking about your adventures in pet photography? Or make some cute little videos with your cell phone and post them on YouTube! You don’t have to have professional photos. But make them clear and uncluttered. Play the cute card. This is just one creative way to help dogs get adopted. She’s now set up a facebook page just for her foster dog stories — so check it out and click LIKE so you’ll get the latest updates!
Possibly one of the toughest assignment for any pet photographer is photographing pets on site at an animal shelter. If you’re just starting out, I strongly encourage you to work with a rescue group and photograph pets that have had some time in a foster home –they’ll be more socialized and calm and your job will be much easier. We all know that pets in a shelter are not relaxed and a quiet corner for photography may be hard to find. So do yourself a favor if you’re new to this and start with pets that live in foster homes. It’s not cheating! Every pet that gets adopted makes room for a pet that might be euthanized because rescue groups pull many of their pets from the shelters.
If you’re not already connected with a rescue group they’re easy to find. Google is your friend. Take the time to research the group you’re interested in –make sure they’re organized with a good track record, professionally managed with a good web presence. Social media is huge for getting pets adopted.
Do you need something in writing? Yes. But it does NOT necessarily have to be a five page contract with witnesses and notary signatures. A simple one page (even one paragraph) letter signed by both parties is usually sufficient. You can spell out what you’re willing to do for them and what they are allowed to do with your images.
I personally do not give shelters or rescue groups printable images. The images I give are sized for the web only. Usually 4×5″ at 150ppi. You could even send smaller images (72ppi is common for online use). All of the images I send are watermarked because I own a business and images are how I make my living. You do not necessarily need to put your name on your images but if you don’t, other people will use them as their own. If that doesn’t matter to you, save yourself the time and send them without your name. When one of the groups I work with needs an image for their website or advertising or promotional purposes they simply call or email me and ask permission. If the image is to be printed in their brochure, or other collateral materials, they give me photo credit and I send them files that are larger and without a watermark.
If you have questions about re-sizing your images there are literally thousands of good tutorials on youtube.com here but you will need software like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (the lite version of Photoshop), Picasa, or even in a pinch, Microsoft Picture Editor. Here’s a typical adoption photo with my standard watermark.
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.
Our DOG SHOTS workshop on June 22nd is filling up fast! As of right now, we have 8 seats left. If you’d like more information (or a link to pay online) just go here: http://teresaberg.com/blog/?page/116524/dog-shots
Over 50% of the people who attended our last workshop were involved in animal rescue, so we had lots of great conversations about managing the pets, body language and tips about how to set up (and where!) for the best results.
Hope you can join us!
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!