I've spent the past several months traveling and visiting animal shelters teaching staff and volunteers how to make excellent images of their animals. As a Shelter Art Foundation Mentor, I help them set up a studio in their facilities and teach them how to use the studio light, review basic photography concepts and techniques, and then delve into the difficult part of the process - wrangling the animals! My goal when I leave a shelter is to help photo teams have the confidence (and techniques) to make beautiful images to help get more animals adopted.
One thing that I learned during these travels is that 'the public' responds to dog images differently than cat images. One shelter outreach director told me that the her photo teams' dog portraits get roughly five times the views and shares as the cat portraits. I found this to be a pretty consistent observation at the shelters I visited. So, my goal this summer is to experiment with some different photography techniques to see if we impact that disparity.
One of my first efforts was this photo. Which, if you judge by social media shares and likes, is the best photo I have ever taken! So people liked this. I'm going to play around with this rim light effect and see what other shapes I can get.
I'll keep you posted!
After a week of prep, sorting and organization, this morning I started a day of travel to go to California to work with the Shelter Art Foundation. I'll be spending the next couple of weeks teaching animal shelter volunteers and staff how to use professional portrait techniques and equipment to make excellent portraits of their adoptable animals. It's great work - and the results can have a dramatic impact on a shelter's adoption rate. It is rewarding and enormous fun to work with people who love animals and photography.
My dog woke me just before my 4:30am alarm for a cuddle. Translation: she plunked her (relatively large and heavy) head on my chest and promptly started to snore. It was a nice start to what is going to be a long day. My dear friend gave me a lift to the airport, a goodbye hug, and THREE bars of chocolate. Yep, she's a keeper!
Lesson one of my trip: It's nice to have things, but it's better to have good people and animals in your life.
Shortly after takeoff, I learned lesson two: In-flight internet is AWESOME!
Normally, I like the chance to catch up on reading during a flight, but the gentleman behind me was celebrating the start of his vacation...enthusiastically. He was "10 shots in" by 8am. The repartee between his almost-as-drunk comrades and he made all of us in the surrounding rows realize that improved wit is not necessarily an outcome of alcohol consumption. He was loud and rude, but my main concern was whether he'd toss his cookies all over my lap when he started complaining of menstrual cramps (the whole 'not witty' thing!). The in-flight internet provided a welcome distraction from Mr. Holiday's antics.
Fortunately he was able to maintain, and even refused more alcohol from the flight attendant. I am now comfortably sitting at my gate in Dallas, waiting for my next flight.
I'll be posting regularly about the adventure - wait until you hear how I'm getting around in California!
The Fairfax County Animal Shelter is once again demonstrating its social media savvy by launching a Buzzfeed of some great animal portraits - and even funnier captions. (And yes, I took some of the portraits.) What a fun way for them to engage with the community - melt some hearts, and hopefully, get some people walking in through the doors to adopt animals.
I'll be doing some portraits at the shelter later this week - they just received 12 macaws which they are working hard to place. Hopefully I'll be able to take some pix to aid the cause.
I met some fun dogs who are looking for homes this week during a photo session at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. If I didn't already have 3 dogs, I would have snuck at least one or two of them home with me!
You need several things when you are shooting studio portraits of dogs: a contained space; some good treats; a squeaky ball; and a few assistants (or wranglers as they are sometimes called). Also - think safety - sandbag, sandbag, sandbag your stands! You don't want any pup to get injured during a shoot, and you don't want your gear to get knocked over and damaged - by the dogs OR you!
Your subject may need some sniff time to relax a bit - the backdrop and light stands have new smells and noises. Talk to the dog, be positive and encouraging and give them treats for good behaviors. The dogs I was photographing had varying degrees of basic obedience, so we were treating to build trust, and get them to remember their manners (and, occasionally, to look up!). For those dogs that aren't as food-motivated, the squeaky ball usually gets their attention.
This guy reminds me of Falcore The Luck Dragon from the movie The NeverEnding Story. He was a fun dog. As soon as I get his name, I'll update the blog.
I think Bub is saying, "Take me home, I'm a lover!" He is about 9, a beagle, and available for adoption at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.
Because food is involved, occasionally you get a great shot like this one! Roxy was such a cutie - and had some great poses during our session together. She is available for adoption at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.
Laila is a beautiful boxer. She's about 7 and currently available for adoption at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.
All of these dogs (and other dogs and animals) are currently available for adoption at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. Go check them out and adopt one! They have lots of love to give. The photo session was a lot of fun. Hopefully these pictures will help these dogs find their new homes!
That's it for tonight! I'll leave you with the doggie wisdom my pups have taught me: treat well and treat often!
© Photography by Deb Cobb