Support your local rescue shelters
It’s been awhile now since I’ve been photographing animals, mostly dogs, for a local rescue called Becky’s Bridge. They do all the hard work – the volunteers take the animals into their homes and foster them until somebody adopts.
We *already* have a full house of animals so the only realistic way for me to help was to use my camera.
Once every month or two I go to their adoption day at a local Petco. They will have all of the animals there and I’ll spend some time getting photographs. The goal of the shots is to get good advertisement photos for flyers and website postings. I also put them up on Facebook to generate some interest.
So…a few thoughts…heavily laden with photographs. All photographs are clickable for larger images.
I’ve seen where some photographers will do this with a full production of seamless background paper and strobes. Given the volume of animals I’m shooting and the lack of space, I just make do with my surroundings and indoor ambient light.
The goal is to try and capture a couple of things. First, I’d like to capture a photo that shows some kind of emotion. It’s amazing the emotive looks you can get in split seconds from a dog. Look at these two photos. Same dog – moments apart! One of them has the cranky old man “get of my lawn!” look while the other has a pleading sad face.
The ears and eyes are the main emotion machine in these dogs.
I also try to get a profile view of the face, to go along with a straight on head shot. Sometimes it takes awhile to get their ears to perk up.
It’s often noisy in the area with all the dogs, so patience is a must. It can take a loooong time for the dogs to calm down. It’s not always just a head shot. If the situation is right, I will also get a full body shot of the dog (or cat)
I previously mentioned that ears are a big indicator of emotion on the dog.
Getting them to cooperate for a photo can be a challenge at time.
A squeaky toy is usually a good thing to have on hand.
Some dogs will react to it, some wont. Some dogs will also perk their ears up to the sound of your camera shutter going off. Each one is different.
Another thing to do is get down on their level. Get that camera down at the eye level of your subject.
That means kneeling, sitting, or lying on the floor.
It’s not the most comfortable thing to do but it does get the best images.
When you get down on the ground, the dogs are going to want to play with you.
I usually spend a lot of time playing with them and helping them get comfortable. I let them sniff the camera, sniff me, and just get used to the dude who’s hanging on the ground with them.
The lighting will be less than optimal – shoot your lens wide open to get the most amount of light possible. The side benefit is the bokeh will blur out the busy backgrounds, leaving the focus on the animal. This bokeh can almost make the cage enclosure disappear.
The eyes of the subject need to be in focus. Focus on small, fidgety, and rapidly moving animals can tax the best autofocus system in the world. Be prepared to take a lot of shots and throw away the ones that aren’t good. Shooting a bouncy black lab puppy in dim light, up close, and a wide open lens, is a test for your patience and the focus system on your camera. It takes time.
Puppies are both the easiest and the hardest to grab images off. One minute they are sleeping…the next minute they won’t stay still!
Where there is one puppy…there is usually a bunch more. They show up in packs and present some interesting photographic opportunities and challenges.
With these little ones, I’m usually laying on the floor to get the shot. I’ve tried different angles. The ones that I like the best are when I’m down on the ground looking eyeball to eyeball. Be prepared to spend some time playing with those puppies once you get on the ground!
Since they usually fall asleep on you, use it to your advantage and grab some nice candid shots of the litter. Another thing for emotional impact is the fencing around the animals. Having that in view can also provide an emotional tug.
I’ll be honest – it’s hard to not walk away without at least one of these dogs every time I do this. There is usually one of them that really grabs you and just makes an impact.