Filed under: Client Shoots | Tags: 405, animal rescue, believing in someone, beverly hills rescue dog, building confidence in a dog, carmageddon, dog treats, ET as an example, fearful dogs, my dog is a model, pet photography, photographing shy dogs, rescue, shepherd mix, shy dog, tail between legs, timid dog, timid dogs, tips for taking photos of your dog, wall street journal front page
This originally appeared on 8/15/11 on Sarah Leaps. This version has a lot more photos!
One of the things we love most about our private photo sessions (aside from working with sick or elderly pets) is working with shy or fearful animals. It’s pretty challenging, but it’s so completely worth it. We had a shoot like that on August 14 with Oliver.
Oliver’s mom took advantage of our 4-0-Fido deal in the Wall Street Journal and booked a session for her beloved rescue pooch. She warned us that he was “very timid around strangers,” but assured us that since we were females, we’d probably be okay (“all strange men terrify him,” she wrote in her email).
We let her know that we have experience with timid pups and that we specialize in working with them. It might seem like we overstated it a tad (I mean, at what point can you really declare yourself a “specialist” in something, anyway?), but given that what we really wanted to say was, “oh, poor baby. Don’t worry. We know he’s probably been through so much and his heart has been hurt and we will take care of it. We love him already and we will soothe him without even touching him and we’ll let him sniff my soul from afar,” we think our response was actually quite tempered.
When we arrived, we saw a medium-sized shepherd/hound boy peeking at us through the back gate. A gate, we would discover, did not even belong to him. Apparently, Oliver has endeared himself to all of the neighbors and goes on visits regularly. His mom fetched him from the yard next door and brought him into her courtyard for the session.
The intro was without bark or growl, but he definitely was unsure. His tail tucked itself up between his quivering haunches. He ducked right under the patio table and eyed us from the corner. As is our practice with all timid clients, we extended our “getting to know you period” and spent the first fifteen minutes alternating between chatting with his mom and throwing treats to him from afar, enticing him to come closer, a la E.T. We let him get used to our smells and voices (though we spoke softly and specifically kept conversation directed at him to a minimum). He loved the treats and it didn’t take too long before he gently (SO gently!) began to take them out of our hands. But then he’d run back over to his bed or under the patio table to eat them. And if we made any movements at all, we’d have to start all over again. During this period, we didn’t make eye contact with him. We just let him feel secure and unchallenged so he could nibble freely, trusting that we would not hurt him. I (Sarah) kept my palm open and low for him to access and never reached to pet him.
Once we felt like we had built up a solid enough reputation with Oliver, it was time to break out the camera for him to get used to before Kim started photographing. The movement of getting it out scared him into hiding again, but the camera itself didn’t seem to faze him, as long as I kept dispensing the treats. I coaxed him out from under the table and by this time, he was able to stand in front us for extended periods of time without running away (I think he was starting to realize it was a much more efficient approach to getting as many treats as possible). Since he could now hold a stance within inches of us and the camera, it was time to see if he would allow his gaze to follow the treat–no matter where it was.
I gave him a few more treats in my open palm and started using my voice to praise him, which he appeared cool with. Then I picked a treat up and held it between my thumb and finger for him to take. He did it without hesitation. So I took another and raised it up. He followed it. I raised it higher. He stayed with it. I placed it right next to my eye, and that was the moment we saw each other. I rewarded his bravery and quick progress with the treat and we did it again. And again. And after a few more practice “watches,” Kim started clicking. I could tell he wanted to dart. That camera was fine when it was just sitting in Kim’s hands, but now that the huge lens was dangling in the air and pointed right at him, it was a different story. And I saw his hind legs shuffle. But you know what? He didn’t move. He looked at me. And the treats. And he was ready to work.
And boy, was he ever! I discovered he knew how to sit and he’d stand and follow that treat with his eyes like it was his job. He was focused and found his rhythm and didn’t lose it, even during the “costume” changes. His moment had arrived!
Throughout our hour together–as so many timid (and non-timid) pets do–Oliver found a side of himself he may not known existed and totally immersed himself in it. Although it happens all the time during our sessions, that moment never stops being magical to me. It’s like the universe suddenly shifts. Sometimes it takes fifteen seconds and sometimes it takes fifteen minutes, but whenever that moment comes, it’s worth waiting for. In that moment, the animal make the decision to stop teetering on the fence and commit with all four feet to this fantastic game that involves treats raining down from the sky with every click. And more than that, they make the decision to connect. And I guess when it comes down to it, that’s what I’m here for. I’m here to believe that moment will come. I’m here to usher it in and bear witness to it. And to celebrate its arrival like the tremendous accomplishment it is.
On my personal blog, I write about the Early Believers–the people, organizations, contests, and achievements that saw something in us before we did…the people who–because they believed in us–somehow directly had a hand in leading us to where we are now. I guess, in a way, I try to serve in that role for all of the animals we photograph. I’m here to try to help them feel safe enough to share the beauty their families (current or future) see so Kim can capture it forever.
His mom adopted Oliver from a rescue called Thumping Tails that had pulled him out of the East Valley Animal Shelter here in Los Angeles about six years ago. One can only guess at the horrors he’s had to endure in his life, but there he was, standing in front of us, sitting on command, and–I kid you not–striking poses on his Beverly Hills lawn. Despite his trembling backside, he pressed on. He trusted us–in less than an hour. No matter how many times I see it, it always, ALWAYS nearly reduces me to tears. Animals’ capacity for forgiveness, trust, and love is way beyond my human comprehension.
As part of our pre-shoot correspondence, we always ask our clients if they have any sort of vision for specific shots. Oliver’s mom wrote to us, simply–and powerfully–“I only have 2 photos…both taken by male photographers…in both, he has a terrified look in his eyes. My only goal for the photo session is to have a photo of him looking relaxed and happy.” As you can see, Kim got some photos that just break your heart with joy, don’t they? Despite whatever old ghosts continue to haunt him (and shame on whoever put them there), Oliver overcame them. He’s a beautiful, sweet boy whose mom will now have images to match.
We love that we get to spend time with him and all of the others who just need a little time, patience, and belief shared with them…and we love that we can give the humans behind the animals photographs that are REAL. Oliver’s mom saved him. And continues to every day. And we feel so lucky that we can provide her a keepsake that actually looks like her precious boy. They both deserve it. And then some.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: book cover, book deal, client thanks, dog photography, dog photography for dummies, dogs, editing, editors, finding an editor, how to get published, poll the audience, pride parade, write, writer
Well, the end is in sight! We can’t believe it’s gone so fast…but here we are in the “Author Review” stage already–basically, we’ve turned in all of our stuff and now our editors are filtering it back to us, a few chapters at a time, to look at the edits and changes they’ve made. They do this by emailing Word documents that track their changes…and because we have 2 authors and 3 editors (who sometimes work on a couple of different computers), the thing ends up looking like a Pride parade puked all over it–but in a good, rainbowy way*.
The first editing pass is always taken by our project editor, Vicki. She checks it for general flow, consistency, and organization. Then she gives it to Todd, our copy editor, who goes through it with his style, grammar, and mechanics fine-toothed comb. Then it’s passed on to our tech editor, Jenny (a fellow pet photographer), who checks all of our photography and doggie facts to make sure we’re telling the truth and stuff.
It took us awhile to get used to writing within a well-established style and template. The For Dummies brand is so successful that they don’t want any of us creative types messing it up. One false move, and “taking liberties with” becomes “driving a great brand into the ground.” None of us want that to happen. Now that we’re into it, and have been for quite sometime, it’s been great to have a whole team of people to figure things out with. We all stick to our own little silos for the most part, but if we have something to contribute that’s a little out of our wheelhouse, we still pipe up. Not only do we want this book to be the very best it can be, we just love the process of working it out.
Speaking of that, a BIG THANK YOU to the fans who answered our call a few months back for dog names. We’ve worked just about everyone into the book and with a couple more batches of chapters to go, it’s looking good that everyone will get their mention (with many of our clients having actual photos in the book)! And thank you for all of your opinions about the cover shot and random photos throughout the past few months. Your participation has been vital in helping this book reach its potential! If you haven’t yet had your chance to influence this book’s future, be sure to stop by our Facebook page–when we need to poll the audience, that’s where we do it!
It’s been an incredible journey so far, and as the pages are coming to an end, we’re getting a little weepy with gratitude aimed at everyone who’s ever done anything to lend a paw. We couldn’t continue to do this without you guys…and that just means the world to us. It’s very tear-inducing. But enough of the waterworks–cuz more than anything else, we’re really, really excited to see how this 320-page love letter to dogs turns out.
*Congrats and thank you to NY for passing the latest legislation for equality!
Filed under: Uncategorized
As you know, we’ve been hard at work on our book, Dog Photography For Dummies (Wiley, 2011). We know some of you out there are curious about how it’s going so far. We also know that some of you out there are hoping to write your own book one day. Here’s a little peek into our experience and what we’re learning so far.
Working with the big guys
When Wiley contacted us out of the blue, we considered it part luck, but also part hard work. Wiley found us through the Internet research they did. We still don’t know what made them put us into the ring over others, but we DO know that they found us because of all of the marketing and business development we’ve done. Whether you’re a writer, a photographer, or entrepreneur, having a presence is key.
Some might argue that working with a well-seasoned giant when we are but infants makes us extra vulnerable to pooping all over ourselves. For us, it happens to be very positive so far and we consider ourselves lucky to have this as our first publishing experience.
The vetting/application process was rigorous and lasted awhile, so we didn’t allow ourselves to get too excited. At each phase, we made it a point to give them what they wanted, when they wanted, with as little drama and maintenance as possible. We kept our heads down, did the work, went above and beyond where we could to shine, and handed it all in on time. A long-standing, well-established operation such as Wiley needs authors who can work within the proven structure and formula and can meet deadlines. We figured if we could do that and demonstrate our competency with our own PR and platform-building, we’d have a good shot.
As we were working on the actual writing portion of the vetting process, we simultaneously tended to our fan base. We were far from a contract, but we knew part of their decision would be based on how motivated and skilled we’d be in pushing our potential book and how big our potential audience would be.
Didn’t put all of our dogs on one bed
With such a (for us) huge prospect in front of us, it may have been easy to put everything we had into the process and then just sit back and hope we’d get it–after all, we’re good people and hard workers, right? Good things happen to good people? Well, even though we worked our butts off on it and gave it everything we could, we didn’t stop there. We kept the photog biz moving like nothing unusual was happening.
We kept a lid on it…and so did some of you
Except for our closest circle, no one knew that we were going through this process. We remained tight-lipped about it. Even though Wiley hadn’t given us any guidance around that, we decided to keep it to ourselves. We wanted to both demonstrate discretion and not have to be embarrassed in front of a ton of people if we didn’t get it. Yes, it’s exciting…and we did feel the need to share things along the way, which is why we chose trusted people in which we confided. The last thing we wanted was some sort of rogue Facebook status to lose us the opportunity.
Along the way, we got a lot of positive feedback from our Wiley contact…and even when our acquisitions editor called to give us the good news over the phone that we had indeed scored the contract, we didn’t go public. We waited another two weeks until we had our signed contract in our hands to make the official announcement. And it was worth the wait. :)
The real work is upon us
Now that we’re in contract, it’s all about cranking it out. The acquisitions editor who found and signed us turned us over to our project and copy editors. Our deadlines are broken up into quarters, at which, 25% of the book is due. Our project editor, Vicki, helped us out by breaking our first quarter up into weekly deadlines. This has been really helpful for us. As new writers, this has given us a structure by which to train ourselves. So far, we’ve turned in three full chapters and we’ve got another one due on Monday.
Admittedly, it took us a second to figure out a good working relationship, but now that we have, it’s running like clockwork (like a sleep-deprived, caffeine-hazy clock, but hey, it still tells time).
Kim does all the technical writing. I do all the intro/scene-setting stuff, banter, and pacing. It’s nice because the For Dummies books give equal weight to education and entertainment of their readers. Usually what happens is Kim will take the first crack at a chapter to build the technical framework and then she’ll pass it to me. I add my “hey, I’m a Dummie too” stuff and do a full edit of the chapter. If Kim wants to see it again, I’ll give it back to her for a review, and then I do ANOTHER edit before we send it to Vicki. Last week, we gave Kim a break, though, and we’re doing one of the tech-light chapters. Roles were reversed.
We should get edits back on our first chapters soon to commence another step–revising. Even if we totally bomb (I don’t think we will), Vicki is a great cheerleader and organizer. She’s teaching us a lot so far and is always insightful with her ideas. Before she hands us back edits, she always says, “don’t worry about all of the red! You guys are in good shape.” Tracy (the acquisitions editor) was the same way with us. I wonder if it’s an editor thing, a woman thing, or a Wiley thing. Or if we just got lucky?
Once we get through our first quarter (March 21), we’ll only submit chapters on our quarter deadlines…until we reach June!
It pretty much boils down to us needing to keep up this pace of a chapter per week.
Once we get through this first quarter, we’ll probably start working on a marketing timeline (which we hope will include a lot of client and fan participation). We’re not sure what the formula at Wiley is for that, but we know it’s robust–they’ve got an entire department for it. Either way, Kim and I intend to work equally as hard on that…cuz writing a great book is one thing, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about it (speaking of that, if any of you out there would like to host us for interviews, signings, demos, etc, let us know).
And on that note, it’s time for us to get back to chapter twelve…
Filed under: Uncategorized
I have to admit, when it comes to changes I’m usually not the first to jump on board. I tend to do things a certain way and get comfortable there, so when I was contacted to test out Adobe LightRoom a few months ago it proved to be the catalyst I needed to get my photo library in order. Since the beginning of Bark Pet Photography I had been using Adobe Bridge to do what I call my “first round edits” – correcting color balance, exposure, contrast, etc. in my RAW files. Once I had the basics out of the way I could open up my files in Adobe Photoshop, do some re-touching, and save the files to their final format, TIFF.
It’s been a while since I’ve opened a new program and felt the frustration of trying to “figure things out”. I know it’s not the smartest way to learn, but really it’s the only way I can ever seem to grasp a new program. Sitting through a class or following along with a video tutorial actually drives me even more bonkers than banging my head against a desk when I’m stuck on a problem I can’t seem to figure out. Maybe it’s the triumph I feel when I finally DO figure something out on my own, or perhaps it’s just the way my brain is wired to learn, but whatever it is I was not looking forward to the self-induced pain of learning a new program.
When I received LightRoom I immediately loaded the program onto my mac and opened it up to putz around in. Since I knew next to nothing about the program I was confused by the completely BLANK screen looking back at me. Where were my photos? LightRoom’s first major difference from Bridge was quickly apparent – it’s NOT a file browser. In Bridge, you open it up and BAM you have your whole computer at your fingertips and can browse away just like you would in your finder window. LightRoom on the other hand is a database in which you have to first IMPORT the files you want to be able to access through it. At first this seemed like a useless and painful step to me but once I started importing files and saw how much quicker I could actually preview the files, the fact that I had to import them in the first place became a non-issue. But just so we’re clear, the term “import” is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion because it makes me think I’m actually MOVING files into the program when in fact that is not the case at all. You see, when you import a file into LightRoom it’s creating a “link” to the file’s location on your computer or external hard drive. It also creates a full-screen preview of the image that can now be accessed very quickly without needing to actually “call up” the original file. This is advantageous because if you’re like me and have external hard drives that you tend to use on multiple computers you can still access your photos “offline” during the times you accidentally left your drive plugged into your work computer.
Another feature about LightRoom that is important to point out is the fact that is totally NON-DESTRUCTIVE. So, when you’re color-correcting, cropping, sharpening, etc. you’re saving all of these changes into a little “side-car” metadata file that accompanies your original file. You’re NOT actually changing the original file, but only changing how it is being viewed on the screen. This also means that at any given time you can “revert” back to your original file or even make alternate variations of your file by using “virtual copy” which creates another metadata file – tiny in size compared to a copy of your original file which is MUCH larger.
Once you’ve imported your desired files into LightRoom you can then take advantage of the plethora of sorting and organizing tools available to you. You can “rate” images with stars and sort them much like you can in Bridge, but you can also create custom filters which enable you to sort images in pretty much any way you could ever imagine. Recently, I was confronted with a task of finding a photo specifically shot at f/11. A task that seemed daunting at first became a breeze when I realized I could simply create a “smart collection” that filtered out all of my photos shot at f/11. And once I actually started using “keywords” to categorize my photos the task of finding a certain breed, age, or colored dog could be done in seconds! No more racking my brain with questions like “was Buddy a golden retriever? How about Norman?” while manually searching through my files for an hour straight when trying to turn around image requests for a commercial client or creative director at a magazine.
Sure, going through your entire image library and keywording your files takes time. It took me a few months (of on-again-off-again work) to actually get all of my files imported and cataloged, which is why I’m only now getting to this review. But once you realize the power of your keywords and the ease at which it allows you to find stuff, I can guarantee you won’t go back to your old way of working. For me, it also opened another door – the ability to quickly turn around image requests for stock photos. Need a dog running on the beach? How about a cat photo in black and white? I can now find these photos and get samples out in seconds. Taking this idea even further I started to think that it would be nice to actually have an online database that could be search-able by stock clients. I had already been making use of LightRoom’s integrated “web galleries” (more on that in a minute) for my clients’ proofing sites, so I wondered if LightRoom was capable of creating a similar gallery that actually exported each photo’s keywords with it so that the photos could be filtered online, much as they are within LightRoom. Unfortunately, this was not a feature that came built-in with LightRoom – a surprise considering the program is so powerful when it comes to filtering photos and has amazing web-gallery functionality built right into it, so it only seemed natural to be able to merge those capabilities into an online SEARCHABLE gallery.
Since this was my first disappointment with LightRoom I decided to do some research and dug up a few different plug-ins that would extend LightRoom’s capabilities and allow me to do exactly what I needed. Some of the plug-ins I came across were paid applications, while others had a free version to work with. Since I wasn’t sure how well this experiment would, or would not, work I opted for the free plug-in and downloaded FotoPlayer for LightRoom. Since this is a review on LightRoom and not Fotoplayer, I’ll keep the details of my weekend fighting with the plug-in to a minimum. All in all I was able to get the plug-in to function immediately within LightRoom, it just took a lot of trial and error to get it to actually work the way I needed it to. Once I got my settings dialed in (which if you do download FotoPlayer you’ll see there’s about a billion and a half settings to play with) I was good to go, but it still left me yearning for Adobe to build-in this sort of functionality so it’s as intuitive and easy to use as the rest of LightRoom. (hint, hint Adobe!)
Rounding out the pluses of LightRoom is the incredibly easy to use “web” feature. In the past, uploading proofs for my clients was always a round-about annoying task that consisted of creating a pdf contact sheet through bridge, adding a watermark to the pdf through adobe acrobat, exporting the individual pdf pages as low-res jpeg’s, importing those jpeg’s into iPhoto, and finally uploading the album to my free .mac gallery. I know, I know probably couldn’t be more inefficient but at the time it was the easiest FREE solution. Now that I have lightroom, creating custom proofing galleries for my clients is as easy as pressing “upload”. I can add my watermark right in LightRoom, save my website’s ftp info, and then LightRoom will automatically upload web-sized images for me! I was actually pretty skeptical when I first saw this feature and realized I had to put in my ftp info. For some reason whenever dealing with ftp’s and websites in general things are never easy, so the fact that this feature worked on my FIRST try was downright awesome!
Pretty much I’m a convert – Adobe LightRoom rocks. I took the leap to try a new program and in the process have become way more efficient and organized. A big thanks to Adobe for letting me try out their software! If you’re thinking of making the switch or want to improve your own photo workflow I’d highly recommend starting with Adobe Lightroom.