'Picture' their Beauty
Lack of Looks or Lack of Talents?
I understand that taking pictures takes time. I feel for those animals that end up dumped in a shelter that doesn't even take the time to take a picture. It disappoints me in those that get paid to care for them. Care as in CARE FOR IT!
Pictures save lives! A picture says a thousand words and a good one shows so much about the character of those in it! If you have a lousy picture of an actually beautiful dog, the dog may die! Because nobody is falling in love with a ugly looking dog; other than me! Most people are superficial. They want the dog or cat to look good. They think it makes them look good! I think it makes them look... superficial and shallow.
Yes, I enjoy beauty. In flowers and many of Nature's beautiful creations! But when it comes to bringing a dog or cat into my house, I want one that either fits in and doesn't provide a danger to my family or critters. Or one that can be easily turned into a family member.
To me, character is much more important!
But for the rest of humanity that needs 'beauty', pictures have to be beautiful. You have to show them what they can't see themselves: The beauty you can feel in your heart, but they can only see in 'perfect' pictures.
Pictures 'sell'! A great photographer can turn a 'imperfect' animal into a beauty! And this beauty may save a life!
A good camera helps
I had a simple Fuji camera, but it shot multiple pictures when you kept the 'trigger' down and I sometimes would shoot over 200 pictures to find ten I thought would sell. I still hear the complaints of those that had to help me by holding the dog.
I would lay on the ground (most dogs are smaller than me, despite how short I am!!!) on a rug or whatever else I could find. They had to stand there as a living fence post and not move. The dog would eventually forget them and look around.
The best pictures were snap-shots I took in that one special moment of interest in something else! Whistles, people passing by, a second helper, noisy toys, coughing... I do a lot for a raised head and some standing ears, a little spark in their eyes!
I would shoot three types of pictures:
- Beauty in Motion
I would shoot pictures of the dog (or cat) wandering around, sniffing things, looking at people walking by.
- My type of Confirmation
I am looking for 'stills' when a dog sees something and 'freezes'. It doesn't matter to me if the dog is laying down, sitting or standing, but most people prefer standing. Some not so great breed rescues require a standing 'Confirmation' shot and a head shot to even consider accepting a dog into their 'rescue'. .......Don't get me started on my view on such a 'rescue'! I rather see a dog or puppy 'Broker' in them! Especially with $300+ 'adoption' fees!
- The 'Social' Shot
I use those a lot for 'fierce' breeds such as Bullies. I want to show that the 'fierce' dog is actually a love-bug! Or that the 'shy' dog can be loving with just a bit of patience.
Eventually I 'graduated' to a better camera. I went to the PX and looked at the display models. It was my lucky day and I got a already marked down display model for an extra 10% off, because it was a display model. It was a Nikon D40 and I ended up finding some great accessories online (e-bay, amazon.com and other websites). Doesn't require the name 'Nikon' on it! I found other companies that offer accessories for less!
The 'trigger' helps! Shooting a series of pictures allows you to catch the great moments and pick the best pictures. I went for a mix between a good zoom and a good amount of pictures per second. A more active dog won't be always close enough for you to get that one great moment/picture and a zoom is God's gift to the beginners.
Shooting pictures inside isn't my thing. They tend to get too dark and the flash often ruins it.
So what are you looking for!?
Location, Location, Location...
Everybody can open a cold concrete and fence kennel and snap a quick shot. But if you are not forced to squeeze pictures out of non-cooperating kennel techs, use Mother Nature to help you bring their beauty out.
I've been asked to shoot family pictures before and requested either a 'day in the park' or a warm day with summer's 'greens' in their backyard.
The same goes for dogs. Cats may be a bit harder, but a well-lid room can make up for that a little. If you can, take your pictures outside in a beautiful yard or park.
When you pick your 'spot', pick a rose bush with flowers blooming or something else spectacular. And match it to the dog! A dark dog will do better in front of a light background and wise versa! Taking a picture of a cat inside can require the use of different colored towels or sheets and may the help of a pretty basket with flowers around it or some brightly colored toys. Just make sure the colors don't overpower the poor kitty.
Either animal will not fare well in front of a brick or cement wall, unless it is red brick and looks rather 'old fashioned' than like cold concrete 'cells'!
If I would go to bed and wake up a professional photographer, I would create me two places in my yard for pictures. They would look like promotional pictures for the local landscaping company and have everything from the stony garden bench to the miniature waterfall and beautiful flowers. A second one may even have a small pond with fish to keep them distracted. A inside cat-stage would look very similar to a theatre stage and have exchangeable backgrounds; just like in a real theatre. They would look as natural as possible (the local home-improvement store has multiple fake 'brick walls' to chose from) and have such things as fake ivy and flowers to 'brighten' the scene.
A good background is at least as important as the 'star of the show'!
I spend days at the zoo each year to take pictures of their flowers. Yes, FLOWERS! grin I've done seen all the animals the first few times. Now I am after the botanical beauty!
When looking at my pictures I noticed quick that a bright day would almost ruin it to me. I know it's probably something this amateur should do different, but I am actually much more talented when the day is semi-bright (and not so hot!!!).
But natural sunlight can't be replaced! Early afternoons are great to take pictures and have the sun reflect on things you didn't know where there and that beautiful. The sun can make eyes sparkle! I think it may have to do with the warmth it brings and how it makes us feel better. Psychological Warfare? Maybe. But my best pictures are always done when the Sun was with this little amateur photographer!
I rarely shoot in the late afternoon, but if I do, it's clouds and the sun going down. Until I saw what a bit of luck and some evening light can do to a dog that used to be a fuzzy thing that looked like something the cat had spit out! Forgive me, Boomer, but your beauty was hidden by straw-like fuzz and a almost naked tail! Little did anybody know that you would be the perfect gentleman! Please don't leave me to
One of the basics is that you always have the sun behind you; just like shooting (if you have the option to pick your position that is!). But make sure you pick a not so hot day, since a panting dog isn't always 'picture perfect'.
If you absolutely can't take pictures outside, pick a room with natural light. A flash is a great thing for those that have thousands of dollars of equipment and know how to use it. Amateur me prefers natural light to bring out natural beauty. Especially colors will change between pictures with flash or pictures with natural light.
If you can't get much light other than a window, shoot from either side of the window across it. A rescue had done me a great service and placed a bird feeder in front of the window. Nothing will attract a beautiful cat (Sorry, I am a sucker for felines!) more than birds flying around the window. And the way the light shines into the window will give it all the shadows and streaks of light I accidentally got with Boomer's picture!
Avoid taking pictures in front of windows where the light of the lamps or your flash may reflect it. Unless you are going for that cool mirror effect. I've taken some great pictures like that by poor accident!
I spend hundreds of dollars on tools for my camera; with no clue how to use half of it! Sadly those cool classes at the local Community College are out of reach; the VA doesn't allow you to go down a degree and I am already almost done with my BA.
But more important than camera parts (you really only need a good camera and maybe an extra lens) are those that will make the 'subject' look.
There are three types of tools I use outside of my camera:
- Human Fence Posts
Yes, you will get reduced to a fence post, because most of the time I am going for a 'freeze' shot that shows the dog frozen in curiosity and looking great. If you can't find another human fence post to distract the dog, tie it to a actual fence post and use the human as distraction.
- Noise Makers
If it squeaks or whistles or makes any other kind of noise, it's perfect. Getting a dog to 'freeze' in that perfect position can get hard. So get creative! I have done saved pictures at a dog shows by jumping up and down and wagging my arms. Everybody laughed and the dogs were looking at that fool; looking stunning! I am sure they were laughing too!
- Joe Smo or Nature's Gifts
Especially dogs that spend a lot of time inside (like at rescues that don't spend the time to properly exercise them and wonder why their dogs tend to kennel deteriorate and have to be put down) tend to be really curious about what the birds and the bees are doing. A butterfly can make a picture perfect! A few people walking by with another dog can do the same!
The best tool is sheer luck! It's either there and you have the camera ready; or you feel like I did when going down to where I take my college classes during Tornado warning and watching a sky covered in storm clouds and some of the most stunningly beautiful shades of yellow, orange and red I have ever seen! I stopped the car and watched it; ending up 20 minutes late!
Nothing is more perfect than Nature's Beauty!
Remember all the 'Body Parts'
To get the whole picture, you need to make sure you have all the 'body parts' on the picture.
I don't know how many times I had a dog or cat pulled and was a little surprised when I picked it up. Pictures, taken without care, can be misleading and for the superficial people a reason to bring the animal right back. Me personally, I am suckered into Love at First Sight the moment I see them. A tail wag or purring smile will usually do me in for life. I am a proud foster failure! For life!
I once took a picture of a beautiful stallion. But the picture was imperfect! His one rear leg was missing! I am German and we are born with a little less points in the diplomacy- and patience- (stop laughing, Hoot!) department, but extra points at perfectionism and being stubbornly methodical. I would take 200 pictures to only like a few! And a dog that has a tail, has a tail! If it has all four legs and is standing, I want to see them in a way that will make this dog adoptably perfect!
A missing ear (actually flopped back) may take the pride out of a Shepherd's look. Not only because we all imagine a Shepherd to have standing ears, but because of what the laid back ear means about how the dog feels! Standing ears mean interest and with that the spark I want to see in their eyes! 'Look alive'! Feel alive! Be alive!
If I want to go for a tear-squeezer (something I usually don't unless I am out of options, because a animal adopted out of pitty may not be kept forever!) I am going for flopping ears and sad looks. Works for me every time! But their look of pride when facing death always gets me too. That's how I fell in love with my... hmmh... physically challenged Pops. Pops is not quite that beautiful to look at, but he, a former puppy mill dog, has a dignity and pride that earned him his name Sir Henry James Peabody; and all the trouble he always gets into, my miniature Napoleon Bonaparte on his quest to create a new Roman Empire!
If you want to 'sell' the perfect dog or cat to a family, give that picture all you got! It can very well create a spark of hope and save a live! Ask Iram, the so non-German Shepherd that was nothing I wanted. I never forgot his eyes and he is now making me perfectly happy as the only dog that has never gotten into anything, eaten anything or destroyed anything in my entire house!
A bit of Beauty...
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