These are instructions given to our team of breeders for Get-A-Wag puppies. The tips are good for anyone that tries to make their photos of puppies or children look outstanding. We hope you enjoy the instruction and it helps you do Calendar Perfect photo shoots of your own!
Black and white photography is appealing when your subjects are this cute.
What we are looking for:
Ideally all the photos in our websites will be of the same high quality. No one should lose a sale because the customer clicked away from your page because the photos were unappealing. If everyone keeps the following objectives in mind each breeder’s store web page will be consistently beautiful. There are five main objectives:
- Bright lighting
- Clear focus
- Uncluttered background
- Eye level photography
- Many views of animated puppies
1. You must add light indoors or the pics will look grainy and dark. Your camera’s flash is not enough. They will not appear focused when we enlarge for details. Shine light from the top and angled from each of two front sides. Use three simple clamp reflector lights with 60 to 100 watt bulbs. (Sold at Wal-Mart for $9). You may be able to turn on an overhead ceiling light or do your shoot in front of a bright window to eliminate one or more lights. Do your photos during the day when possible. If you do them at night they will likely be less detailed unless you have means of brightening up the room.
Look at the expression on this pup's face! Cute photo, but more light was needed from the right front to chase away the dark shadows that threaten to ruin a good photo
2. If your camera doesn’t have high enough pixel quality the photos will be grainy and we can’t enlarge like we need to do. You can’t use a cell phone typically and get pictures that show the fine details. You must never zoom in or enlarge your photo as you are taking it. Do not use the rapid shoot feature. Send the photos in their original state. We need to have pics so clear we see the individual tiny hairs clearly. Your puppies should be clean and dry. Wet fur shows up poorly on camera. Pictures should look like they could be on a calendar.
Dramatic black background makes this puppy pop off the page. It feels close enough to kiss!
3. The puppies should be on furniture in the house or a draped chair with a nice blanket or throw covering the entire background. It is easiest to use a queen size blanket that can simply serve as a continuous backdrop, under and behind,….but some people put a fuzzy rug or animal fur throw down for the pups to stand on. Colors best to use are black, brown, white, vibrant red, or peacock blue. Stay away from yellow, green, orange, pastel pink or blue, navy, or wine. You can try them, but will have uncertain results. Spot wash a soiled throw with a damp cloth and plain water to clean up an accident at the time it happens. If you wash your backdrops you shorten their life….they will look too faded and worn to use. Use something associated with puppies for play toys….stuffed animals and new dog toys. Better not to use fake flowers or electrical holiday lights that are not puppy safe playtoys. We are models for what is appropriate for pet ownership. Additional outdoor photos taken in green grass, with natural plants and flowers as a backdrop are nice for a special slide show, but will not substitute for their regular indoor shoot. If you want to illustrate how small your dogs are, you photo them with something people can identify with like a common dog toy or a child’s toy that people will recognize. And take a photo on the floor, as they stand next to you, to show that their back doesn’t even reach your knee.
What a happy dog: Creative use of props can sell a puppy quickly. Truly a calendar photo!
4. Get down on their level to take your photos. Eye level photography allows the viewer to connect with the puppy, like they are with it. When a customer see the moist little noses and shining clear eyes looking at them, they fall in love. Top view can be done simply to document the pattern on the back but all other shots should be taken from their level. That means if you are taking them on the floor, you are down there with them. Do not get too close. Imagine a square frame around the subject of your photo. If we can’t crop the image square without cutting off the nose and tail of the puppy, it means you needed to back up. I like to see background continuously all around the puppy. Most photos will be cropped square. Then when we zoom in, during the edit process, we have kept the highest photo resolution. That allows us to see those little hairs and wet noses.
Adorable puppy in every way! But wouldn't this photo have been better if it had included the tips of the toes? Back up just a bit!
5. Each individual puppy should be photo’d about 2 or 3 dozen times for every shoot. Only a third or less photos will often be usable. Just snap away and take one after another. Digital cameras have a delay between when you press the button and the shutter snaps. You will miss some great poses but unexpectedly capture other good ones. Make funny noises to get the pup to look up. Important to get front and side views standing whenever possible….but all positions are nice…even ones with puppies caught in odd positions. It all adds interest for the customer. Don’t stop taking pics until you get some good ones with the pup looking at you too. If you photo them long enough they begin to get hot under the lights and start to pant. Get those open-mouthed shots because they look like they are happy and engaging. If the puppy will not cooperate by itself, and you have exhausted all other efforts place a litter mate with it to do the shoot.
Another precious photo that is a favorite of mine. What would have made it better? A professional would have draped the background to make it calendar perfect.
How to beat the competition:
Remember that we are competing with photos of thousands of other pups on the internet. We have to work hard to make a prospective puppy buyer choose our puppy. This is why we take them looking like pampered inside pets. They can’t look like ordinary yard dogs. Beagle puppies are so common in some parts of the country that they are advertised free. We have to lift them out of the ordinary into the imagination. People need to see them sitting on your draped sofa so they can imagine them looking cute like that in their own home.
You can try a special photo shoot with children holding them close to their faces and smiling at the camera. Then have them turn to look at the puppy and make faces, smile , and react cutely to the pup. Take one photo after another as fast as you are able to capture the action. Do a video after the photo shoot. But you have to watch the background and those kind of shots are tricky. You need the children to be dressed nicely, clean, and hair groomed. But sometimes these type photos sell wonderfully well. Outdoor shots like this are nice too Plan ahead where you will photo. You might choose an area with plants in the background or on pretty lawn furniture or sitting on a blanket in front of a picket fence. Watch what is on the ground as well as what is in the background. Again, think about the photo composition and ask yourself, ‘Would that would work on a calendar?’
Sometimes cropping off part of the subject in order to bring it in close makes for a memorable photo. These two beauties are a perfect example.
How we get your photos:
No emailing of photos. It is too time consuming for staff to acquire them by email. You are to put them in Picasa in individual folders. You send your videos to YouTube yourself. Otherwise we will be spending a lot of time trying to sort through your puppies. And if the lighting is not right we try to artificially correct color and focus, and that takes too much time. Watch that you don’t have lint or hair on the pups or background because that too is tedious to edit out. You will be instructed how to use Picasa if you can’t figure this out yourself.
Now go on and have some fun. Some people go all out and dress or decorate their pups. If you do this…..first take some pics without clothing so we can see the puppy. The more creative you are, the better they will sell. The pups benefit from frequent handling and photo shoots give them some discipline so its important to start early and take pics every ten days when you worm your pups. Oh, and trim their nails first, before the photo shoot, please!