Hello friends and welcome to this new blog post about Pet Photography. This time I will reveal all my secrets about Shooting for Breeders: A Profitable Puppy Session.
This post is addressed to all of you in the market of pet photography. Or, for those of you that are thinking to start over.
But, before digging into the article, let me speak a little about my personal experience on this matter.
I am a Breeder, I breed Labrador Retrievers since 20 years, and I’ve been struggled in finding a professional pet photographer that was able to focus on my dogs’ features and to produce some original shootings of my litters.
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But, first of all, why do a Breeder needs a photographer?
There are many reasons a breeder needs someone to take professional pictures of his dogs…
Every breeder desperately needs to have a pro at his own side, to shoot decent pictures of his stock of dogs that can be used on promo materials, on the breeder’s personal website and/or sponsor a champion dog…
Every single breeder will tell you that an ugly picture is worth nothing: many of my breeder friends always try to post the best on their social networks and a good picture converts much better than an ugly one.
Breeders need special shots! Desperately!
But they are also your worst clients: they want to see, in picture, the ideal dog without faults or failings, so you will have to be expert in shooting for them, being able to find the proper angle to shoot from, to mask some of the dog’s defects (almost every dog has at least one, the perfect dog doesn’t exist)!
That said, you’ve now realized how difficult can be to go for a breeder’s shooting session…
In this post, we will concentrate on puppy sessions. Later in the blog, I will teach you how to shoot kennel pictures depending on the breed of dog you’re shooting at…
Shooting for Breeders: A Profitable Puppy Session
So, how to be ready for a really profitable photo session at a breeder’s house?
Yes, because you have not to expect the breeder to bring the puppies to you!
You should go to him and find a proper location near his house, or inside of it if you’re dealing with small breeds.
But let’s go with a detailed list of to-do-things…
Carefully select Your Equipment
You have to deal with dogs: so don’t expect you can bring all your studio equipment with you, but:
- a camera body, or better two (just in case one of your cameras decides to leave you all alone… it happens sometimes); see my review of Nikon d7500 camera here.
- three lenses: a 50mm for close-ups, a zoom lens and a 135mm for portraits;
- a monopod, just if you want to take some motion pictures to be more stable on the ground;
- a ton of memory cards (later you will discover why…).
Make sure to have a lens cleaning set at your side, to properly clean lenses from dust or dog hair while taking the pictures.
To produce a picture like this one here is the dream of every photographer. But it’s not easy at all!
Your client will need this kind of pic to sponsor his litters… so let’s see a small video about the backstage of a puppy session, to start having an idea of how it should be conducted.
As you can see from the video, after every shooting there is postproduction made… we will go through it in a few moments…
Don’t expect to go to a party and wear your best clothes…
You will have to belly-down on the ground, so wear a suit and comfortable sneakers.
It is not you going for a photoshoot! 😉
And remember that puppies are playful so they will make your photo session longer than a normal one (and messy, LOL!).
Enroll in The Number One Photography Masterclass
going for the shooting session, make sure you have enough knowledge of your dog photography.
If you’re just starting, I have a super tip for you: enroll in a good Photography Masterclass.
I’ve been there: I deeply know how frustrating is to start and know nothing about photography and camera settings.
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Know what equipment you should buy no matter what your budget is. Follow practical demonstrations to see how I shoot in real-world scenarios. Use composition, lighting, and proper settings to take better photos. Edit photos professionally to make them look even better.
All this is Photography Masterclass!
The masterclass is worth it if you want to learn from creative professionals at the top of their game, at a pace that suits you. The materials are first-class and you’ll learn a lot.
Price Your Session Properly
Just because you’re a beginner, it doesn’t mean you have to discount your work! It will be a big mistake!
Don’t underestimate the skills you need to achieve to become a pro, and don’t kill yourself by lowering price hoping to get more clients…
In the future, this will be against you!
Many pet photographers are also professional human portrait photographers.
The national average cost of pet photography is $100–$230, but costs vary by location and the specifics of the photoshoot and image package.
For a deeper insight on Pet Photography pricing, I highly recommend reading this article from J.B. Shepard, founder of The Puptrait.
So, make sure your client knows exactly what he is going to spend on a puppy photography session, before you start, to avoid misunderstandings.
Shooting for Breeders: A Profitable Puppy Session
So, now that we have examined the basics, let’s dig into the matter…
Why Breeders need a Puppy Session?
Every breeder needs to advertise his own litters. And, the best a picture is, the highest the sale opportunity.
Would you buy a puppy from a picture that is blurry and not clear? A nailed shot is better than an ordinary one.
Planning sessions properly will help in producing shootings of better quality no one would say “no, I don’t like!“.
Always Shoot from Pet’s Eye Level
An eye-level shot refers to when the level of your camera is placed at the same height as the eyes of the characters in your frame.
This angle will give a better impression of your model, as the observer can have the sensation to “be there“, in front of the puppy.
It’s fundamental to get down low to the puppy height. A squeeze picture worths nothing.
Use a Helper to Keep the Puppy Away from The Lens
Distance is everything.
If the puppies are old enough to move independently, make sure the breeder or someone else offers them a distraction to keep them away from your lens.
This will guarantee a sufficient depth of field.
Generally speaking, you’re going to want to use a wide-angle lens – a medium-range zoom would be ideal.
Puppies don’t tend to want to stray too far from their people, so you may need a wider angle when your puppy is close to where you’re shooting from.
A telephoto lens can be helpful too – when you’re on the grass on your belly, your puppy is probably going to think that you want to play, so if you can have your helper place him at some distance away, having a telephoto lens will allow you to get a good photo of him before he comes towards you.
Of course, keep in mind that a particularly friendly puppy is only going to let you get a few shots with that telephoto lens before he’s so close that that telephoto lens is going to be all but useless.
Another benefit of shooting with a telephoto lens is that it will also help you turn the background into some pretty, blurry bokeh – but you may only be able to get a few shots this way so definitely make sure the telephoto lens isn’t the only one you have.
Keep your Shutter Speed high.
1/500 is a nice, safe shutter speed to use when photographing an active puppy.
Even if you do manage to catch him sitting, he may not stay sitting for long, so you want to be ready with that fast shutter speed just in case he moves suddenly.
You’ll also want to keep your aperture relatively wide.
What you don’t want is a lot of detail in the background, because that detail can distract from your subject.
Think of your puppy photograph like any other portrait – you want your viewer’s attention to be on the subject, not on anything distracting that might be in the background.
If the background is the breeder’s backyard, it may be lovely and well-manicured, but those roses are still going to distract from your subject if they are in sharp focus.
Choose an aperture of around f/5.6, and make sure you check your results on your camera’s screen in case you need to go even wider than that.
Remember that getting good blur on the background is not only a matter of aperture but also distance – the closer you are to your subject, the more blur you’re going to get, and the farther away from the background your subject is, the more blur you’re going to get.
If you’ve got a small backyard at your disposal, you may want to consider shooting most of your photographs from a closer perspective.
Now that’s probably going to have some challenges, but I think you’ll be happier with results if you rise to meet them.
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Pay Attention to Light
Natural light is typically the best kind of light to use for photographing animals of all kinds, whether it’s that old dog or that eight-week-old puppy.
But it’s a particularly good idea to photograph puppies in natural light for a couple of reasons.
First, when you’re indoors you may want to use flash, and flash may upset your subject, which could result in you getting photographs that don’t completely capture the charm of that lively puppy personality.
Remember that puppies are brand-new to the world, and bright flashing lights are probably not something in their experience.
Never mind that flash is typically a bad idea for shooting animals anyway, especially your onboard flash since it can cause red-eye (really more of a white or yellow eye in animals) glare (particularly off of clean, shiny fur), and just overall poor quality.
Alternatively, you can use off-camera flash or bounce/diffused flash, which can give you excellent results, but you may find it prohibitively difficult to coordinate that off-camera flash with the cavorting puppy.
For this reason, I don’t really recommend it unless you are already pretty experienced at photographing puppies and using an off-camera flash to provide bounced or diffused light.
Another reason why natural light is great for photographing puppies is that it just makes them look more natural.
Dogs love to be outdoors and that natural light complements them in their natural setting.
But remember that you need the right kind of natural light – if you’re photographing your puppy at noon you might be disappointed in the quality of the image.
That’s because the light at noon is direct and bright and your camera may not be able to capture a complete range of tones in such a situation.
You may end up with very black shadows or blown-out highlights, and you won’t be able to capture much detail in your puppy’s fur.
Instead, wait for the golden hour, which is that hour just after sunrise or just before sunset.
During the golden hour the light is diffused and it comes from the side, so it will create beautiful details on your puppy’s coat, and that soft quality will flatter his sweet personality.
If you are just starting out, make sure you read also the following articles:
- How to manually set your camera for the best pet photography results
- Candid Shots of Pets: how to produce super pictures without their attention
Summary for Breeders Puppy Sessions
As a summary, make sure you keep in mind the following:
- Shoot from eye level
- Use a helper to keep him away from the lens
- Camera settings
- Use a wider angle
- Keep a telephoto on hand for more distant shots
- Use a fast shutter speed (1/500)
- Use a mid-range aperture (f/5.6)
- The light
- Shoot outdoors in natural light
- Give him time to play
- Wait for him to slow down a little
- Don’t expect too much
- Let your subject lead the way
If you’re still unsure, please consider enrolling in a Photography Masterclass to upgrade your skills.
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If you’re also considering selling your images to stock photography, make sure to download my FREE Ebook about selling digital pictures.
I also have a detailed article about it here.
These suggestions allowed me to sell a lot of mines on digital stock websites and make money from my pictures. Read more here.
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What do you think about the provided information? Feel free to comment below!