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Author Topic: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter  (Read 4301 times)

BobSanderson

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Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« on: February 24, 2012, 01:49:08 PM »
I was approached by a local shelter to shoot their little wards to place their cats and dogs faster in homes. I have a Canon 40D, a decent selection of lenses, a remote trigger and a 430 EX. I was wondering if there is a setup I can rig up to can bring once a week to the shelter to produce quality pictures for them.

I am thinking of simple light(s) (to avoid spooking the animals with the flash), some kind of stand for them to be on and a basic backdrop that is adaptable to whatever space they want me to use. What do you guys recommend? I would spend a few hundred dollars to get these little guys placed quicker.

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Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« on: February 24, 2012, 01:49:08 PM »

cx1

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2012, 03:15:24 PM »
I would avoid the lighting altogether if possible and use available light. The more changes you introduce will most likely make it harder to get the animal in a calm state.


dstppy

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2012, 03:40:35 PM »
I would avoid the lighting altogether if possible and use available light. The more changes you introduce will most likely make it harder to get the animal in a calm state.

+1  Animals are very a reasonably easy shoot; don't go crazy with the lighting. 

I'm not super pro so what I usually do before an event/shoot try to compensate for light by taking a shot and see if I have to adjust exposure and temperature first, then figure out the lowest iso I can use without blurring.

The choice of lens is going to matter more than anything.

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truviz

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2012, 04:29:17 PM »
The other posters might be right about skipping lighting for now, hard to predict how the animal would react to bright lights.  On the other hand some of these shelters are pretty gloomy places and you might need a bit of light boost from one or two simple clamp lights with CFL bulbs.

It would definitely be good to have a simple background however.  I would suggest avoiding stands and cloth backdrops if you can, as they may be prone to being peed on or tipped over.  If you are going to be shooting for extended periods it might be worth setting up a cheap cowboy studio backdrop stand with a paper roll.  If the animals are not too large then perhaps a simple white foam core for the backdrop?

CanineCandidsByL

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2012, 04:53:58 PM »
I agree that light may not be necessary, but if you need to use one, stay with constantly on lamps.  You don't need to get expensive.  I haven't seen them in a while, but those cheap clip-on headboard lamps for kids or for dorm students would work well.  I'd suggest LED bulbs. They are under $30 now and aren't very hot and unlike CFLs, they don't break and leave lots of glass and nasty chemicals. As far as a light stand, the clip-ons can attach to anything, so you may not need one. If you do, you shouldn't need anything special, just sturdy....and pee-proof. For dog shows, you can throw a self-made plastic stand around the base to protect against pee. Think of a solid version of the classic Christmas tree skirt. Personally, I just quick rinse the stands if something happens.

Whatever you use, make sure its secure. The animals are sometimes easily scared and if something falls around them, the shoot it off. They will constantly be looking in the direction of whatever fell in fear something else may drop...doesn't matter if it was heavy or light. If you want to use a backdrop, I'd suggest a simple sheet pinned to a wall. Make sure it doesn't flap around as that disturbs some animals.

Make sure cables aren't where the animals can chew on them. Not good for the cables, and if they carry power, not good for the animals.

For most animals, shoot at their level or below.  For large animals, you may want to shoot from slightly above to make them appear smaller.

And if you aren't personally very familiar with rescue/shelter dogs, don't try to handle them. Let the volunteers take care of that as the dogs probably know them already. Besides, you need to remain free to take the pictures.  You might also ask to start with the most stable dogs as you can work with them longer while you are getting setup. As you get familiar with the best settings, you can take whatever they want done most.

Hope it helps.

Z

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2012, 05:04:56 PM »
Personally I wouldn't bother with backdrops or lighting if possible. I would keep it simple, get the animal to fill most of the frame and use a fast lens to blur the hell out of the [presumably] ugly background.

If you're shooting cats, I would tend to do it around feeding time otherwise they might flat out refuse to look at you. Cats are ignorant creatures!

CanineCandidsByL

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2012, 05:09:37 PM »
My wife reminded of one other tip...if one is available, use a grooming stand or a small box.  You get the animal raised up slightly, and it gives them an area to stay on. Grooming tables can be raised up to normal table height, this isn't necessary and the height may scare some animals, but does make it easier to shoot them.

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2012, 05:09:37 PM »

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2012, 05:53:10 PM »
Our local shelters would be impossible indoors without lights, but if you can manage outdoors  Don't let them get backlit, and watch out for shadows.  If there are too many shadows, a reflector will help fill them.

If you are doing the images for a billboard advertisement, lighting might be necessary, but not for web images.

BobSanderson

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2012, 06:09:24 PM »
Thanks for all the great ideas.

My main concern was the one identified as the general gloominess of the place: cinder block lit by fluorescents. I thought perhaps a one light that was portable ( I know nothing on brands or types of lighting) and a simple backdrop would be a good start. I agree with those that suggest a stand of some kind - perhaps the grooming table if they have one on the premises. Keeping it simple so we can concentrate on getting engaging shots that will get these guys adopted seems to be job one. I figure a couple hours a week of volunteer work to see if this helps their overall effort should do it.

I have always had pets of all kinds in the house( from German Shepherds to weasels) . I am very comfortable with animals. At the present time, I have two cats who have had hundreds of photo taken without getting even one release from them. I do think the staff of the shelter will need to handle the dogs and cats just to get the work done. It should be interesting.

If there are any more ideas or specific gear recommendations I would appreciate them.
Take care.
« Last Edit: February 24, 2012, 07:26:32 PM by BobSanderson »

StevenBrianSamuels

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2012, 01:14:41 AM »
Shoot the dogs outside of their cages (I'm sure the people walk the dogs) and maybe use your flash for fill only (but try first without).  In cages is just a reminder of them being in a shelter.  Outside and happy will sell it to the people better.

As for cats, well I have 2, and they can either love the camera, or despise and shun away from it.  One of my cat hams it up and the other runs from my lens.  Hopefully the shelter has a place where people can take cats outside of the cages so they can bond with them.  If so, shoot there.  Agian, you may want to use flash for fill if needed but try it without.

Whatever you do remember to capture happy animals...That may take sometime for some but even a running dog is better then a dog with it's tail between its legs.

Good luck.

wickidwombat

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2012, 01:40:07 AM »
if you are going to use flash mixed with fluros get some gelsso you can balance your flash colour with the room lights
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Velcro-ROSCO-Flash-Gel-12pcs-LARGE-15x4cm-Strobist-CTO-/130495276661?pt=AU_Cameras_Photographic_Accessories&hash=item1e621fe675
then you can set your WB to fluro and the lighting should all be ok
these also work well for setting custom white balance in mixed lighting
http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/82mm-82-mm-White-Balance-Lens-Cap-Custom-WB-Filter-NEW-/110757457937?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19c9a8b011
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CanineCandidsByL

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #11 on: February 28, 2012, 10:17:15 AM »
Don't forget to give an update and upload some pictures or links so we can see how it went.

Thanks!

wellfedCanuck

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2012, 10:33:39 AM »
The photography advice is all well and good but don't forget a bag of doggy treats!   ;)
Don't take my advice. Don't even take my advice not to take my advice.

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #12 on: February 28, 2012, 10:33:39 AM »

Old Shooter

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #13 on: February 28, 2012, 11:41:51 AM »
Most shelters I have been at are pretty drab places!

Overhead fluorescent lighting is about as flattering to a dog or cat as it is to a human face, IMHO...

If you use a strobe, you have to get those pupils constricted somewhat or you will end up with red eye/green eye... I remember reading a great article on photographing pets and that pro would turn up the modeling lamps on her studio strobes to almost 100%... The ambient light was then bright enough to constrict the pupils and resulted in nice eyes when the strobes went off...

But, those are still flashes, and lots of animals would probably freak out... I agree with the suggestion to use some constant lighting. A simple black background to soak up any ugly shadows, one light camera left at about 45 degrees for some nice texture, and maybe a second light high and behind the animal for a little separation...

I think you could get some really nice shots! Be sure and post a couple! Good luck, and bless you for helping out those rescue animals!
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Cinnamon

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2012, 12:44:06 PM »
I'm actually hoping to do a similar project at a local shelter here in NYC, so I really do appreciate everyone's tips...

The shelter where I got my rescue (Cinnamon) has, like most other shelters, really terrible lighting (and a horribly gloomy atmosphere in general), so I'd really love to see an update with pictures, to learn about what worked for you in the end.

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Re: Advice needed on set up to shoot cats and dogs at shelter
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2012, 12:44:06 PM »