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Props and Backgrounds for Pet Photography

Lesson 9 from: Pets and People Photography

Vicki Taufer

Props and Backgrounds for Pet Photography

Lesson 9 from: Pets and People Photography

Vicki Taufer

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Lesson Info

9. Props and Backgrounds for Pet Photography

Next Lesson: Prepping Q&A


Class Trailer

Day 1


The V Gallery Evolution


Selling the Experience


Why Pets?


You and Your Clients


Pet Photography Intro Q&A


Creating a Market: Dog Days of Summer


Educating Clients about Dog Days


Lesson Info

Props and Backgrounds for Pet Photography

So what I'm going to talk to you guys about now, we're kind of going tio we talked about how to get the clients into the studio, so now we're going to start talking about the actual shoot esso before our pets come this afternoon, let's talk about kind of preparing for the shoot, prepping for the shoot, maybe some tips and tricks and different props, things that we use, um and actually, we're going to start off with a quick little segment that we shot a couple days ago. Um, I haven't even seen it yet, so I'm a little bit nervous. Uh, when we went to value village, basically give you the behind the scenes of what happened, we knew we wanted to shoot with some couches and some chairs and some random, just things. So we went to value village, and I had not walked in there so, like, they videoed me actually walking through there for the first time and just kind of talking through the thought process of what things I might purchase, why or why not? And we found a couple a couple actually rea...

lly great chairs at all fuse and some other fabrics and stuff, so let's, go ahead and watch that. This is vicky and we're here a value village ready to go prop shopping I'm hoping to find some really an inexpensive, unique cool things let's go ultimately looking for a couple of cool pieces of furniture maybe some pillows of rug I just don't know if I'm ready to find some of the bigger items maybe the fabrics but I can't pass up butch all the way down the aisle I saw this crazy dog here so it's just gonna help me pick out some great props for the dogs so again for five dollars very quick, simple background that you could just throw again in your car or using your studio, you'll see I have a lot of variety I go with the neutral stuff and I know a lot of animals have a lot of brown in there fern and their coloring, so this will be great versus sometimes I like that copper color right way actually create a runway for the animals walk on because I have a nice one floors in carpet that I don't, you know wants an accident and ruin and you never know when you'll need something like everything I've seen here today, so uh this will be great for I'm going to get pretty lightweight um I love this twelve dollars this beats thiss actually beats the table, but those two that I'm so excited I can't I'm speechless um I think now it's time to figure out which things I'm gonna keep in which things are not going to make the cut so the pillow is a yes couple towels this one didn't know so I already have something with some great purples reds I don't need this one anymore I definitely want to keep this because I didn't have a whole lot with newt toral colors not sold on this one definitely loved the rug way got to get butch will fit in my suitcase you know what? Four ninety nine I think that's it I think that's everything okay? Much awesome right? Thank you. So now the pressure's on that I have to use the stuff I bought afterwards I was like, oh, maybe I should have bought like, half the amount because people are gonna want to see the shoot with this um yeah, it was fun and definitely I'd say out of all of that of the two chairs the little bench in the chairs were definitely my chair was my favorite favorite thing. So um couple just basic things I want to chat about for a few minutes is like so I know I shoot on location issue studios I shoot window light um but I want to talk specifically when I shoot my studio lighting what I d'oh and what specifically lights and things I use because the scenario eisner wouldn't necessarily work with all soft boxes, so I really am just it's not complicated that's the one thing I am not a technical person, I need to create something that's just simple that once I know I've got it the lighting's gonna be nice. I really don't have to think about it, and I can focus on interacting with my clients and so it's two lights, two soft boxes and that I mentioned when I started off, it was just one soft box, and so I actually added the second soft box, and then the reflectors were really a reflector is just like a little powered life I mean, that's really all it is, so that becomes my fill light, so I'm just really creating a wall of light. So just imagine if this were my studio, those two windows or those two soft boxes would either be the window if I had that shades up in my studio lights weren't there, so I have this wall of light and I have my subjects position probably about five feet or so off of the background, and I think about shooting through a tunnel that's like the best way I can explain it, so uh, when I want to recreate window light, which is what I'm ultimately trying to dio, um, I am, I'll have put my three by four foot soft box in my four by six foot soft soft box or I could even flip flop um they have to be the larson soft boxes, though, and the reason being the way those air really narrowed the way they're designed you can actually get if you keep it perpendicular to your client, you will get an even amount of light across her subject so other soft boxes the way they're designed in there deeper, that wouldn't be the case, so I can actually do a group two, three, four, five people and within a few tents of a stop actually have even lighting against my my subjects here. Now, the lighting could be a little bit different as far as the person closer to the soft box and farther from the soft box could be a little different, but your exposure wise is going to be good. So it's going to look really nice and then this reflector this is where I say I'm creating a tunnel to shoot through eso without that reflector, which the first three years I shot with the one soft books, I don't think I ever even used a reflector used a reflector, and if I actually moved my subjects farther back closer background, I'd have all this extra light it almost just wraps around, it wouldn't be as bad further I bring my subjects to this edge of the soft box you're going to get a harsher split lighting so you're reflector is going to become more important so really if you think about it though window light soft box shooting through a tunnel if I'm shooting fortify feed off the background regards what the background is with the group I'll probably be a five six or fate depending on what the shooting scenario is on with the individual or an animal it could be to a f or you have to be careful a little bit with animals because obviously most people you know, the depth of field like our faces are relatively flat you know with dogs you you know that noses sticking out in different things that that doesn't necessary bother me you concede some images like I'll still focus on the pets eyes and it really doesn't bother me that other things go out of focus just honestly like the same thing with the person but so yeah, my set by backgrounds about but I'm staying with my studio lights I tried to get three quarters of a stop darker or difference than what is on the subject so in this scenario like the backgrounds going to read about five point six five point six and a quarter and my subjects at eight and that's just my own preferences of what I like they're certain backgrounds that are darker that lighter that aiken um just that a little bit and I don't want I'm gonna teach when I'm actually shooting I just wanted to show the diagrams so you kind of khun see what I'm trying to dio when I recreate um my studio inside here um I showed this image earlier but these are definitely the things that I umm I need especially wind when it is with pets the one thing I do like teo tell you is that I don't release you with an assistant with pets I will bring somebody in like the volunteers during dog days but if it's just a normal client booking I don't even always have an assistant then so a lot of my props and the things that I choose or even that little grip the daisy group I showed you on my camera those things appealed to me because I made be by myself and so, um in that case like, say, it's a family with two kids two dogs for the family group shot like I've really got a multi task, but half the images I take won't involve everybody I'll probably get some just to the kids, the kids with the dogs I know we're going to shoot that way tomorrow for you the session that we have set up that I will involve the owner's involved if it's just a child I involve the parents that actually works your advantage like I hear people all the time say things like the parent start me crazy or the owner during the crazy or, you know, there kind of get in the way I would actually say try tio, turn that switch and get them involved give them something to do have them hold a reflector have him squeak toy because then they're part of that experience when you talk about that experience again, they actually most people like being involved in that process so and then worst case scenario if that's not happening to working in a studio if I have been employed there I'll go grab them one of the things we didn't talk about I'm trying look, if we talked about everything here, um, because I don't have this year we did talk about the feather duster if I think it get one before the end of the weekend, I will because that really is like one of my main things I use at my studio um and this as well I love this this is actually a leaf blower that is battery rechargeable rechargeable leaf blower. I don't think this brands available anymore, but you could pick up a different one and what I used it that I've used this with pets as well, but what I do with this um again khun b shooting and hand holding and it's very directional so I can use it on pat's. I do use it a lot like high school senior girls laying on a couch, hair blowing, but I use it like with a subject and their pet, um, is well and there's a few images I have, I'll show you where I have even the dogs for your flowing in the wind. Um, besides this fan, even a floor fan, like just a box man, the angles that I don't have a picture of it, but just like but our fifteen dollars, chief little fan that is free standing again. If you're not going to shoot with an assistant, which I'm guessing a lot of you doubt you can actually lay that down in front of the client, uh, while you're shooting so let's, talk a little bit about props and backgrounds. I use a very eclectic mix of things I've purchased things I make things I buy, and we're going to try to re create recreate some of that here this actual little set bed couch. I don't know what you want to call it. I actually had my dad make me, um, a couple months ago and it's literally missy there's a picture it's, literally just a wood base that we cut a slat in the back of it, and then we made these different shapes and they just drop in there and I paint the front the backs of these different color. So I actually have six different little couches beds that I could use not only for pets but babies. Um, it's just it's kind of fun and it's very portable, like that's. The other nice thing doesn't take up a lot of space and you can get a lot of variety, um, very quickly and without taking up a lot of space, um, you'll see me shooting with some of these. In fact, I think we had this one come here to shoot with. These are the w c floors. They have backdrops and floors, and so they literally are four by eight foot sheets of, like, it's, like a mat. Almost, um, that what you're seeing here and this is why I keep trying explain people like in some of the fabrics I bought a value village like you don't need a lot like literally this is the owner. This is the assistant standing behind the dog you saw in the other video someone was holding like pink or blue rug up to get a shot like this, and this could even be this doc did okay, but if the stock wasn't doing okay, the owner literally could be holding holding the pet, you know, not aggressively, but holding the pet to get the shot if necessary. So, yes, I do. So this is one of the white house forces? Well, though, so we've got, like, the wood one, the brick one to be other options, and this one is something we made. So this actually I have a painter friend that I asked if he could re create, like, a nasty hotel, burnt wall or something. So he said he literally was in his yard and neighbors were watching. He was burning it like it was just like menard's wallpaper, I think, and varnishing it and painting it, um and that's been kind of fun. I mean, we've had that one a couple of years, but I do do a lot of these panels. Um, one of the things you'll see, I have tins you could buy a minority or lows actually picks him up, he'll see me shoot with them, but tens that I got put on one side and they look like the old ceiling tiles, but they're just plastic. Uh, and then maybe on the other side. I'll do something this or I have one where I did burlap for fabric and it's, literally just a framework, almost like a piece of artwork would be just like the canvas gallery rap type framework, and you can just switch it out and put different things on there, so they're really light weight. So I have one section of my camera room where I just sort of have these panels and, like one person, you have to have someone hold him, but one person can hold it. It's, freestanding, that's, our side and the back parking lot of our building, which now, with our move on the changes in her business. It's actually the entrance. But we just received a grant that we're fixing up the whole outside to be more of a storefront to our studio. But anyway, the last three years or so, it's looked like this, and clients never saw it. I just had a painter, the same guy who made the wallpaper, um, a painter come in, and he just painted stenciled circles and it's kind of crazy, but it would be what I'd use for every client, but again, it's. Just something kind of different. Then just going to the random, you know, brick walls and warehouse type stop and it's just right outside, right outside the back of the studio. This little guy, actually it's really funny, you know, client will do anything for a shot like the boots had to be in the shot like that's. Totally what mom wanted and they were too small. Like it was like, like like your feet are gonna fit in there like this. Poor kids, like running in his old tippy toes. But, um, this is really great. I'd love to find things that are very portable and multi purpose. This is just pier one sells, like, just different, like outdoor umbrellas. They're kind of like the cool paper material. I have a couple of them. But this is where you could involve again for a pet for ah, a child for a high school senior, I think is the example I have, but that's just mom behind the senior holding the umbrella. And again she's not right up against it. So that's the beauty of, like, shooting, you know, the white aperture, so just kind of blurs out. Plus then we added one of our textures to the back. But you wouldn't even know that's. What? That wass, you know, and it's, just so I love all my backdrops and backgrounds and things that are meant to be back drops in backgrounds and things. But, um, I think it's really cool and important to mix in some of this other stuff for variety. This we actually I didn't make them but somebody here making for me um when I shoot with uh um walls like I have the white house backdrops or the fabrics on and then the floors or even just with this floor we just went I actually these were just leftover trim pieces from our house remodel but I think someone ran the lows are menard's I would actually do the straight pieces because then you could paint each side a different color but these air just literally like for two dollars at the hardware store little l bracket so on one side you put it going one way the other side he put it going the other way so it can't tip and it literally just sits in front of your wall your fabric and it creates a transition that looks like a real room. So that's actually really nice and the cool thing is two because the way I shoot if my subjects five feet off four feet off of this background this does not have to be like flush up against the background like it could be this much in front of it and depend angle I'm shooting it's still gonna look like um just like a normal just a wall wallpaper um or different floor texture, so yeah, so you're saying it here so this would be kind of ah, set up that we're going to mimic here, but, um, with the floor with the trim piece and with the wall, but this is the ten, so this is the I'm not sure, but that boat that may be, but menard's lows that it's plastic ceiling tile. And so we actually have a multiple patterns, I think they have some in stock, obviously because we picked him up, but you can order different colors but really just even painted they're mostly shiny and mostly metallic, which could be really cool and photographs, but sometimes, you know, you might want something a little more subtle, like they've looked really cool whitewashed, I actually have a real ten that I picked up that's the old ceiling tile, it's whitewashed that's nice, but again, if you're shooting and there's something just not right up against it, all kinds of things can look, I mean, you don't even know what it is like, whether it's, real or fake it's like, you know, we're kind of illusionists, you know, in some fashion with what we're doing, and then this mixes in this one, it was expensive it's the real deal it's a folding screen and it's ten, so, um but I use this one a lot, mrs really um really pretty I will tell you one thing you can't really see in this picture, but I have two or three folding screens in my studio and I used to have them all just like I stacked up like a corner area of the studio and some of them are really heavy and then they're free standing and with pets with children that makes me really nervous, and so I would not shoot in that type of scenario, I would not shoot without an assistant like someone would have to be holding it. I eliminated that now, though that's how I used to shoot it now we actually have anchored one side of the screen like there was a cabinet where I store my equipment, we actually anchored one side of the screen to it, and since it's a folding screen, it just fold up against the bookcase that it can free stand, I don't have to ever worry about it. Um, worry about falling on anybody or anything so it's more peace of mind and that actually brings me to the point with dogs and kids, but, you know, it's not uncommon that I haven't won a chair on a couch, different things I tip it clea when I'm shooting in that scenario will have the owner literally like right there right there next to the couch just enough out of the way that I can crop him out of the shot but it's just either for dogs it's usually matter of helping get back up if they need up or holding the treat or something like that for kids it's more of a safety issue that it depends on the age that they're not gonna crawler fall off um, fabrics so these air actually all, um, fabrics are great. The problem with fabrics in most cases is they're pretty narrow, so you're pretty limited unless you're going to do some kind of a seam and be okay with that. So I've actually had better luck looking for like these air, actually bedspreads or tablecloths from urban outfitters, and they're like twenty five bucks like thirty bucks, and they're like the king size bed big so and some of our men are pretty bold and pretty like crazy, but really, if you only used him a couple times, I mean it's, the investment and so low um, that it's like nice to have those kind of things on hand, so we've done a lot with different fabrics and stuff chairs, couches like said that's, a number one number one prop this's actually somewhere to be picked up value village, but just a simple little chair uh this one I love I actually was hoping to find something this and it would be a stretch, but when we were out here looking because that actually picked up in an estate sale about five years ago maybe and it was a painting for like, I don't even know what it was fifty bucks, maybe seventy bucks and said gorgeous like that is going to the most amazing background but the problem is it was this huge estate sale where it's an entire section of a town near us where everything's shut down so I literally was walking down the street in the wind with this huge painting like taking off and then barely could fit it in the car but really cool story I actually found the artist name on and she had passed away, but I was able to contact a family member nice center pictures that had shot with it like it was the daughter of the woman who painted this like in the seventies and so just something kind of cool. So that's like this shot that's what that was for um I mean that's how I use that one and that's literally just the painting sitting on the floor, owners holding it like that's it and what's cool about paintings and things like this is they're very lightweight they're not super portable if they're that bigas faras like outside the studio and this actually hangs on the wall in our home now I don't even shoot with this anymore but this opened up kind of a thought process for me though that I actually have a few backgrounds um that I have commissioned people to pay so one of the events that I am going to talk about tomorrow with marketing like other events is one that we where I met a high school girl who is going to school for art and she was very talented and she wanted senior picture so I actually end up doing some trade for senior pictures and she painted me a really cool campus so I've done that two or three different times with just people you know if you look at what you could pay for that normally and were able to trade or pay like I love giving them the opportunity to create something fun and then I have something very unique that nobody else I know of course you know in my area will have that's a better picture of the bring light the you guys saw in the video um so that's it literally you know the one thing with that I mean it's human but it's fun I do I do use that with a lot of my chutes it's more of a secondary thing so when I shoot andi think we're going to try to do that today is I try to give people kind of two looks so thiss goes with the under promise over deliver so I do not have clients coming in by themselves with their pet I do have him doing this but I don't do this for them it's like oh, we want to have this whole scenario shooting like in white clothes and then we want to change into black clothes and then we want to go outside and then we want to go do this I can't do that like I can't do that like artistically think that's just crushes me it's like I want to give one hundred ten percent to something we planned ahead of time and you know what I see people doing regardless of the subject matter is doing everything with their client and you're kind of like sticking yourself for the next year like shoot I gotta go buy a bunch of new stuff otherwise I've already used all my cool new things with them this year so I try to be a little bit more selective um and narrow it down before we shoot so when I say to looks those two looks for me I mean uh where we tried to do today is studio light and then I can quick open up the shades and maybe do something way more casual on a couch like some of the shots you've seen what the dogs run in or sitting on the couch with them so my studio set up typically would look a little more formal, maybe it's more up close or maybe it's something with the ring light this it's pretty high up off the ground, I can't get that real low, so the animals typically would actually have to be up on something to get a shot with this, but I would say is something with strobes, something with window light, but not an outfit change? Yeah, some of the pet owners do bring outfits further pets on dh if they want to do something with that force that's fine, but yeah, so that would be the basic and other things, too. I see people like shooting forever and spending hours and hours with their clients and, like that's not really fun for them, typically like I don't, you know, not that you're not fun to be with and whatever shooting, but like people have a limit, I feel like and I I've been guilty of this, so I'm speaking to myself first, but it's like, I know I got it, I know I got the shot, they're gonna be happy like we've done it, we've accomplishment and I just keep pushing, and I just keep gun and it's like you get to a point with the dog with the kid dad, where we were cool things, they're good. Maybe the images are going to be great, but it's a little bit like meltdown done for now you can just see it like you start to see it in the faces and the expressions. Um and so it's pretty much like clockwork as faras I haven't nailed down like whether it's a dog with a family or two kids or a family of five, I spent about forty five minutes to an hour with my clients like with the exception of dog days, with the exception of if we did go on on location, shoot that's gonna just obviously take more time or high school seniors, they could book a session that we've purposefully are spending more time with them otherwise most studio sessions at my studio um it's all the same price two so if you come to my normal business hours like I don't have it, my old prices used to say, if it's one person it's this if it's this person and a dog it's this if it's five people it's this, if you know we do break downs, it's this and like, that makes no sense to me and I think I just got it from what someone else did, I don't know, I really think I'm necessary throat thought through it but that's not where I'm making my money anyway, like, I'm really actually making the money when the clients are ordering on the back end anyway, and I really don't want to discourage him. If I put all these parameters and all these things in place, they might just like, okay, like, we'll just do this one thing when really, I know in the same timeframe, I could've probably done a lot more cooler things, so I don't know how you guys pricier stuff professed that we wantto chat about, but keeping all just real simple, it's one price inside it's, one price on location are outside and it's by, quote, on location, or if we start bringing equipment or if it's off hours, so I leave that pretty open so that you guys saw that that's what it looks like with the, um, ring light, and then I do shoot a lot of papers, mostly that is going to be when I'm shooting the ring light. So it's, just similar, like you say, we've got great paper hanging over here to the side, the studio, um, that I used that mostly with the ring light, with pets that is nice, though paper is nice, and the obviously if someone were wanting to do an event like at the you were asking about the vet's office or set something up like who cares effect it's ruined I mean like papers really great from that aspect too like oh that dog just went to the bathroom okay you know cut it off roll out another piece so yeah paper actually is a great option for that just some of the other colors that we shoot with um you guys were asking about different lenses and think these were my two doggies who have since gone home but I I got them when we first got married lauren and bogie but those were just shot I was playing around with years ago but I do play around with different lenses with the pets but mostly and I guess I haven't talked equipment so I shoot the cannon five demark too and um mostly the seventy two, two hundred but also he's eighty five one point two I've got a tilt shift and I've got it all with me so I can shoot it but a couple wider angle zoom lenses but again if I only had one lens like I could run my business and do the things I'm showing you uh just with that one camera and the uh one lens seventy two, two hundred and of course this is the whole topic of the program people in pets but I put this in here because, um I just want to reiterate the importance of adding them in even if that's not necessarily what they were thinking so um doing you know the shocks like this where the people are out of focus with the ring light adding the feet this's a crazy this is something actually especially during dog days prime or anything but this was one of the sessions where um I think they wanted I think it was just the two dogs a few these head three but we had people station behind the couch with squeakers and trees and I was back by the camera and the owners and it was just like a constant I'm sure this will happen this weekend constant they were just moving I don't even know if we got a shot from that but very likely be a case where I would jump in and say teo suits say to the client you know, like let's really try to focus on just photographing each dog separately getting the best shot of each of we could do some kind of cool grouping with how we hang them and really I think I took that concept from somebody else years ago trying I think it might have been bevin tim walled in that they were talking about photographing kids and like a client calling wanting, you know, multiple young children with a newborn and maybe you know, like the one and a half year old holding the newborn and how they would just they would actually tell them let's photograph your kid's individually and even put it on the clients and say, you know we'll do your kids have different personalities do your kids you know, like let's capture that like what's you know we're gonna plenty of time in the future to do these other you know, groupings together like would you leave your newborn with the dog or with the two year old if you were going to be around you know? So I kind of creating a natural comfortable, comfortable setting um there's a better picture of the feather duster and the fan there's a little guy with the fan on him you know, if you've got the tongue wagging kind of thing going on, you know, that obviously can can help us well, that's I don't I didn't find one of those either. I did get some good stuff, but um that's one of those yo yo's like I think you could get him appear one I use that all the time with kids as well because there's just so little I get like hundreds of them and put him in my pockets and they'll just watch him and you could like waving like a flag and then they'll eventually ripped and uh you have to go grab grab anyone but I don't know we captain to capture him at the moment he blinked and then a lot of owners will bring their own stuff, so I'm sure that will happen being but pets and our stuffed animals and their own treats in different things. And then actually, when, um when judges here saturday morning and I mentioned this, but you know, sometimes there are things that just are goingto have to be photo shop. And I hate to say that because that is really against, like my core, like my gut of what I try to do it, the studio. But there are times where that's just, you know, that's, just going to be going to be the case, but it's also, just because you can do it, it doesn't mean you should do it kind of a scenario. This is an example of my husband's first attempt at a head swap. When it this first version of photo shop like ten years ago, maybe that's, my dog and that's, his brother. He will not be showing you how to do that, because that looks really ridiculous.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote Slides
Keynote Slides Day 2

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This was a great topic. I tuned in thinking I wouldn't be interested, and then, wow, it was fabulous. So fabulous I'm holding an event in two weeks time to launch my own pet photography and raise food for local homeless animals. Thanks so much CL team!

Carolyn Himes

Vicki Taufer is Brilliant as a person and artist. What an honor to experience her for the last 3 days. Thank you to Jed for your expertise and reminder that technology can help us all have time to play more and enjoy life more! Thank you creativeLIVE notch!

Student Work