As I was preparing my new studio for open business, a kind lady stopped by my door to ask about my photography and if I could do commercial product work.
Now, I may not have the worlds most complex studio fit for Apple products, but believe it or not, many of the techniques used for the highest level of product photography are deceptively simple, but it does require at least a basic combination of studio lighting, white surfaces, and some acrylic plastic.
Unlike other photographers first starting off, I Immediately began my photography career in a studio with 0 photography experience (a true trial by fire experience), so fast forward 11 years today, I am much more comfortable working with product studio style photography than everything else, so I happily explained to the lady that I could offer product photography services (despite not even being open for business yet) and that I would love to know more about her business and the products.
It turns out that her name is Janet Marlow, a 5th generation Jazz composer, 1980s Olympic athlete, author, and the founder of an award-winning brand called Pet Acoustics! Pet Acoustics develops animal products specifically designed to minimize anxiety and normalize behavior through the use of modified sound and species specific music. My wife called it a mix of science and art! As a sound behaviorist, Janet is internationally known for her contributions towards the study and understanding of pet hearing sensitivities, and her product has been clinically proven to reduce stress in animals.
In an effort to be more environmentally conscious, Janet had changed all the packaging from plastic to paper and cardboard and needed new shots of the product packaging, as well as marketing photos with service puppies for her brand.
I am a HUGE dog lover,but…
I was hesitant about the idea of dogs coming into my studio, after all, Beethoven would drool over all my equipment, but my concerns were quelled when I was informed that the dogs would be golden lab puppies in training as service dogs. Janet got in touch with two wonderful people named Lu and Dale Picard, the founders of E.C.A.D (educated canines assisting with disabilities) who in short, change the lives of children with autism, military veterans with PTSD, and people with disabilities through the use of Golden Lab service dogs, and they where bringing 3 of their new pups in training to my studio.
If you are photographing puppies, and they are just as well behaved as these 3 golden labs, you’re gonna have a good time. But one thing I lacked in preparation for this type of shoot was extra assistance. Luckily my wife, along with the two trainers were there to help move the dogs around and keep them engaged via direction from Janet, as the client, and me as the photographer. It all fell together perfectly, but It was an element I did not consider until I began shooting, and the thought of not having that extra help would have been difficult.
For a puppy shoot, you should have at least 1 or 2 dog handlers depending on how many there are, with SMALL TREATS ready and prepared to position, redirect, or flop the pups over one another, while knowing they need to immediately take their hands away and lean out of frame over and over. Then ideally, you would want an additional 3rd person as a director, most likely your client, who can watch over the set and direct ideas and positions to the handlers, this way you can keep your eye honed in on everything going on, snapping pictures non stop, because of 80% of your shots will be unusable due to the puppy puddle chaos. That’s 4 people total (including you) and cleaning supplies.
The entire puppy shoot only lasted about 40 minutes total in and out and we made a great time. Afterward, I worked on the product shots. I used a combination of 2 lights with a white backdrop, white posterboard base under a sheet of acrylic plastic to give off a true clean reflection look.
I want to point out that I had no feelings of grumpiness for about a week straight while doing this project, so I think for the benefit of my mental health I will be open to photographing puppies more often. Overall it was a great success, but for any new photographers reading this, it was still nerve-wracking to think about. Even after years of doing photo work I still feel nervous about jobs and clients and it can be a scary prospect. You may feel overwhelmed or dread looking at how your shots came out not knowing if they will be positively received. That feeling won’t go away, so press forward and do the job anyway because it is all a learning process that never stops.