Monday, February 24, 2020

Dog Show Photography Is Regional and Professional!

Not all dog shows do the same thing when it comes to photographers...and a lot of that is regional...find out more below! Announcements at the end of the blog. We are getting ready for our busy season and will be seeing you at shows soon! Please feel free to give us questions for the blog at shows, but due to time constraints please write them down, we are literally answering everything asked in this format BECAUSE it gives us time to do so without being rude! Email and Facebook are always a great way to get in touch!

Why do some shows have multiple photographers listed and what does this mean for an exhibitor?

It depends on the area. The west coast is it's own entity. I have no idea why they work the way they do. Nor do I know how the photographers actually make a living. Many probably have more than one job or photograph more than one type of event.
If you notice a couple different photographers listed in areas other than the west coast. Then, more than likely, the show giving club feels it needs to have more than one company to be adequately covered; or their photographer is "sharing the load" by inviting others in, as they do not have the personnel available to cover the entire event themselves.
The arrangements made and why there are multiple listed will create different experiences for the exhibitor. It should mean more options for the exhibitor and better coverage for the club. I have only ever been to two shows with multiple photographers both as an exhibitor, and both were confusing, but that probably has more to do with me than them, others who had been there before, seemed used to it. My recommendation is to talk to other exhibitors in your area or even the photographers themselves to find out more.
Personally, I will not take a show I cannot service fully.  I will hire or contract any needed photographers and all the equipment needed to work it (computers and desk personnel, tables, extra cameras, etc.).  I believe that working with multiple companies creates delays in the exhibitor finding their image and makes it more difficult to find who took the image for you if there is an issue. Life is already chaotic enough without adding to it! 😃 That is just me, and multiple companies seems to work well for the clubs using them, and apparently the photographers doing it or, they would not continue!

Are there differences in how photographers are contracted around the country?

We all used to be the same, as to what we did, how we serviced a club, and what we provided, the differences being only in what we charged and what we provided to the exhibitor, some of us did two 8 x 10s automatically with others doing just one. What we did for the clubs was pretty standard. 
This has changed over the years, about 30 yrs ago a photographer started giving a discount to "club members" the day of the show (you would be amazed at how many people suddenly belonged to every club). Then, about 20  years ago, a different photographer started actually paying clubs to work their shows. Some he just paid the show chair "under the table"others he paid the club itself. This led to clubs trying to get us to bid for the shows. FYI,  there is limited money in any given show, especially since we pay our own expenses, and that of our help. So, adding the expense of $300-$500 or more for "privilege" to work the show itself? That just adds to the cost and makes some show unworkable. This still goes on today to a lesser extent as some photographers have begun donating to the trophy fund rather than paying for a show outright. The theory was the photographer would make it back in sales. This might have been true at one time. Now?  Not so much. Consider that you get what you pay for, if you are getting paid you are probably not getting much. I do not pay to work unless I am a vendor at the show and I am only a vendor at the show when I do candids and not win photos. A vendor can take time off on their schedule not the shows, a win photographer does not have this luxury.  
As to how we are contacted and thus contracted? That is pretty much the same across the country, the show chair contacts the photographer, and if they are available, takes the info to the club, or board. Although here too things are changing. When I started doing dog show photography in the 1980s it was considered "bad form" to solicit a club (contact them instead of them contacting us). Professional anything did not advertise, did not solicit, did not ask or "beg" for work. This was true of photographers, doctors, lawyers, etc. As I said, the world is changing, and there are now "photographers" out there that actually do solicit a strange thing for me and one I have a hard time adjusting to. After over 34 yrs, I still find it very hard to "ask" or solicit a show. Actually, I still have not done so outside of contacting vendor chairs for my weekends off to work candids. Contacting a show chair directly to say "Hey, I am available on your weekend, hire me" seems off, even if that show chair is a friend.

Speaking of Candids and Win Photos Winter Break is over (thank goodness) and work begins! This weekend I am doing something new (for me) and heading out to photograph Continental Whippet Alliance Racing for the ORCA in Vinita, Oklahoma if you see me there wave...I will be photographing every run and offering discounts if you purchase AT the event! Entries close Wednesday. You can find more information here.  Update:  This event has been cancelled due to weather. We will see you in May at the next scheduled CWA run!

Next weekend is the Heart of America Cluster and I will be doing win photos there for the whole weekend, we have some candid availability as well, contact me via email or on Facebook for more information or to book your spot. HOA is an Onofrio show and you can find more information including the judging schedule on their website.

Have questions? Ask them! Follow us on Facebook for more information. Interested in having us photograph your show? Contact us at either location!  We have updated our website! See our calendar to know where we will be next!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Equipment Questions and More

This week we are covering a variety of questions. We are in need of more questions to answer! Please contact us at our email or on Facebook with yours!

I’m curious what lens do you recommend and best all around settings for camera? Also any tips for photos of smaller dogs on the dang hard!  

This depends heavily on the brand of camera you use, and what type of shot you are trying to get. A win shot or a candid? Inside or out? The number one thing I can tell you is that digital cameras chose light over focus. This is not the choice a dog person wants. To avoid this, especially indoors, a lens with an f-stop of 2.8 is your best bet.
For small dogs always try to be on their level. If they are on a table stand up, if they are on the ground, get down. It isn't always easy for those of us with dog show knees but that is what it takes!

What is the largest barrier in getting started as a photographer?

The dog knowledge needed. Not the cost, but the hard knowledge of each breed you need to have to take a good photo of it.  Equipment is expensive, shows are hard to "get," but the knowledge is the single largest barrier because most don't see it until they try to do it.

What is the typical equipment used by photographers and does it vary between win and candid/action shots?

This is an interesting question because 15 years ago I could have told you what every photographer used, and now I have no idea! 😮 Most, if not all, are digital now, but I truly miss the film! 😥 Times change, and everyone wants their prints yesterday. Digital allows for that. Canon or Nikon are the most commonly used as is true for all photography I think. Lenses and style of camera vary from person to person. Photographers are not really a "social" group as we are always working at the same time, and have little time to sit and chat! 😁

What are some of the top changes good and bad you have seen in dog show photography since you began?

Good and bad? Well that is probably just a  matter of opinion. First, dog show win photos started as a "record shot" to record and help with point counts. Today? They are expected to be mini portraits.  This is tough to do in a reasonable amount of time to respect the judges time frame. This is neither good or bad, just a difference that most exhibitors do not realize, or understand.

On the bad side? 
  • Most exhibitors do not care any more about getting a win shot. The number of photos we take at any given show have fallen off spectacularly.  Most of you only need a "selfie" of the ribbons, you and your dogs. Funny how they are dog shows, and yet half the time on Facebook you barely see the dog in the selfie. "Look what I did today!" I think the theory still is, the dog won, but maybe not. 😏 
  • Those that do come get win photos?  I would say 1/3 of them are judgeless. Exhibitors either don't have time, don't want to wait for the judge, or flat do not care if the judge is even in the photo.
  • Another thing I have noticed is that the common availability of the equipment and it's lowered price point from the film cameras has meant everyone thinks they are a photographer, or that it is an "easy" thing to do. Unless and until they try to work a show, they have no idea of the 'rest of the picture' the nuances of club, judges and exhibitor. The years spent cultivating and learning the quirks of judges, who will finish early and be there ready and waiting for you, who will be late and need you to wait till lunch. Of the way to actually READ a judging schedule and understand it, watch it, and make it work for our needs.  I have also noticed as more people become "photographers", judges that used to have no issues with time or letting you in, seem to be running "closer to time" on that first break. Once they see it is me, they seem to be fine the rest of the day. I have had a couple judges tell me, it's not like it used to be, they are less and less likely to have time, as these "new guys" do not respect them or their time. So, they just don't make the time for it. Its sad really shows should be about the dogs and the judges that judge them should be respected but, that seems old fashioned today I guess.
  • The equipment is "disposable" now. When we switched to digital I retired the film camera I had apprenticed on after over 30 yrs, yes I had some newer cameras and pieces of equipment, but I also had that original one. Digitals?  With the locations of dog shows and the number of images we take I am lucky to get 2 or maybe 3 years out of them. They are meant to be expendable not repairable. Repairs, even cleaning, cost more than purchasing an entire new rig. This is very frustrating because you are never done buying, looking, shopping for at least one piece of equipment.

The good? well, with everything on digital now it is ready faster, up quicker, and out the door sooner.  I think the largest good, has been that with digital comes the ability to order online, pick your own shot, and for the photographer to be paid in advance eliminating receivables we used to carry, sometimes for years.

What is the future of dog show photography?

I am not sure where dog show photography is headed. I suspect that smaller shows and specialties will start putting up a "selfie booth" and not even hire or contract a photographer. As I said earlier, many of my images are judgeless. Our business has dropped significantly in the last 10 years. You don't take the number of photos you used to per day, even at large shows or National Specialties. Dog show photography began as a way to prove your win, at a time when cameras were not common, now they are on our phones and everyone can do it; so I really have no idea where we are headed.

Have questions? Ask them! Follow us on Facebook for more information. Interested in having us photograph your show? Contact us at either location!  We have updated our website! See our calendar to know where we will be next!

Monday, February 10, 2020

Short Answers Part Three

This is the last of a group of posts of questions that didn't require longer answers. I am sure there will be more in the future! I am limiting these to three questions so there isn't as much information to take in! I would like to thank Kim and Odebt for these questions.  Please, without questions there is no blog so ask, ask, ask!

 Can digital images be rushed for ad deadlines?

Yes. However, in this day of digital images, most of us are set up so that you are able to get images almost instantly. It is no longer like the days of film. I have images online within 48 hours of a show (normally much faster, but sometimes driving/weather happens) and digital orders go out within 48 hours, if there are no special requests, of being placed. Very little rushing is actually needed now a days. If you need it faster that that or if your photographer edits images prior to placing them online (which I don't which is how they get online so quickly), then most have a fee and can get it out even quicker if truly needed.. 

Why is everyone in a rush even after the show is over?

Most people are trying to get out to get home, to get to dinner, etc. Every now and then, we have the judge that has a flight scheduled too close and "must go." Another big one is weather; gotta beat that snow, rain, whatever. Judge's and show committees, even many handlers have been on the show site since well before the show began. Despite posted show hours many show days are well over 12 hours in reality.

Personally? I am there until I am done. Once I am done I normally have at least another hour or more of "tear down" since I have added computers for exhibitors to view/purchase the images taken. Thus, we are usually at an event 2 hours or more after it is done. I have begun to stay in the area even on the final day of a show so that I have time to upload images, arrange/send out on site orders and actually be rested as well! I am lucky enough to be doing what I love so I take the time to do it right.

Can I have other people or more than one dog in my photo?

Your photo, your money, your choice. As long as the judge is okay with it, anyone can be in the photo. Just remember, the more you add, the smaller the dog looks, so if a Chihuahua, you might want to pick the dog, up, or set it on a table opposed to the podium. If you have say a Irish Wolfhound the dog will still stand out and be seen.

By the same token, you can have as many dogs in your photo as you like same theory, your photo, your money, your choice. Here however, be considerate of the judge, if you are bringing 6 dogs, make sure you have enough handlers, that the dogs are trained-ish, and that there is a plan in place.  Expecting a judge to stand while we organize 6 untrained dogs, figuring out who can be next to who (bitches in heat and dogs who really, really don't like each other are not good ideas here), is time consuming, and may take time he/she does not have or, does not want to take at that moment. Usually the more dogs you add, then the more angle you want to keep the focus on the dogs. Consider a sitting picture of them all if they will sit. Again, size matters, you can set up six Chihuahuas at a full profile (side shot) and still "see" them all. However, by the time I back up far enough for six Great Danes at a profile, you are going to look like a bunch of ants. Then you consider a strong 3/4, mostly front, or a sitting image of them, allowing me to be closer and allowing for a more genuine look.

There can even be issues with two dogs in one image. Many people think having the dogs facing each other with the judge in the middle is a great shot. It can be for an Irish Setter or similar where ears are not an issue! If you want ears all of the dogs need to be facing in the same direction! I cannot throw toys in two directions AND take a photo! So, you can add all the dogs or people you want, just be realistic on what you expect!

Have questions? Ask them! Follow us on Facebook for more information. Interested in having us photograph your show? Contact us at either location!  We have updated our website! See our calendar to know where we will be next!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Short Answers Part Two

We are in the middle of posts that are multiple questions that don't require longer answers. I am limiting these to three questions so there isn't as much information to take in! I would like to thank Kim and Odebt for these questions.  Please, without questions there is no blog so ask, ask, ask!

Is it okay for the exhibitor to ask for help from the photographer?

I would love to pretend this one confuses me. It is my job to help you, you shouldn't have to ask. However, I know that what is expected from photos and photographers has changed so much, that people are not longer looking for a nice photo to record their dogs win. they are now looking for the "perfect portrait" of their dog and themselves. I also know, that many photographers do not, never have, or no longer tell exhibitors what to fix, or what looks "off." This baffles me, as I grew up with photographers in our sport that ALWAYS told you what to fix, or what needed doing. I was TRAINED by photographers that did, and do, the same. So, although I am often frustrated when exhibitors do not do as I ask, or when they bring a "committee" to help them, I do understand it. 

When an exhibitor tells me they "have never gotten a photo they like" I will usually ask what they have not liked. If they have an answer, then we will work to fix those issues. If they do not have an answer; honestly, the answer is usually in the behavior of the dog or the handler. It is difficult to get a picture you like, if you will not do as asked by the photographer, or if the dog is unmanageable for the photo. What do I mean by this? If I ask you to bring the front underneath your dog, do not then immediately re-stack the rear. If your dog doesn't allow itself to be hand stacked, I am unable to help you fix it's stack or often even the angle it is at and there is really only time for so many circles around to allow him to self stack again. If the dog is so intent on bait that he only looks at you I will not be able to get his head in the correct position with a toy. I will help you as much as I can in the time allowed for the photo by the judge, scheduling and other dogs needing their photo. Please listen carefully and if you need further help ask during breaks!

Are there any secrets to getting a dog to close it's mouth?

First, does this breed really HAVE to close their mouth for the pictures??  Second, is it a miserably hot day out?  
If you really want the mouth closed, then the easy answer is to let the dog cool off, take it back to the set up, put a fan on them. Let them stand on a cool towel. Dogs only have a couple ways to cool off and one is thru panting. So if the dog is panting, and is warm, cooling it off is the easiest answer.
If the dog is panting thru nerves, that of course is a different matter and we can work on it, but only the dog relaxing can truly "fix" it.
For dogs that MUST have their mouths closed for photos, there are a couple ways to close the mouth on a dog who is panting:

  1. throwing a toy, distraction when a dog is "at attention" they tend to not pant,
  2. baiting, most dogs are trained to bait with their mouths shut, so someone who knows how to bait a dog (outside of the frame) can help close the dogs mouth;
  3. touching the back of the dogs tongue will usually close the dogs mouth long enough to get the photo (there is some dexterity and luck in doing this and getting your hand back in position/the dog's mouth shut at the same time);
  4. a spray bottle with a lemon or lime/water mixture will close a dogs mouth, and if you actually practice this, (there is that practice word again) then just having someone hold the spray bottle (out of frame) is sometimes enough; and
  5. some dogs, if trained (I know there it is again) you can just "tap" or "pop" the lead at the right time, and they will close their mouth for the time needed to get that picture.
These are little tricks of the trade; however, remember if the day is miserably hot, or the photo is in direct sun and the dog is dark, or if the dog is overly nervous, or stressed, there may be nothing anyone can do to close their mouth. Our job with the photo is to get the best representation of the dog we can ON THAT DAY, so, nervous or hot dogs, or rain, so the dog is wet. That is what he looked like that day. Sometimes, it just is what it is. 

Do photographers Photoshop dogs upon request?

This is a tricky one for me. Yes, many photographers retouch dogs. Some do it upon request, some do it to all of their photos. Some will fix top lines, or move fronts back underneath a dog. They do whatever they think they need to do to sell their photo. We are in this to make money and that is technically our job.

However, and I cannot say this strongly enough, I WILL NOT PHOTOSHOP A DOG, not to sell a photo, not to please the exhibitor, for no reason will i change the dog. PERIOD!  It is to me, unethical.

I will retake the photo, I will take one you like and replace the one you do not (you like the breed shot, but not the group placement?  I will swap the dogs out.) I will change your head from one to the other, I will add a judge, or move the judge. I will not fix your dogs top line, I will not move the front back, I will not "take that dip out," I will not un-flatten a foot. I was raised in this, I still breed dogs, and for me it is a line I will not cross!  Think of it this way if a photographer is taking money to make your dog look better what is stopping them from taking it to make your dog look worse?

Also, I doubt most realize how much Photoshop has been done on your image by some photographers out there. The photographer you think is so "nonchalant" in the ring, but always seems to "get the shot somehow?" The somehow is most likely Photoshop. I have received these images as an exhibitor and have always requested un-retouched when it was obvious.

Have questions? Ask them! Follow us on Facebook for more information. Interested in having us photograph your show? Contact us at either location!  We have updated our website! See our calendar to know where we will be next!

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