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Thread: Portrait Photography - Advice Needed!

  1. #1
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    Portrait Photography - Advice Needed!

    Hi guys!

    I could really use some (a lot) of advice here! I have been asked today to be the photographer for my dog's vet clinic for their annual "Pet Photos with Santa" event! I have yet to accept because #1 I'm terrified! I have only been a hobbyist over the past few years with just making monthly sales on Getty, Redbubble, Zazzle and the like. I have still only done one wedding (which I am sure you all remember)! I have never, ever done portraits as a paid photographer! I would love to be able to do this since I am unemployed with three dogs, this could result in a very nice credit on my account with the clinic! I have sold photos of my dogs to them in the past which they had put on canvases and are hanging on all their walls in their clinic.

    This would be for only one Saturday for 4 hours. They always get a huge turnout with as long a line as you see in dept. stores for kids waiting to meet Santa! The photo of the pet would be sent out in a greeting card to the owner.

    Question #1) Should I turn it down? Do you think I am getting way over my head on this one?

    Question #2) If I do this, do you think I have the gear I would need or should I rent items? I have a 6d mk I, 7d mk II for cameras, the lenses I could use are Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 and 50-150mm 2.8, Sigma 85mm 1.4 (non-art). For flashes I only have speedlights (Canon 580EX II, 430 EX II, 320EX), I have one softbox, one white umbrella, original version of the Phottix Odin wireless TTL triggers. I have a few cards and batteries (all are pretty old but still useable). I have a tripod and background stand but no background for this, they said one might be provided. Not sure on props. I want to keep what I rent to a bare minimum so it doesn't eat up what I will be making from this.

    Question #3) Settings on camera? There could be anywhere from one small dog or cat with Santa to three big dogs or anything in between. What f stop, shutter speed recommendations can you give me?

    Question #4) She asked me what I would charge. I had no idea what to say and told her I would let her know if I decide to take the gig. Any suggestions?

    Now that I've typed all of this, it is pretty clear what the answer is to #1 but since it is two months away, maybe I can practice and get a set-up that will make this turn out well! I have attached a couple of my dogs photos to get an idea of how much I am lacking in this area. Leaving it to a professional may be my best bet!

    Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Sammy 2012 by Denise Trocio, on Flickr

    Lil' Santa by Denise Trocio, on Flickr

    Ok, maybe the jolly part needs work! by Denise Trocio, on Flickr

  2. #2
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    Hey Denise,

    I tend to shoot action on a field, not studio, so I can't give much advice, but just shooting around the house with a single flash, I can tell you to use a high-speed burst and grab more than one shot. Zuni twitches her ears at the sound of the shutter, resulting in a blur. A burst fixes that.
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    Thanks, David. They did tell me that the previous photography only shot with an on-camera flash so maybe that is all I would need (?) The office is pretty well lit.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Portrait Photography - Advice Needed!

    I would absolutely do it. I did my veterinarian wife's open house last year. Honestly, I only did an ok job (first time), but certainly not up to what I've seen from you. But, apparently, the pet photos were the biggest hit to the point where some pet owners still mention it to my wife.

    That isn't meant to be a modest brag, but more to illustrate that most of these people don't take pics of their pets, if they do it is probably on their phone, and you take amazing pics. So, I would do it.

    I wouldn't worry about photo gear (your current gear is more that sufficient). Instead, have a way to track the pet names and owners. Have a good back drop. Have a set up that will work for small and large pets.

    Then do it, have fun, and I know they'll love it.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 09-10-2017 at 04:57 AM.

  5. #5
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    Do it for sure.....it will be fun and you have everything you need, especially the talent. One flash with a softbox will work probably.

    As for the money ... How will customers get their pictures? Are you providing a digital image or a print or both?

    If you a just taking (and processing) the images and then the clinic is providing the prints AND they are actually bartering with you (exchanging services rather than cash) I would ask for at least $500. That's a very fair price considering the value of your gear and time which includes preparation and time after the shoot to post process. If they don't like the original offer you can negotiate Maybe you could ask what the arrangement had been with the prior photographer?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel Eade View Post
    Do it for sure.....it will be fun and you have everything you need, especially the talent. One flash with a softbox will work probably.

    As for the money ... How will customers get their pictures? Are you providing a digital image or a print or both?

    If you a just taking (and processing) the images and then the clinic is providing the prints AND they are actually bartering with you (exchanging services rather than cash) I would ask for at least $500. That's a very fair price considering the value of your gear and time which includes preparation and time after the shoot to post process. If they don't like the original offer you can negotiate Maybe you could ask what the arrangement had been with the prior photographer?
    +3 on this and Kayakers72's advice
    If you see me with a wrench, call 911

  7. #7
    Senior Member clemmb's Avatar
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    Denise,
    I would take the job. Sounds like you are
    6D with 85 if there is enough room. Shutter at top sync speed in MAN. f-stop as high as possible. Flashes on MAN full power. Play with exposure till you get it right.
    580EX in soft-box and 430 in umbrella. Each light basically on each side of you slightly above.
    I had a cat once that would blink to the pre-flash so I could never get eyes open till I went MAN.
    Find a simple but loud noise maker/clicker. Nothing to scar the pet but to perk the ears and eyes. I have a little from that if you squeeze it will make a loud click sound. Works great to make ears and eyes stand up.
    LOTS of patience.
    Have fun.
    Mark

  8. #8
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    Thank you everyone for the tips and confidence in me. The information provided above is very helpful. One minute I'm like yes, I can do this ...and then not so much! I, of course just really want it to go well for them and that may just mean leaving it to someone with more experience no matter how much I would absolutely love this! Me photographing pets for 4 hours, hello dream job!!

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Well, first, didn't they reach out to you? Aren't your pet photos hanging in their hospital?

    $500 of credit at the clinic for your services is fair. That is ballpark of what I've heard Pros charging for senior pics. Promise 4 hours of shoot time, 4 hours of process time, the deliverable is a zip drive with the photos sorted by owner and pet name. If you feel upcomfortable, ask them what they were thinking. Good chance they've reached out to pros, who would cost the same or more in actual dollars and not hospital credit.

    Seems like a win/win.

    Quickly, my set up was a backdrop that extended from the rod beneath the table. Small dogs were set on the table and bigger dogs the table was removed and they were shot on the backdrop on the floor. The backdrop I ordered didn't come in time, so I improvised with some cloth from Walmart. I used my general purpose lens (24-70) outside under a pop up tent with a flash set to the right. Inside, I would have needed more light. I took a ton of shots, and deleted most but ended up with a few for each pet that I think worked.

    It was nice having an assistant that wrote down the owner and pet name on a white board, so first shot was always the pet with the white board so we could track photos.

  10. #10
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    A friend has a business doing natural-light pet portraits, and she was asked by her pet food store to do Grinch-themed pet portraits last year. She begged me to help her, as I'm crazy about lighting, and honestly she never would have survived without me. First, a description of what I used for that, and then a discussion on what you should use.

    Canon 5DsR with 24-70/2.8 on a tripod and tethered. Pocket Wizards to remotely fire the camera. Consistency was THROUGH THE ROOF because of the tripod. I think we were at about 35mm focal length, and that was basically backed up against a shelf of product, with the backdrop as far away from us as possible within the confines of the store; probably 8'-10' away. I have tons of lights at my disposal, so I went with a four-light setup. Main light was a 3'x4.5' "stretched" hexagonal softbox on my left, vertical. Fill light was a 1x3 strip softbox, vertical. We didn't have much depth to light the background as an independent plane, so I cheated and used two background lights, each in a 1x6' strip softbox, vertical, firing almost at each other across the backdrop. We tethered so we could dump the best shots onto a thumb drive and hand it over ASAP. I think this link will lead you to the video they posted on Facebook - we had no idea they were taking a video at that point. I'm the balding guy in a blue shirt; you'll see the Pocket Wizard dangling from my left wrist as I walk around to get the doggies settled: https://www.facebook.com/pg/FriendsF...=page_internal - if it doesn't work, look up Friends Forever Pet Food - Dooley's Dog House on Facebook and just check their videos section.

    For your event, you're mostly fine with what you've got. 6D and 17-50 is what I'd take. Tripod, absolutely, and any sort of remote button if you've got one. Lighting, either go with what you have (and a truckload of batteries; you'll never be able to recharge enough AAs to put many back into service, which is why I used to own almost 200 Eneloop AAs) or rent one simple 250-600ws studio monolight that is wall powered. You want a modeling light in it so you can confirm light positioning and see your space well. Settings wise, if you're going with speedlights, for me it'd be simple: f/5.6 for reasonable DoF, shutter speed at sync speed (1/160th for 6D I think, 1/200th for 7D2 I think), and then walk the ISO up from 100 until you have too much ambient, then back it down a smidge. Now set up the speedlights and hope they have enough power to do something for you; you want them as low as possible power-wise, so you get the quickest recycle time.

    We shot tethered so we could hand over thumb drives right away. That was WORK for the two of us. She got the dogs out and the next dogs in while I RAPIDLY picked at least two best shots, drag/drop onto the thumb drive, eject, and get ready to shoot the next dogs (sometimes with people, sometimes not). I would scan eyeballs, and if I had enough looking towards the camera I'd shoot. Slow recycle time would have KILLED us; my pack could recycle in less than half a second and I still missed some shots because I saw a moment and fired but the lights weren't ready (that pack is designed so if it's not ready, it will not fire at all, so you either get a perfectly-lit shot or a black shot). Three people would have been better, though cozy. We shot 88 "families" in about 7 hours, and thankfully we were able to set up the night before. Would I do it again? Probably, but I'm certainly not going to go chasing down work like that.
    We're a Canon/Profoto family: five cameras, sixteen lenses, fifteen Profoto lights, too many modifiers.

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