Last week the foster coordinator at the shelter called and asked if I was interested in photographing puppies that were in foster care and about to have their surgeries on Monday. As many of you have probably heard me rant/whine about the main space at the shelter for photographing pups is the least ideal space for photography, so needless to say I was more than excited to get the opportunity to photograph puppies anywhere other than our regular spot.
So the voice mail message goes something like this….. there are 10 puppies, their mom, another litter of 9 puppies and then a momma cat and her 3 kittens…. 10 + 1 + 9 + 1 + 3 = 24 animals …. Yikes! That is alot of animals on any given day. So immediately I got in touch with my Tuesday counterpart, Bonnie, and she agreed it was best to get these puppies photographed before they got to the shelter. We also agreed that our cat studio setup at the shelter was the best for cats and we would wait until they returned to the shelter.
So probably the worst thing to do before photographing 19 puppies is to actually see 19 puppies in mass. Wow! That was bunch of puppy. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that site. After quickly assessing the full kennel space, I could see that it just wasn’t going to work inside the kennel. There just wasn’t enough floor space to set up. So Plan B, check the weather….. looked like Saturday would be a beautiful day. Bright sunshine and nice moderate temperatures. We got lucky.
Plan B was to use the back of our cars to set up a make shift studio. I have a 2005 Subaru outback that has always been very versatile. I have hauled many things in that car, camped in it, traveled very far in it and even used it to pull out overgrown shrubbery but would it make a good photography studio? It was time to find out.
The next morning came and we had a team of 4 of us heading to the kennel to photograph. 2 photographers and 2 handlers. The wonderful folks at the kennel had called in their reserves as well and were washing the pups. Setting up the Subaru worked great. I draped my fabric backdrop over the back seats and across the back area. Didn’t much have to secure anything, it just fell into place. Unlike cats with claws the puppies didn’t actually move the fabric out-of-place too much. To do it again I think I would try to run the fabric panels around the windows much like a curtain in a camper van. We had several background changes and here you can see the blue over the pink.
Thanks to the little bit of planning and teamwork from a bunch of superheroes, we created a puppy photography assemble line! It was magnificent. Puppies being washed and dried and then the handlers brought them to the makeshift studio. We did this in tandem with two mobile photo studios going.
Bonnie did the same with her “new” car. There really are no bounds to people who love animals. Her car is about a month old and she never hesitated once at putting puppies in the back of it. Of course the powers that be gave her something to think about by giving her all the peeing pups. Not one of the pups we handled that day did anything other than play and mug for the camera. In Bonnie’s batch of pups they had 4 pee on the fabric. They were quick to clean up, switch backgrounds and not allow any urine to soak through, but that is the story of how Bonnie got rid of that new car smell. 🙂
Overall, this worked better than I imagined it would. I kept my f-stop down as low as I could (no big surprise there) to help eliminate the background clutter. I broke a few rules like photographing black dogs in full sunshine but somehow it all worked out.
The best part of all of this was the tremendous team effort. Thanks to Bonnie, Donna, Joan and the fine folks at Mud Lick Kennels for stepping up and fostering and washing these lovely little souls when no one else could.
Here are a few of the precious pups that are now available at the Roanoke Valley SPCA ……