I wanted to visit with all of you who are taking times out of your lives and fostering these wonderful doodles in need that have bonded us into a tightly knit rescue unit!  I fostered quite a few in a short amount of time, until health and personal reasons put me on a back burner, hopefully soon to make enough strides to jump back onto the hot plate!

One of the most important things that I learned as a foster, is that good pictures are one of, if not THE most important component of every adoptable doodle's Petfinder listing.  

A great photo goes a long way when it comes to rescued pets. Great photos attract more potential adopters and increases our chances of receiving a good number of viable applications. More applications gives us more choices, good choices, in where to place that dog.

Because DRC will always stack the deck in the dog's favor, it is so important that we give good descriptions of our foster dogs so that an appropriate match can be made based on the dogs needs, personality and temperament.

But, we all have to admit, the first thing that attracts us or anyone to a particular doodle's listing is a photo.

Photos are in fact, the dog's, first impression to a potential adopter. Which is why it is imperative that we as fosters, do our very best to take great photos of our foster dogs.


Since photography is my main source of income, I thought I would share a few tips that might help increase the number of applications.

There is rarely a dog that is EASY to photograph, especially in a foster situation and definitely early on, when you need the photographs to post.

The number one mistake is getting into too big a hurry and not preparing adequately to take good pictures.The quality of the camera is not the issue....In fact, these days more and more people rely on cell phone cameras to take photos...It's about the preparation. The knowing in advance what needs to be seen and how to show it, that is the biggest cause for photos that don't highlight the dog to its full potential.

SO, FIRST THINGS FIRST

If you are using a cellphone camera, be sure that you have your phone camera set to take larger file photos..... 100 DPI (dots per inch) or more.. 72 DPI is typically an insufficient amount of pixels for quality, higher resolution photos.

If at all possible, make sure the dog is clean, groomed, or at least brushed before you snap that picture.  Even when a dog's legs aren't brushed and looks like they might be stringy, uneven, LOOK like they may be matted even if they aren't, it gives the immediate visual impression that the dog comes with extra "needs". We all know that doodles have high grooming needs and we stress this during the application process. However, DRC, doesn't want it to look as if the grooming requirements are so high that we can't handle it within our foster homes.

Your families are instrumental in being successful foster homes for these dogs.  My children have done things that they never thought they would see or do and learned oh-so-much by being involved. But when you or other family members are in a foster dog photo, you need to remember that:

A. people are looking at these photos so they can see the dog. Not you or your family. People in dog photos not only inhibits the applicant from having a clear view of the dog, it is a distraction.

B. These photos are going on the Internet. They cache and will stay on the Internet forever. So if you happen to be a person who values you and your family's privacy, you really don't want their likeness plastered all over cyber-space.


LESS IS "MORE"


There are definitely times when you need to utilize as many people as possible to get a dog to be still long enough for a photo to be taken.  In these cases - remember LESS IS MORE. Less humans in the photo and more dog...  Zoom.  And zoom some more.  
Try not to capture your family member's smiles but only their hands if anything.

Actors and models always submit head shots for consideration for new jobs and roles.  It is an opportunity to be able to look people/dogs right in the eye.  The eye is the doorway to the soul...???  I would recommend a close shot of the face, which I know isn't always easy. Actually, it's rarely been easy! But I can tell you that when you do get one where people can look that dog right in the eye, they connect!  

How many times have you lifted your doodle's face by the chin and looked him/her right in the eye and talked to them?

Keep in mind that DRC President Jacquie Yorke is cropping and editing dog photos for presentation on Petfinder and our website. If you send large file photos (100 DPI or larger) many times she can crop a headshot from one of your other full body shots.

Some foster babies are a little more active than others so it is important to make sure that all physical needs are met before even trying to get pictures.  Feed them.  Give them a treat to make sure they're full!  They tend to get a little less active with a full tummy.  It is perfectly fine to let them chew on a toy while taking the picture.  It is actually endearing!  The bonus is that it looks MUCH MUCH better than showing them sniffing around the yard.  Every dog sniffs around a yard, but the one to fall in love with is the cute one playing with the toy!

LIGHTING

I cannot stress how important lighting is. Especially for black dogs and our other less-than-light friends. What you are trying to accomplish with your photos is to capture that sparkle in the eye and/or the difference in tones - anything to break up the sea of darkness that is the curse of the black dog (I have a black Goldendoodle so I know only too well how hard he is to photograph!).

Take the dog outside. OUTSIDE IS ALWAYS BETTER!

If you're inside:

DO NOT SHOOT THE PHOTO OF THE DOG IN FRONT OF OR NEAR ANY WINDOW!  

We can't begin to tell you how many times we receive indoor photos that are shot in this manner and how FRUSTRATING it is to those of us who have to try to fix them and compensate for lack of light, shadows and under-exposure!


Backlighting does NOT work!...It only places the dog in the shadows and makes the dog appear darker in the photo. It also overexposes the background and underexposes the dog!

Under exposed photos are next to IMPOSSIBLE to correct in Photoshop! Plus it already takes a tremendous amount of time and patience to crop and prepare photos for presentation as it is.....Sending photos that need major doctoring, like the ones mentioned above, just wastes the precious time of our fearless leader.

EXAMPLES OF BAD PHOTOS AND CORRECTION ATTEMPTS

This photo (L) was sent to us by a foster. It is 5" by 5", 72 DPI and completely under exposed. Next to it (R) is our attempt to correct. As you can see, because the file is so small, there was no way to possibly work with this photo without making it look even worse.

Here are examples of what happens when you take low resolution, cell phone photos indoors, in front of a window...Distorted, under exposed foreground, overexposed, fuzzed out, distorted background. No definition, no way to fix.

AFTER YOU SNAP THOSE PHOTOS

After you take your photos, look to see what you have. See if the dog's coat appears to have texture or if it looks like a solid mass of color without any definition. If it doesn't look like there is any texture or definition, you need to increase your DPI and play with your lighting.

When submitting your photos to be uploaded onto Petfinder or our site, make sure you submit HIGH RESOLUTION.

Whatever software you use, whether Photoshop or other, you can achieve this by RESIZING the IMAGE.  Many programs and cell phone cameras default to 72 dpi. You simply change your dpi to 300 within your settings.  That will make the photo file size increase dramatically, so you then can crop the photo, change the percentage ratio size (if you aren't familiar with these terms, don't worry! - Just work on trying to figure out how to get it to 300 dpi) to a lesser percentage so that the ending file size is around 5 MB.


So, long story a little longer:

1. Good lighting is key - OUTDOORS IS ALWAYS PREFERRED!

2.  Dog should be groomed and content before even trying to snap a photo.

3.  Minimize amount of background "noise" (people, objects, home interiors) and zoom in or crop so you focus on the doodle.

4.  Imperative to use high resolution!


5.  You will need to submit a head shot, and at least two body shots, preferably one standing or sitting (lying down isn't the best unless it is lying on the stomach with head up)

6. If you need help, let someone else click while you work with the dog. More often than not, a foster is much better at getting a dog into an appropriate position and having a friend or spouse actually just point and shoot may produce better results.

Thanks for all you do to help these wonderful creatures we have all grown to adore so much, and happy shooting!

My next post will be on how to get young children to smile for Christmas card pictures....yeah, right!

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Replies to This Discussion

thanks so much for the tips and instructions! I have had 3 fosters - 2 were black and very difficult to get a good picture. I took the before and after of Benson, to show the contrast. I didn't follow all the directions above on the before, just couldn't believe the condition he was in and so was snapping pics of the grooming process. I will try your suggestions on the next ones and on my own dogs, although they are easy being white and apricot!
Thanks!!!
I knew that I could count on you Kim to put this all together in a concise, detailed and intelligent discussion........Thank you!...Beautiful job!....

I do want to also mention that cell phone photos are usually not the best photos to use for listings.....They usually come through distorted, motion blurred, low rez with details and color flattened......

Try to photograph a light colored dog against a darker background and vise versa with in regards to Black dogs....

So many times I receive photos of white dogs against white backgrounds and all detail is lost with the white against white.....

White dogs photographed against white backgrounds always look over-exposed and void of detail and contrast. It is very difficult to fix these photos even in Photoshop with a different exposure setting.....

I also receive many photos of black dogs against black backgrounds in which case the dog is lost black against black....it is better to photograph black dogs outdoors as I can always use the "shadow/highlight tool in Photoshop to lighten, refine and enhance the dogs features.
I don't have access to a black doodle but my daughter has a very black lab. What I have done is a very easy photo fix provided by my Mac. I lighten the shadows. This is not photoshop or fancy which I don't know how to do.
Before:

And lightened just a bit:

This was taken in our RV door so he was at eye level. Then the other dogs were cropped out and it was lightened a bit. Look how fabulous he looks:

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