After the fantastic experience I had hosting my first Dog Photo Booth at Glens Falls Pet Fest in City Park, Glens Falls last year, I knew I had to return for the 2nd annual event. As simple as the concept may sound, hosting a photo booth (let alone one for dogs) involves a number of technicalities. Having never hosted a photo booth before, last year was a tremendous learning experience for me as a photographer.
When the event ended, I shared my photographs online and they were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people — which was pretty cool. After the fact, I had photographers reach out to me and ask questions about my experience, my equipment, pet photography and more. The project opened opportunities for me to write articles for popular photography blogs. I even licensed one photo of a dog to a large veterinary acquisition firm. This was all great, but the truth was that last year I failed to break even on my investment in the event and as much as I loved my product, it just wasn’t worth the amount of time I’d put into it, financially. Additionally, there were issues with lighting, with lines of people waiting to have their dog photographed, and with my delivery process.
For this year’s event, I opted to take the more traditional photo booth route — instant photo delivery. That meant buying a 4″x6″ photo printer (Epson PictureMate 225), and associated supplies. I opted to switch out the blue vinyl backdrop I used last year for a white cloth backdrop to create a clean white, headshot-like photograph. This simplified my lighting setup while maintaining a professional-looking image. The end result was a beautiful, take-home product at $10/photo or $15 for the photo and the digital file emailed after the event (with 10% of all sales going to a local animal shelter). Once again, I made my dog Red model the prototype:
And it worked! With the price point and presentation of the product, combined with repeat customers from last year, I ended up photographing more than twice as many dogs as last year. Here are some of my favorite shots:
Here are the technical details: Canon 6D, 50mm STM, (3) Yongnuo 560IV Speedlites (one in a softbox off to the left, two on the backdrop), Yongnuo 560-TX Transmitter, and white cloth backdrop + stands. The camera was tethered to Lightroom via USB cable and the printer was hooked up to the computer. This setup allowed me to snap 3-5 pictures of most dogs (quick tip: hold the squeaker from one of your dog’s toys in your opposite hand), select the best one, crop and apply a quick preset edit and send it to the printer where my girlfriend could then assemble the matte and have the product to the customer no more than two minutes later. That meant spending about five minutes with every pup.
Photographing dogs in this environment is probably as difficult as it gets in pet photography because it is the ultimate high-distraction environment for a dog. I was rolling around on the floor to get on-level with smaller dogs and doing everything I could to get them to be well-positioned and to look at the lens. The key was waiting until they were in just the right spot, squeezing the squeaker against the camera body and getting THAT shot. Once they realize there is nothing of interest to them, good luck getting them to look at you again. Some dogs were much easier than others.
On gear issues, right as the event started my backdrop blew over knocking over my MacBook because it was so windy, despite the sandbags. I had to quickly rotate my entire setup 90 degrees to prevent that from happening again. I also had Lightroom randomly quit on me about halfway through at about the worst time, but I was back up and running in five minutes. I used my 50mm STM this year instead of the 17-40L I used last year because I thought the working range was perfect. This was mostly true, but I did struggle a little bit with keeping dog’s noses completely in focus at such a close working distance so I think I will use a different lens next year — probably my 35 Art. The 50 STM is also a tiny bit soft, I feel.
I think for next year I will mix up the background and theme a bit just to keep things interesting, but I’m really happy with the way things went this year. I’d like to thank all of the event organizers and dog owner’s for helping to make Glens Falls more dog-friendly and for putting on a great event!
About the Author
Jason Checkla I am a wedding and family photographer based in Lake George, NY. You can visit his site and follow him on Instagram and Facebook for more of his work. You can also check out his post on Pet Photography Tips to get better yourself. This article was also published here and shared with permission.