The Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum - Fine Art Landscape Photography

Studio or outdoors

Posted By: Peggy Sue

Studio or outdoors - 05/04/13 11:56 PM


Welcome back James!

I would like to see how you feel about studio pet images verses outside shots. It seems calendars always want outside and they don't mind lots of props. Seems contradictory since outside would be nice in their natural setting, but inside with props makes more sense to me.
That takes me to the use of props - what is acceptable to you? Dressing up pets?




Indoor and outdoor of my pup -




Posted By: James Morrissey

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/07/13 06:05 PM

I would like to see how you feel about studio pet images verses outside shots. It seems calendars always want outside and they don't mind lots of props. Seems contradictory since outside would be nice in their natural setting, but inside with props makes more sense to me.
That takes me to the use of props - what is acceptable to you? Dressing up pets?

Hi Peggy Sue,

Great questions. Honestly, my feeling is that it all depends on what you like and what your client wants. My website (wild coyote studio), which has not been updated in about 4 years, still has tons of outdoor shots in the park. Over the years, we have gotten a reputation for doing formal work with lights and drops. Our clients have become more and more selective in terms of what they are looking for. I think that given the huge disparity between what is shown, you can see what the larger interest for most folks. i.e. the pet in the larger environment.

I have never bothered to stock my work - though I have been debating doing it and have been in talks with a few folks about stocking our work. Preston always said that you would make more money picking cans out of the garbage and from what I hear, it is not a huge business. So, 'what sells' is definitely not my domain of expertise beyond what my individual clients like.

As to the use of props - again, it really depends. I use them very sparingly - but that is because I don't want them to be distracting in the over-all composition. I think of photography as being the exact opposite of painting. In a painting, you start with an empty canvas and build out. With photography, you start with a full canvas and attempt to isolate. Adding elements can be very distracting if not done 'right.'

As to dogs in dress - well, as you can see by the photo from this month's new article, I am not entirely opposed to it. However, it is not my first choice over-all. I like a naked dog - but for some folks the dress is an important part of their relationship with the pet. I figure that as long as no one is being unduely tortured by the clothing that it not such a big deal. :P

Thoughts?

James
Posted By: Peggy Sue

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/07/13 08:49 PM

Interesting answers. It does help to have a clear idea what you prefer so when you get the client that asks what do you think, you can state your preference. It really is best to have on display what you like so hopefully they can just look and "see" the answer. smile

I have a neighbor that has been shooting stock for years and seems to have made a good living at it. I am sure his income has fallen off but with the amount he has built over the years, hopefully it adds up for him. (Although he has been looking to move since our taxes are killing us!) He has used my dogs for years and I have had them on covers of calendars and covers of books that he has done. He shoots very differently than I do and I find that my look is not at all what his stock house would pick.

I am interested to hear how you display or advertise work. Is it the type of work you want to shoot or do you shoot what people seem to want? Do you believe as is often said, do what you love and you will find the audience for your work? (paraphrasing! lol)

Animal show photographers seem to be jockeying for position and have contracts that exclude anyone else from shooting. Do you feel your work is unique enough to stand out? Is competition good or bad for your business?
Posted By: James Morrissey

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/08/13 09:34 PM


I am interested to hear how you display or advertise work. Is it the type of work you want to shoot or do you shoot what people seem to want? Do you believe as is often said, do what you love and you will find the audience for your work? (paraphrasing! lol)


Honestly, I don't advertise...outside of that I consider shooting the Dog Show as 'advertising.' Last year, we had an article with the Chicago Tribune that was picked up in several regional papers as a result of the show. It did nothing for sales, LOL, but I think it does get the word out.

The advertising I DO do is made up of displays. For example, I have two pet shops and a veterinary clinic that is featuring our photographing work here in the City. Most of my business comes from the veterinary clinic.

We also do really (really) well on google searches. I blame that on Chanthee and active key wording.


2. Animal show photographers seem to be jockeying for position and have contracts that exclude anyone else from shooting. Do you feel your work is unique enough to stand out? Is competition good or bad for your business?

Well, what we do is certainly different for SHOW photography...no question about that. I find most show photography to be not that good and people who do it well are worth a mint (aka folks like Jim). People come to me at the show with what appear to be really cruddy ring shots that none of them are happy with. We have a good business taking their ribbons and photographing the dog with them properly.

As to 'what separates me from the other dog photographers in NYC' I think one major thing is that I shoot mostly studio lighting. It attracts a distinctive customer who wants something 'different than a dog in the park.' That is not to say that dog in park photos cannot be completely awesome - they are just different. Your need to know how to use lights properly is key, and I think a lot of 'digital era' photographers still don't really get what they are doing beyond composition. My gut feeling is that folks who don't know how to generate their own light will be put out of business by consumers who couldn't care less about quality with their iPhones over the coming years (I am waiting for the after-burn on that one).

James
Posted By: Jim Garvie

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/09/13 11:31 AM

Peggy Sue,
this topic has covered a lot of ground so let me comment about some of the things you and James have discussed. I don't shoot stock at all. Never have. We've run an ad agency and we purchased a lot of stock images for our clients and still do. When the cost of those images came down to practically zero, it seemed to me that the stock business what not where I needed to invest time or energy.

Now, some folks have done well in stock and continue to make it an integral part of their business plans -- Preston, Helmi, Jim Poor and others. It's just not something I have ever really pursued and I'm not inclined to start now.

Studio vs. outdoor portraits? Yes. Do both; like to do both; will often to both for the same client. It all depends on how the portrait is going to be used. If it's for a magazine or for advertising purposes, either will work just fine. I find that my studio work is technically better for large framed prints to be hung in the home. I think it's the control of the lighting. But I love environmental portraits and I love using props both indoors and outside. I show folks my work online mostly. Or in a book of my work. And we discuss what is in their mind's eye. Plus, some dogs don't really like the studio so outside portraits are the default.

As for show photography, we have exclusive contracts because we're taking all the risk and investing all the cost to be there and shoot all the dogs. We're not just sitting ringside and cherry-picking. I'll be happy to engage in a creative shootout with anybody at any time as long as it's on an even playing field. If I'm taking all the risk -- financial as well as creative -- I'll protect myself with a contract. Now, the folks in California have made show formals a competitive environment at some shows but those folks have been smoking lotus leaves for a lot of years and do a lot of things -- well, differently grin.

As for ring candids, I'll take my chances there. If I can't outshoot somebody else, that's my problem. The bottom line is that the exhibitor deserves to get the best candid they can and if that's not mine, that's OK. But I don't make my living shooting candids. It is purely incremental to my show formals.

Hope that covers some of the ground in your original post. Be happy to discuss further.

Jim
Posted By: psmith

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/16/13 02:34 PM

The problem I have with 'stock' are the micro and free stock sites. I sell stock directly and try to take the middleman out of it in order to make more than a few pennies on my images.

The degree of success depends on how unique your images are or how specific the client needs are.

If you ask me for 58 different breeds of cats, with each breed including several varied, allowed colors - I can help you. If you ask me for a Solid Black Persian on a white background, I can help you. There is value in that.
Posted By: Peggy Sue

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/17/13 12:34 AM

Thanks guys for responding. I had hoped by posting on the pet section we could generate some new people. I really was not interested in stock per se but more of a discussion of studio lightning verses outdoor enviornmental images. Guess it is the old guard (no age inference on that one) smile
Posted By: James Morrissey

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/18/13 01:20 PM

Lol, I am glad to see the old guard, personally!

James
Posted By: James Morrissey

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/18/13 01:22 PM

Hi Preston,

How are you selling stock directly? I know this may seem stupid, but I have never figured out how people are able to do really do it and make a volume doing it.

James
Posted By: Jim Garvie

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/19/13 12:52 PM

Peggy Sue,
I resemble that remark grin. In my opinion, most of the folks getting into the pet portrait business prefer outdoor or environmental portraits because they know very little about using strobes -- indoors, studio or outdoors -- and have very little interest in learning how to. Maybe it's an economic decision or maybe it's an aesthetic one. I'm not sure.

The old guard as you kindly refer to us has been using multiple strobe setups for a lot of years and so that gives us a bit more flexibility in choosing which environment is going to work best for what you're trying to achieve in the portrait session. With dogs, I think you can get good results in either environment. With cats, I can't imagine that you can get the type of results that Preston or Helmi get without a studio setup.

Jim
Posted By: Peggy Sue

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/20/13 04:47 AM

Too funny, since I include myself in that generic "old guard" remark. grin

I agree that many newbies to the animal world seem to start out in the outdoors and then gradually stop saying "I prefer that lighting", when the learn how wonderful indoor studio work can look.

I shot commercial work for many years and used hot lights. When I built my studio I soon realized that myself and the four legged clients could not take the heat. But it sometimes works for babies smile I have to turn up the heat for the rug rats - LOL

Jim, I am looking forward to more images of your new pup. How about posting some here?
Posted By: Jim Garvie

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/20/13 01:43 PM

Peggy Sue,
now that the major work is completed for the Dalmatian National we just shot, I'll be catching up with portraits of all the dogs but we'll concentrate on Jimmy first. I'll share when I have something new.

Cheers,

Jim
Posted By: psmith

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/21/13 04:00 PM

Mainly through personal contacts I've established with editors. Although more and more come through folks that see my work on Facebook, or see a photo credit in a magazine.

Originally Posted By: James Morrissey
Hi Preston,

How are you selling stock directly? I know this may seem stupid, but I have never figured out how people are able to do really do it and make a volume doing it.

James
Posted By: James Morrissey

Re: Studio or outdoors - 05/23/13 09:04 PM

Thanks, Preston. You have had to figure out and negotiate your own rates then - or are you using the stock calculator?

James
Posted By: Jenny

Re: Studio or outdoors - 10/02/13 08:50 PM

For myself and I know this applies to others in my area, a studio is just too expensive. Personally I haven't had the opportunity to get much experience with studio lighting but would be willing to learn it.
Posted By: Jim Garvie

Re: Studio or outdoors - 10/06/13 11:49 AM

Jenny,
my "studio" consists of the two Alien Bee 400s I bought in 2000, two light stands, a backdrop stand and a variety of backdrops. I can set that up anywhere either in my own home or in the home of a client. The portability factor was very important for me since I bring this setup to the dog shows I shoot. But I've used it as well for pet portraits and the fact that you can bring it with you makes it more convenient for the animals I shoot since they can stay home and be comfortable.

I use the strobes for outdoor shoots as well when I want to be absolutely sure of the lighting and control the shadows. Yes, I've had that setup in a home studio and it was convenient but you don't always have to have a physical studio to take studio portraits. And learning how to use studio strobes greatly increases your versatility and what you can offer professionally.

Jim
Posted By: Peggy Sue

Re: Studio or outdoors - 01/05/14 05:26 PM

Happy New Year!

Update…
About a year after the start of this subject, I have ordered several new backdrops in order to play more inside. Might be because the outside temperatures are suppose to reach record lows tomorrow, but also because I do want more control to be able to shoot when I feel like shooting. Weather really does sometimes get in our way!

This background was purchased on a lark and is meant to be the start of a project that will become a painting. But I like the way it shoots and is a bonus to have a fun added benefit. Cannot wait for the new backgrounds to arrive and start to play.

Still the question is….
Do you like indoor or outdoor or both and why?



Posted By: BGryphon

Re: Studio or outdoors - 01/08/14 02:05 PM

As to the original question; inside or out? I would love to have a studio and do more formal work.

I was able to assist Peggy Mundell when she was here in her cross-country tour a few years ago and enjoyed using het kit. Now I do seasonal work taking school ID pix for a national firm; for those I also get to use a 'real lighting kit' - although hauling 120 pounds in and out, setting up, tearing down, etc is not so much fun.

Taking my part-time pet photo business full-time suddenly and a year or two ahead of plans when I got laid off means I don't have a studio. So I have to work on-site; exterior or interior with my own limited portable lighting.

My connections, volunteer work and pure chance has lead to my doing more work with cats and 'small pets' (bunns etc) than pups which has made the need (although not my desire) for a studio a bit less.
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