As a commercial photographer, I love the tightrope between certainty and serendipity. Fortunately, I get to walk that tightrope a lot while shooting lifestyle photos that involve both people and animals. Lifestyle photography can be challenging, especially when you don’t have previous experience with the models. Sometimes they’re on, sometimes they’re off, but either way you have to find a way to synch and get the shot. Throw a dog into the mix and you can have a real challenge. Even the best trained pups sometimes need motivation and can easily be distracted. Oh, you want perfect weather too? Check the forecast and cross your fingers, especially here in Oregon or New York. The two dog lifestyle photos shown below are from two totally different situations. One photo totally planned, and the other totally by chance.
The skateboarding shot was an advertising and catalog photo for Ruffwear’s new Commuter Pack. We wanted an image that showed how this product could be used by someone living the outdoor adventure lifestyle with their dog, while commuting in the city. Everything was planned out. The location was scouted, the seasonal colors intentional, time of day to the minute, direction of sun to the exact degree, the models casted. It all came together perfectly on a chilly Fall morning at 7:43am.
The image of the dog and his pal at sunset was a totally different story. We had been out on location that day for 11 hours, shooting various lifestyle and product photos, with various dogs and their human companions. Earlier, we had photographed these two in a planned situation that never really came together, for one reason or another. We were able to get some nice shots of the product that were needed, but nothing that I was really excited about. We then we moved on to the next set of shots at a different location with different models, as planned, about an hour before the sun went down.
We got some nice shots of a scene with a couple hanging out around a firepit with their dog, looking good with her beautiful leash and collar. Nice shots, just as planned. It was a wrap. As I was putting my cameras away and my assistant was packing up the lights, I looked up to see the two models we had photographed earlier, enjoying a beautiful sunset. It was perfect, except it wasn’t planned! So, there was no product in the shot. The creative director was able to dig up a leash and collar that we were shooting earlier and get them on the dog without disturbing the scene. The sun had gone down and it was getting dark fast. The human model was handed a beer and my assistant broke out a Profoto B1 strobe with a grid to pump a little extra light onto the dog and product. I managed to get 5 frames off before it got too dark and the colorful glow of the sunset faded. Fortunately, we only needed one, and we got it.
Certainty or serendipity – which do you prefer?