Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Pawsing" to dig around a little in pet photography.

   Why do you do what you do? Everyone has a reason, a pay off of sorts for what they do, or we wouldn't do it, right? That thought process can be used in any part of your life, from family to profession. If you are photographer, why do you shoot the type of photography that you do? Why do you love it? I have asked myself this question a lot. And it was a no-brainer for me to decide to add Pets as a normal part of what I offer as a photographer.

   Pets and I have a life long history. Looking around my desk as I write this I see Percival in the window to my left. He is a rescue kitty ~ one of 79 Cornish Rex cats confiscated from the U.P. in Michigan. At my feet, ALWAYS is Angus, my Standard Poodle boy. He literally is the heartbeat at my feet. Snoozing in the sun on my bed is Edgar, a wirey mix that was rescued on his last day before being gassed at a shelter in Georgia. Pippa, who does bad things, has interupted this by chewing on my honey's string of his shorts. She is our most recent resident. I am a sucker. Through and through. And she was a shelter pup that needed her photo taken for the website. Volunteering will be the death of me lol. Wouldn't have it any other way! Since I can't bring them all home, my best friend and neighbor adopted a fabulous boy that caught my heart. I get to see him every day. And my father in law is enjoying the company of another of my volunteer endeavors. Hey, they are the gift that keeps on giving. And in a most selfless way. Last but not least is Puccini. He is an oldie these days (and I DO love an oldie). A French Bulldog that could not be any cuter. My husband brought it to my attention the other day that he thinks P Man is "losing his marbles". He has taken up guarding, guarding things that are not there. So around that we work. No toys are allowed to be left around the house unless you want him to get riled up. This morning he was having a good morning, running through the house like a little pig. Hilarious! Tickle his belly and it really winds him up. All of this to say, obviously pet photography is as natural a thing for me as breathing.

  I have always said that if I ever were to go into photography as a business I would be tickled to just do pets. Why? Not only do I know them like the back of my hand, but I have this idea that people always think their pets hung the moon, and don't think they take bad pictures. Take the same person, the owner of the pet, and take their picture. They are more than likely going to have insecurities about their appearance. And this is no matter how good the picture is. Take a picture of that persons pet, and they are goo goo over it. Pets in this day and age, more often than not, are really and truly family members. They can render their people helpless against their charms. People turn into baby talking softies around them. This leads me to think that since pets wear their hearts on their sleeves, no pretences, that it is a contagious attitude. And it is one that we should all strive for.

   So where do you begin?  A successful pet portrait is one that shows their personality. And since they are expressive beings, dogs especially, one "pose" can have many different looks. You want this to be your main goal ~ the kind of portrait is where your style comes in. You have to know what type of pet portraiture you want to do. I love candid lifestyle type of photography, for humans and pets. I get a lot of details, what they would be doing in their day to day, playing, eating, whatever. The key is to keep their attention...and depending on your model,this can be easier said than done. Get acquainted with them. It's a common courtesy that you would extend to a two legged subject. These guys are no different. Maybe play a game with them a bit. Bottom line is, if you want a successful shoot, you have to speak their language.

  What do you do? Pets are like kids in a lot of ways. They are definately more comfortable in the surroundings they are familiar with. Where that is, is really up to the pet. Some pets are used to the dog park, others are home bodies. They are usually pretty wound up for the first 15 minutes or so. Get some practice shots off to check your light. This also gets them used to the sound of your shutter. My shutter is really loud, and this can be a benefit and a detriment for me. Sometimes I can't get a puppy at the shelter to sit still or even look at me. That shutter is sometimes the only thing that gets them to stop long enough and look at me. I will say that it has really been my experience that even my dogs don't like the camera right in their face. So give them a chance to get used to you being there with this weird thing on your face lol. If they don't warm up, ask the owner if they have a treat you can use, hot dogs are a dogs best friend.

  What equipment do you use? Lenses are the major important thing here. I shoot almost exclusively with my 50mm. It is a good length for me, person or pet. It is fast, so it's good in low light. It doesn't hang off of my camera ~ great for those bouncy dogs. But I also shoot with an ultrawide angle 18-35mm and a super cheap, gray market 70-300 lens. This is why. That lens is light. It gives me great reach for shy animals. And if a dog crashes into it, I will not cry over it. It's actually a nice lens for what I need it to do, if it is good light. So it is ideal for the shelter which was my sole purpose for purchasing it. Those dogs can be very shy and just simply shut down if there is a person there, let alone a person who has a camera. You have to have the ability to shoot in different types of lighting. Natural light is ideal for true to life images. But I also had to be able to shoot indoors with crummy lighting if I was going to be confident that when someone paid me, I could deliver what I said I could. Since actual posing is not really an option (like turn your head this way, laugh, bend your leg, etc...) the creativity of different perspectives and angles, lenses, backdrops go a long way. And you can't be afraid to make odd noises to get their attention... :) You may even have to get down on your belly. Get down to their level. You will be amazed at how it changes your image. Focus on their eyes unless you specifically want a "parts" shot. It is definately a work out. It can be frustrating and trying, especially when you are asked to work with an animal who isn't well trained. If you are frustrated, they will sense it. And if that happens, you might as well pack up and go home because the session is finished.

   How do you get better? Practice! Of course! Volunteer. Our shelters nationwide, are understaffed. And these animals lives literally depend on how they are campaigned. If they don't make it to the website, and their hold time is up, no one has seen them, and they are euthanized. It is a major epidemic not only in our country, but our whole world. You can never fully know how your volunteering has helped, and even saved lives. So it is a tenfold gig. You get practice, under challenging circumstances (which makes other sessions a cake walk and really prepares you for the worst case scenario). You save lives. You enrich peoples lives by bringing these pets into them. You help carry the load of these over worked shelter staff. And so much more. Look at it this way. You have the opportunity to shoot every shape and size pet in one after noon. That's like some sort of marathon! One of the pet photographers that I adore, and look up to even though we don't have the same style of shooting is Robyn Arouty ( ). She turned her passion for volunteering for these animals in need into a rockstar of a business. But she STILL volunteers. Leesia Teh is another one ( ). These ladies give back and I firmly believe they are as successful as they are because they give back and are selfless. Such inspirations! If you feel up to it, volunteer with local private rescues. They always can use a great shot to get these pets in to fab homes.

   We can leave the world a better place with the gift we have as photograpers. Why not change the world for a homeless pet, with our gift as photographers? It happens. And it is utterly gratifying.

This is a span of my beginning to present day work :)
On my bedroom floor, Angus on my bed looking down at me.

This was shot at a newborn shoot (twins!).

I kicked the ISO up as high as it would go. My house is like a tomb it's so dark. And it was rainy and gray out. He was facing the only window (above door) that was getting light at all. 50mm.

Percival the same day as the one above. This also shows his character ~ he is a big mouth :) Talks all the time!
 Studius Edgar. Same day as the two above. Because he was facing the light, notice the catchlights. Same premise in portraiture as humans.

 It's fun to put together a series. Especially when there are two or more pets in the photos. This is how these two spend most of their day while the girls are at school.

Very very low light in the aquarium. But still, I caught this rays expression ~ even fish have personality!

Through glass. But the lighting is natural. Taken at the same aquarium as the ray above. Even through the glass this is very nice! This penguin was strutting for me.
 Pippa, who does bad things :)  She makes up for it being a SUPERB snuggler. Bokeh, ROT'ish , and a funny noise makes for a great portrait. Catchlights and all! Pip is 4 pounds, and so I was on my knees. Had a I been on my belly, it would have made for a totally different image.

This is the sweetheart that my best friend adopted. I get to see his handsome mug everyday! He had been at the shelter since April, after the tornados ripped through the southern states. Our area was hit very badly. His adoption occured soley because his picture was put on Facebook. It saved his life.

This pretty lady was also adopted the same day that Apollo was. She too had been there since April. Yay!

This is P Man. Feeling a little sheepish after coming back in the house completely crummy and cobwebbed up. This is a snapshot because I thought it was funny. And he HATES to have his picture taken. But I had his I won.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fun film FUN

  I have a love affair with film - even though it scares me a little. LOL. But I love it. I entered a contest to win a fun little film camera. If you haven't checked out Spindle Photography, you need to do so. She does great work and her images are very classic...clean and timeless. She is the one hosting the giveaway. Check her out here:

Hope everyone is having a great week so far. As for me, it is a Stones kind of day...Goodbye Ruby Tuesday!

Monday, August 29, 2011

We do love the music!

   I have always tried to encourage my love of music to my kids. I do believe it is something that feeds my soul. The possibilities are endless, and no two songs ever have to be the same. It is mind blowing. I love all types of music. I cut my teeth on the Rolling Stones, I get the "Led" out, I can have a Hard Days Night and still, I Feel Fine, thanks to the Beatles, and there is plenty more where that came from. It was very varied lol. Born in the late seventies and really growing up in the eighties and nineties, you would think I would feel jipped on some iconic music. But dig deep enough and there is some really great stuff in those decades too. What impresses me more than listening to music is watching it be made.

   I have a great ear for good music. But there is something deep and kindred about watching someone "make" music. To see an inanimate object come to life and fill the air with its song, it is nothing short of amazing. I once had an up and coming singer who performed at a local coffee house come up to me and say thank you for my "undivided attention" lol. I was just blown away at how his fingers just flew over the strings! I sort of felt like a stalker. But I guess it made him feel like he did something really good. Hopefully he wasn't creeped out lol.

   Anyway, Biggest did her stint with the violin. Taught by the fabulous Mr. Lister. And yes, I love his name. He went on to retire, much to her dismay so she didn't go back. Now Middle has grabbed on to the cello. Oh how I love the cello. It is so deep and soulful. Today is her first day of practice at school. If you haven't had a chance to check out the Etowah County Youth Orchestra, so do! What an amazingly talented group of kids. They do class twice a week at school called beginner strings. An awesome thing for kids to do!

   This is Middle's cello baby for the year. She is very pretty! She's a modest gal and doesn't want to show too much of her body :) Just like she should be!


Friday, August 26, 2011

A few more changes

  I mentioned in a previous blog post, and on my facebook page that there would be some big changes coming to Brooke Bikneris Photography. We had a few things pending, so making those decisions really couldn't be put into action until a few big questions were answered. The major question was about my husband's job and if we would be moving. Praise the LORD he got  new job, and we won't have to move for it. It's hard to make decisions that are best for your business if you don't know where that business is going to be, location wise.

   Some of the things that are changing are my prices. Some are session types that I will offer. The things that bang around in my mind are endless. And I am finding my way in incorporating these things into my business. I will be offering new products to my clients as well. These things are in effect now. Please go to my website to see the updates.

   Sincerely looking forward to what will be going on the rest of the year and for a banging 2012!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Narrowing it down

   I have been actively pursuing a photography business for a year, nearly on the nose. Over that time, I haven't really taken the time to REALLY photograph my girlies for a portrait of their own. I mean, I have taken their pictures, but I wanted to do something specific. I had all these ideas. But frankly, I just want one picture of the three of them together. So I am on a quest. I am taking a challenge. This is the first photograph that I will be putting into the hat of which photo will actually go on the wall. It may be a canvas, it may be a metal print. I haven't made up my mind yet. It is exhausting trying to get my OWN kids to take a picture for me. What is it about your own kids?

  I also have to pick two portraits to display in a local salon. They love supporting the arts, and do so by having local artists display their work, and I will be the first photographer to do so. It is very hard to decide which ones will be picked. If I know me, I will lose sleep over it.

Here is the product of today!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pet week at I Heart Faces

This weeks challenge at I Heart Faces is Pet Week.

This is my entry ~ Wee Little Pippa.
Pip is a whopping 4 pounds now. We adopted her from the local humane society when she was 12ish weeks old and a pound and a half! We love her to bits!

This photo was entered into the I Heart Faces photo challenge –
I Heart Faces - Photo Challenges & Photography Tutorials

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How can you spark a passion for conservation in your kids?

   I am a HUGE lover of animals. And consequently, so are my kids (and the honey has been recruited as well). Conservation is a whole other "animal". What makes someone care about something they usually only read about? Is reading about it enough? I don't think so. These are some old pictures from earlier this year in Gatlinburg, Tennessee at the Ripley's Aquarium. I am a lover of experiences. And we have always gone to the "touch" pools to feel what we normally never get to feel. This started when I was 18. We had already graduated and my friend and I flew for the first time, out to California to stay with her aunt. I was determined from then on, I would try something new that I had never experienced on each trip I went on. That trip resulted in a tattoo (given by a small, blue haired man named "Soup Bone" ~ apparently he was given the nickname since the giver said he was no bigger than a soup bone) and a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There I felt sting rays for the first time, and sea cucumbers (gross~ola). I have been hooked on breaking out of my comfort  zone, if even in a small way, and trying something new ever since! I try to be conservative as much as possible. If you are friends of mine at all on facebook, you will see all the rescue posts...I just can't help it. If it just saves one animal it is worth it. Even the tat from Cali is a Ridley Green Sea Turtle. Endangered. One day I WILL have chickens, and they will be of the heritage variety - if I can save it, shame on me if I don't. That is my philosophy anyway. 

   So I try hard to get my girls into doing new things. And after looking at the pictures again, I can see the spark of passion for these sea creatures written all over Biggest's face. It was just me and her that day. We were on a trip with The Dreamcatchers Troupe ~ they performed at Country Tonight! And even though the place was packed, we were so engrossed in touching those rays that it felt like we were the only ones there. It felt like a rock concert. And we could have stayed all day. Middle and Little LOVE the parrots at Birmingham Zoo. They love to feed the little Conures the cups of nectar.

   While I am a HUGE advocate for giving animals their space and not crowding them or teasing them (disclaimer ~ I AM that woman that if I catch your kids running around, chasing the peacocks at the zoo, I will get all over them for it, if you don't want me to, WATCH YOUR KIDS). I also appreciate the opportunities to connect with them in a personal way. It goes so much deeper, and has so much more meaning. I am very thankful that my kids can too. How do you spark a passion for something in your kids? Everyone needs a passion for something.

Monday, August 15, 2011

When the kids are away...

   The dogs will play. Little Pippa. She was quite upset to see Biggest get on the bus this morning. She has had zero "my bed" privileges for awhile now. But since she kept looking for Biggest, I let her get on the bed with my walking shag carpet, Angus. Pippa is all of 4 pounds now. And is a punk. Plain and simple. Angus has the patience of a saint. She pulls on his ears, on his tail, slaps him around even. Googie just takes it. So what happens when the kids are away? Well, the dogs will play, of course!

  Pippa and Angus having a Monday morning Smack Down.

     This is the nest that Pippa made. I thought great, she is going to curl up and sleep all morning. WRONG.

   Taking a breather.

   This is Angus' tail.  

   Slow and steady wins the race. But Pippa is going to sleep well tonight!

Monday, August 8, 2011


   I am entering this particular photo I took at the very beginning of my photographic journey in a Photo Challenge for Evoking You. It is their very first one. The theme is "Sassy". Yeah, I think she is :) This is "Middle". Before she cut her long blonde hair. She is my Sister Golden Hair Suprise. She is sass to the core. And she rocks it!

Thanks for having this theme, Evoking You. It made me dig this one out of disc storage. What says sassy more than graffiti and lollipops?

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