This week for Friday Night Dog Love I wanted to share an experience I had recently, and how taking a few days out of your busy life to learn some new things and meet some new people can make a world of difference. A few weeks ago I was so fortunate to be able to attend the final Unleashed workshop in Chicago. I haven’t been to many workshops, one other actually, which was so amazing but ended up not being in my specialty which is pets. I loved it all the same I wasn’t sure that any could top what a wonderful experience I had in Montana. I tossed and turned about going, the money, the time away in the summer (which we all know is busy and short around here), being away from family. But I decided to go, and wow am I glad I did. I met the most amazing women and one fantastic guy who were all so open and friendly about their lives and businesses. It was such a delight and I still at times wish I was back there with everyone learning and exploring.
The Unleashed workshop was led by three incredible pet photographers from around the country. Barbara Breitsameter of Poppy Blue Photography, Teresa Berg of Teresa Berg Photography and Bev Hollis from Bev Hollis Photography. The weather was perfect those few days just outside of Chicago, IL and the learning was non-stop.
The first day we talked a lot about business, which is so important in photography. You can be the most amazing photographer but if you have no plan or business sense in place, it’s more than likely not going to work out well for you. The odds are not great for making a full time living in photography, but having a solid foundation and learning some of the pitfalls was invaluable. It was awesome learning from three different instructors because they all do it a bit differently, and are all quite successful. There’s more than one way, but there were also some things that were very common. We covered marketing and networking and social networking and a million other wonderful topics. Our brains were full by the time day one was over, but we were ready for more (in spite of the jet lag some of us had).
Day two had us shooting all day. We broke up into small groups, divided between Barb, Teresa and Bev. Each had different technical topics to explain and a variety of setups to try. We had amazing models. A big thanks to everyone who gave their time and their adorable dogs for us to photograph. It was such an excellent variety. In the morning, I worked with Barb first. We worked on natural lighting indoors as well as mixed lighting indoors. The mixed lighting indoors was especially interesting to me because of our darker wet winters. We tend to be inside more and not out at the dog parks. Not many people want their long term memories to be standing out in the rain with a wet dog. Getting a better handle on this type of shooting opened a lot of new possibilities for me and I am really looking forward to shooting more indoors this winter. I am so excited to be able to shoot all year long! Here are a few examples from my time with Barb. Thank you so much Barb for all of your help and openness, it meant the world to all of us!
Next up in the morning I was able to spend time with Teresa. She is so wonderful, very open, honest, easy to talk to. I felt so at ease working with her and her willingness to share and help. Our group worked purely in studio with Teresa and we worked with a variety of lighting, backdrops, reflectors and props. I have done a little bit studio work in the past, but this let me get all my questions and doubts out of my system and really made me want to work in some more studio time! If I can find a good place to have a studio I wouldn’t mind opening one or sharing a space with someone some day. It really is great for smaller dogs and puppies and really gives a different look than what I am use to shooting. Another option for winter perhaps! Here are a couple from shooting with Teresa in studio. Thanks to you too Teresa, it was amazing seeing you work and a pleasure getting to know you. I am in awe of all the great work you do with foster and shelter dogs, it was very inspiring to me.
Finally in the afternoon we went outdoors to shoot with Bev. Bev is hysterical. She is a straight shooter and funny as can be. She has an awesome assistant Brandy, who was a riot. The two of them together was pure entertainment. They definitely have a sense of humor I can appreciate and really work well together. Bev’s work is stunning and this type of shooting really rang true with me. I love shooting outdoors but have come into some struggles with certain situations. Adding some external light helped with those issues, and really got me comfortable with mixed flash and ambient lighting. I am definitely going to be doing more of this work in the future. Bev, you were so much fun, thank you for being so helpful and making what could be a really dry topic, super fun. To directly see our results was pure genius on your part in teaching. After the mixed lighting we did some off the hip shooting which I have always loved, and then a little bit of shooting when the light got down low enough to be awesome. I learned so much and I will hopefully be out there some day to visit that awesome farm! I’d say kick your ass in golf, but you would definitely hand me mine! Thanks also for the wonderful images I was able to take away from that afternoon.
The final day was all about sales and working with non-profits. Don Dechow gave an incredible lecture on sales, so much it made me want a Don for myself. Apparently there was a pocket Don for sale, but I never was able to get one. I would LOVE for someone to handle that part of my business so that I would have more time to do what I love most, photograph pets. Some day. Finally, Teresa spoke with us about working with non-profits. The work she is doing is amazing and really helping the groups she is working for. I am a member of HeARTs Speak and do volunteer time and photography with local shelters, so it was very interesting to hear her take on this. It gave me lots of wonderful ideas to implement in the coming year which I am really looking forward to.
It all ended so fast, soon we were packing bags and flying home. It was hard to believe it was over and I really was kind of sad about leaving. How do you bond so fast and in such a short amount of time with people? It just speaks to how wonderful our group was and how thankful I am to be a part of it. I want to send out a huge thanks to everyone that was there learning and taking it all in with me. Go check out these wonderful and amazing pet photographers around the country. They all are doing amazing work, some just starting out, some getting things in order, others transitioning into doing this full time. We are all on our own path and I wish all my new friends the best of luck with their businesses. I can’t wait for the reunion!
Michelle was my roomie for the time I was there. I am certain we will be friends for a VERY long time. I have never met someone I got along so easily with so fast. She owns Gray Dog Pet Photography, if you’re in the VA area, check her out…her work is beautiful!
Bethany is out in Michigan and owns Bethany Giannini Pet Photography, also a fellow HeARTs Speak member and not only a great photographer but also a veterinarian! She also shared some amazing beers with me! I am definitely wanting to head back her way some day. I see a road trip in my future!
Pam Biasotti is down in the Bay Area and does incredible work with her business, You Had Me At Woof (I love that name!). We both do some photography for CityDog, so it was so nice to meet Pam in person after hearing about her from CityDog and talking to her through Facebook. I can’t wait to see where she takes her business next!
Shelle is a neighbor up in Edmonds, WA and she is the owner of StarDog Photography. It was awesome having another person from WA with me in Chicago. Hopefully we can get together soon!
Jackie is a true sweetheart from Utah. I think she wants to travel a bit, and do pet photography in a couple different states. I hear ya Jackie, we gotta get this figured out! She has a great eye and I just love looking through her blog. So great to meet you Jackie!
Nancy is local to the Chicago area and was a hoot to talk with. She was also nice enough to drive us around back and forth to places. I have her blog address, but it’s not up yet, so I’ll be back to update it when it’s ready to go. I know she will be doing great work here, and I can’t wait to see how her site comes out!
Then there was Merrell, our only man of the group. I think he loved it! We sure had fun with him. He owns DogStarPix and I think is somewhere close to Michelle and Bev out in VA. Sounds like a great place for the reunion!
There were a few other people in our group, but I am still waiting for their websites! I will post them as I get updates. Thank you to everyone for such a great time, it was a pleasure to meet you all!