Frequently Asked Questions
Describe Your Photographic Style
Most of what we do at Big Bark would be considered environmental portraiture. We like to photograph you and your pet on location, generally around or near your home or favorite beach, pond or park. For the most part we shoot in natural light supplemented by off-camera strobes. As compared to studio lights, strobes are lightweight and fast, enabling us to keep pace with your pet. We can also produce a slightly more formal sitting in your home using stationary studio lighting, if that's your pleasure. However, in all honesty, that's not quite as much fun for us. We prefer to work with you and your pet in a more natural, relaxed environment.
Does that mean that I can't be in the photo with my dog?
Absolutely not! We are delighted to photograph family members with their animal companions. We just like to do it in a relaxed and natural style.
How long does a session last?
In general, a Big Bark shoot lasts about one-and-a-half to two hours. Often it depends on the type of pet we are working with. A large cockatoo isn't going to move around a lot, so conceivably the shoot could be finished in 30 minutes. An active dog in multiple locations could last a lot longer. The bottom line is that it is our responsibility to get the shots you desire, and we won't leave until the job is done.
Where does the session take place?
This is really your decision to make, but we can help you with suggestions. It can be in or around your home or at a park, beach, pool or pond that your pet loves and finds relaxing. We will also do multiple locations if you like. Maybe we'll start with some images at home, then move to the beach or park to get some great action shots. If you don't have any notion as to where you want to do the session, we have—over the years—pre-scouted and cataloged many locations, which are great for animal portraiture. Some are rural and bucolic while others are urban and gritty. You would be surprised by the great results you can get with a graffiti-filled brick wall as a natural backdrop.
Location selection is a fun part of the overall Big Bark experience. However, a word of caution is necessary here. Safety is paramount. We want to make sure that you and your pets are not in peril during a shoot. So, if you have selected a rolling pasture for your shoot and we find an agitated, 2,000-pound bull standing in the middle of the field, we may have to adjust.
Do you touch up the photographs?
That's a great question that requires more than just a yes or no answer. Yes, we do some touchup on final prints—the obvious things such as removing a leash if we had to use one during the shoot, or removing a telephone pole that accidentally got in the background. We also make sure that things like tone, saturation and white balance are accurate. Since we shoot with digital cameras, these are all pretty easy and standard operations. On the other hand, we can't airbrush you into a fashion model or turn your pleasing plump Beagle into a Greyhound. We will work with you to try to get the photograph you will be proud of. There are little things we can do, and we will discuss those with you after you have viewed all the proofs and made your selections.
How does the process work?
• CONTACT US: It starts with a phone call or e-mail from you. We will talk about what you are looking for in a pet portrait, gather basic information of how many and what kind of pets and discuss where you might like to have them photographed and in what type of situations.
• BOOK A SHOOT DATE: Together, we'll find a mutually agreeable date and time for your session. To secure your date, a deposit of 50 percent of the creative fee is required. Your date is not secured until the deposit is received.
• PREP WORK: Through a series of online documents and mailings from Big Bark Photography, LLC you will receive information on how to prepare for the shoot, complete the required pet photography contract, view products and prices and confirm date and time of shoot. You will also be asked to provide information about your pet.
• MEET & GREET: If at all possible, we like to meet our clients and their pets prior to the actual photo session. It is a great opportunity to see products that are available and to finalize the details of the shoot. It also is a good time for us to meet and interact with your pet.
• THE SESSION: This is where the fun begins. We will meet you, your pet(s), your family and friends at the agreed-upon location. You get to sit back, relax and watch us. Until we get to the phase of the shoot where we photograph you with your pets, you only have two responsibilities: have fun watching the process and, if we are in a public place, standby with the poop bag. That's it. Just have a great time.
• THE TEASE: Within a few days Big Bark will e-mail you a sneak-peek of a couple of your images.
• VIEWING: Generally, within one week of the shoot you will receive an e-mail containing a link to our website where your professionally edited images are stored in a private, password-protected gallery. You can look at your images as much as you want. If you want to share them with family or friends, just send them the link and password. Remember, without the password they can't get to the photos.
• ORDERING: Within 14 days of receiving your private gallery we will have an ordering session. This is usually done by phone, but can also be done in person. It's a good idea to talk with us prior to ordering to discuss your selections and review any special cropping or other requirements. Once we have post-processed your image one last time, we submit it to our lab.
• RECEIVE YOUR ORDER: You may choose to receive your products in person or by mail. Just let us know. If by mail, your products will be shipped directly from our lab. Once received, we expect you to ooh and ah, display and enjoy your Big Bark Animal portrait for years to come.
Do you do events?
Yes. We love to do events when time and distance allow. Field trials, hunt tests, equestrian events, dock dog competitions and agility tests are just a few examples of events we have covered. It's great to capture the emotion of success and failure of people and their four-legged companion when working as a team.
Rates, products and pricing are a little different than for individual sessions. If you are a club or sponsoring organization please feel free to contact us for details. We can show you how you can turn the session into a money maker for your group, while capturing a piece of your club's history and delighting your members and participants.
How old should my pet be before I get a portrait done?
We really can't give you a solid answer to this question. One, it will depend somewhat on the animal type. Two, because we love to photograph all animals at all ages. It goes without saying that puppies and kittens are like baby photos; how can you not adore them! Whether you have a new pet, or an older companion, we're happy to oblige. Just don't wait until it is too late. We hear too often from people who wished they had not waited until their dog was too sick for photographs. The years slip by, and our four-legged companions are old before we know it. Don't put it off!
What if my pet is not well behaved?
There are many degrees of "well behaved" and "trained." We've worked with dogs that could recognize and react to voice commands, whistle commands and hand signals. We've also worked with, shall we say, animals that are as stubborn as a mule. They come in all shapes, sizes and dispositions, and we have worked with most all of them! No worries.
Where we do draw the line is on unrestrained, aggressive or dangerous animals. If you have a pet that is openly and regularly aggressive towards humans or other animals, it is probably best that you not expose him to a photographer or anyone else for that matter.
How do I prepare my pet for the session?
We will go over detailed instructions during the Meet & Greet but here are a few general suggestions:
• It's a good idea to have your pet groomed a couple of days before the shoot. Even if we are going to be working with your Lab in a pond, it's nice to get some good clean shots prior to getting in the water.
• Exercise, but don't exhaust your pet, before coming to the shoot. A nice walk about an hour prior to the session is ideal.
• It's best if your pet is a bit hungry before the shoot. This makes our use of treats more effective.
• Bring along any toy or special blanket your pet loves.
• Bring a good attitude. Animals are very intuitive. They sense when you are not happy or anxious and they react to your mood.
Remember, the session is supposed to be fun and stress free. Trust us. It will show in the final images.
Where are you located?
We operate out of two locations in Virginia: near Charlottesville in Central Virginia and in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach areas of Southeastern Virginia. However, since we come to you for the session, location is not a concern and we routinely cover the Mid-Atlantic states of Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. We also will do destination sessions. Please call us for details.
What days of the week do you schedule sessions?
We shoot seven days a week. However, we generally do no more than two sessions per week. Obviously, weekend dates are the most popular and are the first to get booked. Give us a call and we will do our best to meet your needs.
What does the creative fee cover?
Included in the fee:
• A two-hour photo session for up to three subjects (any combination of people/animals) at up to two locations.
• The photographer's time, talent and experience to provide you with exceptional products.
• Sneak-Peek of a couple of our favorite images from your shoot posted on our website.
• Private viewing of 25 to 30 professionally edited proof images in a password protected web gallery.
• Pre and post session consultation.
I have some other questions.
By all means, feel free to ask them. Just drop us a note via our contact form. We would be delighted to try answer any and all your questions. We want you to feel comfortable with Big Bark Photography and we look forward to working with you and your pet.