Curious what it looked like behind the scenes of our photo shoot? Here's everything that went into making our Hundred Acre Woods party happen, from start to finish!
Natalia knew of a great place that fit the description I gave of my ideal setting. She knows the hills around the Bay Area like the back of her hand and picked a hillside that was perfect. We got together to scout out exactly where we would set up and what time of day would be ideal for the kind of light and mood we wanted to capture.
Niner and Willow had to test out a few trees and give their input, because of course tree climbing would be part of the fun on party day. We saw so many extraordinary oaks, but there was one in particular that stole my heart. Huge, ancient, with branches coming out every which way, it is one of those trees with stories to tell.
Once scouting the perfect tree was done, we had to have a bout of the zoomies to blow off steam.
And of course we had to check with the locals to make sure they were alright with us setting up a party and photo shoot on their turf. They seemed to be alright with the idea.
Gathering and Making Props
The next step was making a list of what props would be needed, including what I had, what I needed to make and what I needed to buy. The details are what make a photo shoot come together, so I tried to think of everything that could make the shoot extra special. This is where Pinterest really came in handy. I created a board that had all my ideas in one place so I could see how everything would look together.
I found a dog-sized picnic table, and a tablecloth. Sweet little party hats, a chalk board and slate board, and cupcake papers with candles. I sewed together a simple burlap pennant banner, and wrapped empty cardboard boxes with brown paper and string. I baked up pupcakes from a recipe I used awhile back, and even made little flag picks with each dog's initial on them.
Everything was placed in a box and checked off the list the morning of the shoot. Also packed was my shot list, which had 7 or 8 photo concepts I really wanted to capture during the shoot and a handful of reminders for the details and basic images I wanted to be sure to get.
On the day of the shoot, we planned plenty of time to set up before the light got to where we wanted it to be for shooting. Natalia put her amazing drawing skills to work creating a gorgeous sign on the slate board. Niner checked her work just to be sure it was exactly right. And it was.
Bill set up the table, arranged the packages, and hung the banner. I added in a few extras like mason jars filled with treats. I frosted the pupcakes with liver paste and put a few candles in them.
And of course the dogs helped too. With their expert stick-removal skills they cleared the area for us. And they made sure the sign was hung nice and crooked (while holding tails, because they love each other that much!).
When everything was set up, the real fun began. As dog lovers, having canid subjects in and of itself is sheer joy, but getting to work with three of our favorite dogs in the world makes it extra special. We know these three dogs inside and out, and it was easy to get them into position for posed shots as well as let them run around to capture the silly spirit of the day. It was, after all, a pawty!
We all had a great time, and even when it was over, none of us were truly ready to call it a wrap. Especially Corbin.
This isn't to say the day went off perfectly. It didn't. We changed locations last minute. Niner rolled in cow poo and had to be rinsed off with water from the creek. I forgot to set out some of the props I'd made. A couple times we had to stop everything while random dogs hiking with their humans crashed the party and took their sweet time exploring our set. I didn't pull off some of the images on my shot list because I was distracted with what was evolving in front of me -- which really was more important anyway. So many little things happened that reminded us that even the best laid plans are just plans, and you have to be ready to roll with whatever happens. Especially when working with animals.
But that doesn't mean the planning phases can be skipped. In fact, Photo Lab Pet Photography wrote up a great list outlining how to plan and execute a themed photo shoot. I highly recommend reading through it if you're interested in pulling off your own conceptual shoot.
The Final Cut
All of the work that went into planning and shooting this special birthday party was well worth it. The final images from the afternoon are absolutely priceless to us. They are something I'll cherish not only because they celebrate a special dog in my life, but because it was a collaboration with two photographers I deeply respect and admire, who are also people I feel grateful I get to count as friends. We got to see the shoot from each others' eyes as we swapped images, and we sent countless texts laughing over bloopers and silly moments during the post-processing. I really couldn't possibly be happier about the collaboration and I am certain it is one of many in our future.
To see many of the photos that made the final cut for this shoot, check out "This birthday party has gone to the dogs! The Hundred Acre Woods-style pawty for the pups" blog post! e sure to visit Photo Lab Pet Photography's Tails from the Lab to view Bill and Natalia's favorites as well!