Updated: Oct 16, 2019
When you book a pet portrait session with me ~ 10% of my fee is donated to the rescue group of your choice. (Or Paws & Claws if you do not have a rescue). But my giving back does not stop there.
I have been volunteering my photography services with Paws & Claws for TWO years now. Where does time go? No I am not employed or paid by Paws & Claws, it is all volunteer. I volunteer because I am passionate about animals & photography! (There is more)
Sandra Ferguson Photography is a small part-time business I started a few years back. I will never be rich from photography but it helps me to keep my equipment maintenance and serviced, up to date and unfortunately ... replaced at times. But... there is more that goes on with "volunteering" photography services. I volunteer 1-2 times a month. That doesn't sound like much does it. First we "schedule" a date for me to go. The center has a schedule & dogs transport in/out and we have to have volunteers helping...and my schedule is always crammed. I don't just show up and take pictures!
Before I go I have a plan and setup. It may be action shots of playgroups or it may be posed portrait style. For every rescue, I try to get a close up of their face and a full body shot. But that's not as simple as taking 2 photographs. Rescue/Shelter dogs are keyed up. They may be stressed and have pent up energy. Paws & Claws works with their dogs, they have large fence yards for the dogs to run and play. They work with them socializing, learning their problem areas and sometimes it requires their fosters working closely with the dogs. But the dogs are keyed up and they do not know why I have this big light and pointing this black thing at them. So it usually take "many" photos before I know I have the images I want. I try to do different things each time so Paws & Claws partnering rescues up North notices the dogs. They are only looking at images on a mobile device or computer. Photographs are important.
I also *purchase* bandanas, ties, hats and different things for the dogs to put on. Everything is to get the dogs noticed. (Yes I use these in personal sessions too) I have had "many" people donate items also. ((Thank you!!)) It may seem like a small thing... just a bandana. But it means so much when that dog gets picked/noticed. Because ... that's why I volunteer!
My home studio is upstairs. So I load up everything in my Jeep. It can take me 10 trips up and down stairs to get everything loaded. (tripods, camera, lights, backdrops, props, dog toys, dog treats, blanket for me to be on, knee pads) And if I am carrying furniture... it requires my husbands Mini-Van! It can take me an hour to get everything together and loaded.
So my Jeep is loaded ... what now. Well its the drive there. We are originally from Tipton County. A few years back we moved back to Shelby County so my husband could be closer to work. So it takes me 1.5 hours round trip driving to "volunteer" to photograph rescues. So now I add on mileage to vehicles and gas. There is more...
When I get to Paws & Claws ~ it takes time to unload and set up everything ! Then I have helpers that volunteer with Paws & Claws... I absolutely cannot do this without their help. They wrangle dogs and I shoot the photographs. Generally I spend 2-3 hours photographing!! That 2-3 hours one day turned into 6 hours in the summer at 106' degrees! Its hot, sweaty, the dogs are panting, dog hair is flying and helpers are getting tired. ((all of this is hard on photography equipment)) But we continue ...because its for the dogs!! They recently purchased a new AC system and that big purchase made a huge difference for the dogs... and the photographer! In the wintertime... we have bundled up with thermals and hats... we keep shooting.
Now I have the photographs... its time to load up again. Drive back home. Unload and tote items upstairs. But I have to separate items. Everything used at a dog portrait session has to be disinfected, washed and clean. (Anything a puppy touches I don't use for 6 months to 1 year because of diseases easily transferable). But there is MORE... (at this point I usually do rest).
Its now time to edit photographs. There have been many times with rescue photos that I just stay awake ALL NIGHT to try and get them done in a timely manner. No... Paws & Claws does not rush me!! But I think the photography is important for them so I try to get them back. For every 2 hours of photographing there is ==>> 8-10 hours <<== of editing!! It just works that way. Sometimes I take to many photos, sometimes dogs blink and I have to swap eyes, it is various things. But in general I know its going to take 8-10 hours to edit and if I don't stay up all night or if I have sessions booked... those hours are broken up into days.
Paws & Claws from the very first photo I took for them...she told me she would support & share my Photography Business. I can't thank her enough !! My photographs are watermarked with my business. If a photographer has volunteered time taking the images, please leave the watermark in place and visible. (Its art, its business and its passion!!!) I have been photographing for Paws & Claws for so long - if she needs ad's or my name taken out... I gladly do this for her!! But all of the partnering rescues up North are always free to use my photos and share!! From time to time when dogs get in their forever homes, the forever parents have emailed and asked for copies of their photos. I always provide the photos and thank them for adopting !!
So ... where am I going with all this. Giving back through volunteer photography is so much more than snapping pictures!
Over the **past year** - I drove 1,140 miles, gave 932 hours of time, camera repairs, cleanings & backup $1100 and I did an amortization schedule of my camera equipment, backdrops & props and figured depreciation value $5,600. That's not even including actual cost of cameras, lenses, strobe lights, diffusers etc..
My Pet Photography Business helps me to continue with volunteering. I will never be rich from photography ... but I can give back!! I have volunteered with other rescue groups and photographed for several fosters. Sometimes they have their own photographer but they couldn't make it or they needed a dog to get noticed. The bulk of my volunteer work is with Paws & Claws. Someone asked me "Why do you do this?" ... because I can! A few years ago my sister past away suddenly and it changed my life & heart. A rescue group stepped up and helped me re-home her little dog. I knew I needed to "give back" to rescue and give back to animals. While this is a small business & income for me, giving back is my heart.
There is even more that goes into Pet Photography and Rescue Photography... but that's another blog post! I hope to share with you some tips and tricks along the way.