I thought I’d switch things up a bit this week and show a lil’ behind the scenes of one of my latest shoots!
Introducing Furbo: the dog camera that allows you to check in and treat your pup at any time of the day with your phone! If you follow along on my Instagram, then surely you know how much I’m obsessed with my pup, Tokaj! (His name is pronounced TOE-kai, by the way!) So when Furbo reached out to create come content, I was more than ecstatic.
Just to let you know, this is NOT a sponsored post! I often get asked “how do you get your dog to do that?!” in all my photos—so I thought it’d be interesting to show you my whole process!
Let’s jump in!
A little background: growing up, I had a Golden Retriever that I trained in 4H. We did obedience and agility together, but after he was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, we just focused on obedience. Those years of training taught me A LOT about patience and properly training dogs. So when I finally got my first little fuzzy Shih Tzu of my dreams, of course I had to train him the same way!
Now, I’ll admit—Tokaj isn’t a show dog superstar, ha! He knows all his basic tricks: sit, down, stay (if he’s being especially good that day 😉 ) but a lot of his tricks are really just who he is! The reason why I love Shih Tzus so much is because they’re so full of spunk. All his crazy facial expressions are those Bob-Ross-happy-accidents I’ve been lucky to catch on camera.
These little series of images are part of a carousel post for social media. I’ll explain each photo and how his little quirks play into each one!
Photo 1 concept: dog home alone with Furbo
For the first image, I had this idea of getting Tokaj to peek over the table at the Furbo. I captured some photos of him peeking—but it turned out to look more creepy than adorable as I was originally thinking, haha. That’s when I decided to try to get his paw on the table so he’s trying to interact with it some more. That posed a new challenge: he kept looking down at the table. So finally, I decided to hold the treat down on the table (so I could get that paw!) and then gave him a treat right above the frame last second so I could see that cute little face.
He has this weird habit about him where he will lick his chops after every time he eats a treat. I thought that would be the perfect little addition—but I had to time it just right. After a few attempts, I finally caught that perfect “lick” shot that became the final. I’ve tried using peanut butter before to help him lick his lips, but he actually isn’t a big fan of peanut butter!
Photo 2 concept: owner using app
What’s super awesome about Furbo is using the app to interact with your dog! I wanted to show Tokaj sitting adorably like he’s right in front of you, but he’s so lazy when it comes to sitting! We went through lots of different sitting positions. You don’t realize how good or bad your dog’s posture is until you photograph them I guess, haha. I wanted to show an interesting angle, as if you’re there looking down at your phone and pup. I had to capture it from up high, to show him from a human’s point of view. He either made silly faces, was looking too far off, or was sitting funny. As you can see below, it took us lots of tries to get that simple sit right! Finally, I made a high-pitched noise and he looked at the camera and tilted his head—winner, winner!
Other than that, the main challenge for this photo was trying to get the interface on the phone. To do this, I placed the Furbo against a white wall (to have a solid background to make editing easier later) and screenshot the interface in the app. Then, I opened the screenshot in Photoshop and cut out the image around all the icons and put Tokaj’s picture underneath.
Photo 3 concept: owner treats happy pup
Getting him to sit like this was actually an accident! Originally, I was just going to have him sit there. We took lots of shots to find that perfect sit (yet again!), but none of them felt playful enough. Unexpectedly, he actually sat up one time (I told you he was a quirky one!) and I took the picture at the perfect moment and went with that one. He’s the perfect co-worker when it comes to ideas. 😉
Now for the table! I originally used a white side table that I thought would be perfect. When I photographed it, I realized it was too flashy and wasn’t super stoked with how it came out. The funny part? I don’t actually have ANY other side tables in my house—WHAT?! It was time to get creative, and by any means that I could!
I wanted a sleek, minimal side table that wouldn’t distract from the focus of the Furbo (the left image above was the original option). When we were remodeling our kitchen and putting our cabinets together, we had some leftover shelves that I thought would come in handy one day, so I saved them. The top of the table in the final photo is actually one of the shelves for my cabinets! I used a milk crate to support it since it was the perfect height. For the leg of the table, I took a simple piece of pine board and propped it up with a faux flower stem since that was the most supportive, long object I could find!
I always strive to capture everything the first time, instead of relying on post-processing to bring it to life. By setting the table up this way, it involved minimal editing on my end and got me the exact table I wanted!
All the graphics (the treat path, chat bubble, and speak lines) I created were all done in Illustrator and then pasted into my Photoshop file as a smart object. From there, I could either blur them or fade them as I needed.
As you can see, we go through LOTS of trial-and-error to find the best shot! I never work with him for more than 20 minutes at a time because I want to keep it fun for him. I feel so lucky to be able to work with my dog, no matter how time intensive a project may be. We’re always striving to make the world a happier and more colorful place, and I couldn’t do it without him!
Oh, in case you were wondering, he always gets rewarded with his work via treat payment. 🙂