A few months ago I photographed the second Puppy Star and PWP The Most Adoptable Lovable Pit Bull Class graduating classes for LEAP Dog Training. I planned to take candid photos of the pups while they took their final exam and then a quick graduation portrait of them when they were done. I had been there for their first inaugural graduation and had taken photos in a similar manner. I wanted to refine the portraits a little more from what I had done the first time.

Way back in April when the first graduation classes for LEAP. We didn’t know exactly how the day would flow and what would work best for photos but we formulated a basic workflow. I knew that we wanted to make it special for the graduates by having grad hats and a few choices to dress up their collars. I debated what kind of backdrop I wanted to use, type as well as color. I decided that using a paper backdrop, though convenient for fur clean up and possible stains might scare a few of the pups. A strong wind can make the paper makes noses and wiggle in a manner that might have distracted or scared some of the classes more skittish students.  When working with doggy models who don’t have experience with lights, cameras, and photo staging, I wanted to make sure they were as comfortable as possible. So one of my black fabric backdrops it was.

Photographing so many amazing dogs during the course of the day was a wonderful experience. Though I’ve been photographing animals for a number of years this shoot defiantly offered some unique challenges. Some of these lovelies had been working to overcome various issues during their training classes. With rescues, “issues” can run the gamut from loose leash walking to extreme shyness.  There were a few despite the delicious treats offered them did not feel comfortable with the whole portrait taking process.  Some would stand in front of the backdrop but not step on the fabric, some wouldn’t even get near the backdrop, while others couldn’t get enough praise and attention. Light modifiers, especially scrims were a no go as their large size was a bit intimidating. We had few pups with special dietary restrictions so the effectiveness of treat luring changed with each pup. I made the grad hats for the first time the day before. I will admit that the design had some flaws in regards to wearability for multiple dogs. I tested the hats on Beans but she has no problem with doggy clothing so she doesn’t personify typical doggy reactions. All but one pup wore a grad hat but each one got their diploma that day.  I left with a lot of super cute images and some new insights on working with some shy animals.

For the second class I was even more excited. I had a little more prep time and understanding of how the day would progress. This time around I had a great location that was consistently shaded and better separated from the other students taking their tests. I had created a few extra background props in line with LEAP Dog Training’s branding and refined the previous graduation hats to compensate for some of the issues I encountered last time. Three words, hook and loop, I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this stuff. The hats didn’t have to go over their faces and were much more easily adjusted. What made the biggest difference was having two very helpful doggy wrangling assistants for the whole day. Thank you Vivi and Lolo for volunteering your day to these lovely dogs. Here are a few favorites from that day.

I added floating LEAP dog diplomas to the backdrop and matching class plaques. We reused the bow ties from last graduation but I sewed a turquoise bow collar for the ladies. Again the hook and loop worked awesome. Each pup got to go home with a gallery info card attached to a doggy treat.

These classes are sponsored by Pretties with Pitties who have teamed up with LEAP Dog Training to help make rescued pitties even more adoptable. The Stubby Dog Project recently did a story about this awesome team up and used some of the images I captured during the first graduation classes. Check it out HERE.

Do you have a K9 graduate in your home?

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