Photo Shoot: Guest Post by Diane_in_MN
Let me start by saying that I don’t dress up my dogs. No puppy T-shirts or bandannas, no hats or sunglasses, no rain slickers and sou’westers, no costumes. They have wet-down coats, to keep them comfortable ringside at summer outdoor shows, but that’s show equipment. And I torture them every couple of years with antlers and Santa hats for Christmas photos, but they don’t have to wear the antlers and Santa hats out in public. But on a cold Friday afternoon, Teddy and I were at a photo studio, modeling three outfits for possible use in Big Retailer’s packaging and marketing of Halloween costumes for dogs.
Ms. Photographer, who was doing the shoot, had met me about ten years ago, when I auditioned my bitch Zinka for a dog food commercial. As I recall, a friend had passed the audition information on to me: the dog food company wanted dogs of all sizes that could hold a sit-stay or stand-stay while being filmed. As it turned out, Zinka passed the audition and was used in the commercial; she got four or five seconds in a thirty-second spot, for which we had to hang around a studio for seven or eight hours while they filmed the rest of it.* As a result of that, I stayed in Ms. Photographer’s universe, and about a year ago took Teddy to an open audition. He was then around a year and a half old, capable of holding a sit or stand, and not too likely to be freaked out by lighting and cameras. He didn’t make it into Ms. Photographer’s database last year, but he did behave pretty well, and I was planning to take him to her next open audition this year.
But Ms. Photographer kept my e-mail address on file, and had me on her contact list when she set up auditions for this shoot. Big Retailer was looking for a lot of different dogs—apparently the market for canine Halloween costumes is robust, and they wanted to show them on dogs of all sizes and shapes—but they did have specific breeds on their list, one of which was the Great Dane. So I took Teddy to audition for the job.
The audition worked very much like an open one. We showed up, signed in, and then waited for our turn behind however many dogs were still ahead of us. When they were ready for us, we went back to the set: a sheet of bright white material pulled down from the ceiling to make a backdrop and floor, lit by short and tall standing lamps with umbrella-shaped reflectors. Ms. Photographer took a few body and head shots, then a few of Teddy wearing a hat, and that was that.
We got the word a week or so later that he’d made the cut and was scheduled for pictures on the following Friday. I packed up my dog bag with treats, squeaky toys, and the indispensable spit towel and we headed off to the studio on the day. Big Retailer had called quite a few dogs back for these pictures and they were shooting on two sets, but our time slot was right after lunch, so there weren’t a lot of other dogs around when we got there. We didn’t have to wait long to head back to the cameras, and then came . . . THE COSTUMES.**
The first one was quite feminine—indeed, it was little-girl pink and might have been chosen by a five-year-old for her own Halloween costume. Big Retailer’s representatives didn’t seem to think that putting this outfit on a Great Dane with a very masculine head was at all incongruous. Teddy wasn’t too sure that he liked this costume, although once he got it on and couldn’t see it, he was more comfortable with it. I kept him on lead and stayed in front of him for these pictures in case he had problems holding his stay, but he did quite well and we were able to take him off lead for the rest of the session. I also was able to leave him on the set—the same white-background-and-standing-lamp arrangement as for the audition, with a white-tape non-slip grid on the floor to mark where the dogs should sit—and stand back by the camera, which made it easier for the photographers to get him to look at them.
Once they had enough pink costume shots, they brought out a second costume. This one was yellow and had strange headgear as well as a coat, and was barely able to get around Teddy’s chest. (Big Retailer should take a look at its sizing, because Teddy, while a big dog, isn’t a big Great Dane; their marketing folks need to know that “extra large” is not necessarily big enough for a giant-sized dog.) A safety pin and an extra piece of fastener kept the coat in place, and Ted did a great job of sitting still off-lead. He did keep his tail well tucked under, though, and they wanted to see his tail in the pictures. So after he was relieved of the costume, they took a few pictures of him sitting with a visible tail, and through the magic of digital photo editing that tail will be available if needed.
There was some time left in our session and Teddy had settled down nicely, so they decided to try a third costume. This one’s headpiece was not designed for a dog with upright ears, but Ted was a trouper by this time and put up with having his ears flattened and covered. The photographers took a suite of pictures, and then we were done.
We won’t know until fall if Big Retailer actually uses any of these pictures on their packaging or advertising. They put the same costumes on a lot of dogs. But it’s very possible that I will walk into my local Big Retailer store next September, check out the dog supply aisle, and see my dog looking out at me from under a funny hat. It wouldn’t make me buy him a Halloween costume, but it would be a hoot. And then I’d come back with a camera and take a few pictures myself.***
* You probably never saw this commercial, and I saw it only on a video recording, because even though the voiceover was in English, it was apparently made for broadcasting in Latin America. Go figure.
** Unfortunately I can’t describe these costumes, as they are part of Big Retailer’s new fall merchandise and have to stay under wraps until they go on sale. That’s the fashion biz, I guess.
*** Since I can’t provide you pictures of Big Retailer’s costumes, here are Teddy and the Alpha Bitch wearing funny hats at home. (These were taken a couple of years ago; Tasha hasn’t changed much, but Teddy’s still got that puppy look here .)
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