Lance & Poopie vs. Electronics, Physics, and Power
Updated: Sep 6
This one's for the pet photographers as there's a lot of gear and skill talk involved.
The exclusive Indie themed photoshoot was planned in collaboration with the wonderful people of Heads Up for Tails ahead of the 15th August weekend. I was stoked to have my 1st collaboration with HUFT and looking forward to it. Bookings were coming in and I was super proud of my amateur-level Google form I had created to for bookings. That's when everything started going south. This is a conspiracy hypothesis that I can't prove just yet, but I guess you have to take my word for it. Spoiler alert! Everything goes fine in the end.
Electronics: My studio lights are triggered via a wireless remote that's mounted on the hot shoe of my camera. This allows me to additionally change the power of the speed lights from the trigger, instead of walking to each light and manually changing it. Exactly day before the shoot, my camera started displaying an error message that the trigger is incompatible. I reached out to Sony service and they told me that the hot shoe needs to be replaced but getting the part alone will take at least 5 working days. I naturally tried everything suggested on the Internet, but nothing worked. I didn't have time (or budget) to rent a camera. Then I remembered I have some old Nikon triggers lying around (stuff I couldn't sell when I switched). I knew that Nikon triggers are compatible with Sony cameras, but I hadn't tried these specific ones, and when I did, they worked! Problem solved.
Next day at HUFT, I've setup my portable studio and everything looks amazing. Lance and Poopie walk in with an unsure look on their face. I recall my training and act nonchalant even though I want to run toward them and start speaking gibberish. As a standard operating procedure, I always sensitise the animals with me and my gear. Sniffing sequence is as follows: Me from a distance, environment, my leg from close proximity, grip gear (light stands, backdrops, etc), camera bag that also holds treats and finally, camera.
Physics: Next I introduce them to my lights. You see, the way strobes function is they convert electrical charge from the batteries into light. Because there's a lot of light being dispersed in a very short amount of time, the light is accompanied by a low 'Pop' sound as well - that can be scary to some of our 4-legged companions. That's when the treats come out as (hopefully) a way to tune out the sound and to let them know everything's alright. Poopie adjusted well to the lights quickly, but Lance was not buying. Problem kind of solved as it was now on Poopie to let Lance know it was ok.
Power: Unfortunately, there was a power blowout in the area during the same time and HUFT staff was doing their best to manage the store and spa. This meant staff running up and down the stairs and Poopie didn't seem to like it. Lance agreed. We had to wait it out for a few minutes, chatting, and getting to know more about Lance and Poopie. At this point, I am secretly thinking that the universe is conspiring to sabotage this :) However as expected, a few minutes later Officer Poopie (head of security) deemed the situation under control and safe, and we moved along with the shoot. Problem solved.
There are so many things that can (and will) go wrong on a shoot. Some of those problems have to be solved on the fly, while for most you need to have backups. For instance, I had 2 backups for the backup solution for the trigger problem - i.e. if the Nikon triggers did not work on my Sony camera, I would have either set my lights as optical slaves or would have switched to speed lights. Speed lights would have solved the 'Pop' sound issue as well, if needed.
On days when I am able to provide a carefree experience to my clients in the face of everything falling apart on the side lines, is the day I've earned the right to be called a "professional". It's not acting. It's the confidence that comes from my knowledge and skills that I can solve any problem that comes my way. So if there's a key advice I can share with anyone reading this is to keep sharpening your skills and knowledge. That's the most reliable thing to fall back on when your tools stop working.