Minneapolis- and Stockholm, Wis.-based animal and kid lifestyle photographer Barbara O’Brien was an animal actor trainer for many years prior to her full-time photography career, which is apparent through her brilliant animal photos that jump right off the page. Recently, Barbara took on a bit of a different role in the motion world, this time of director. The shoot was for VOYCE, a startup company that boasts wearable technology for dogs— a device that bridges the communication gap between pups and their owners by monitoring key vital signs and other wellness indicators.
It was Barbara’s first time directing on set, which she admitted was “a bit intimidating”:
We had a very short timeline to pull together the crew, the talent and the 9 dogs we used in the spot. Being a first time director was naturally a bit intimidating but I surrounded myself with my core crew and then hired excellent film people who I had worked with and known for years in my role as an animal actor trainer. Also, having been a still shooter and being so focused on the scene in front of me I would sometimes forget to say action to my talent. Luckily, my crew was patient and I quickly learned to adapt.
Adapt she did, and it’s clear that Barbara was the right person for the job. Along with stills for web use, the final result is a 1:30 commercial spot filled with adorable takes of dogs interacting with their owners, pulling the viewer right along with them. The VOYCE collar placed among the top ten products at CES (Consumer Electronic Show), while the video took gold at the 2014 ADDY awards. For any photographer familiarizing themselves with motion work, Barbara gave some advice:
I would advise learning from good people and having an experienced crew. It is a lot harder to light and tell a consistent story for 30 seconds then a one time shot at 125th of a second.
Not only was the client happy with the result, but Barbara said it’s the most fun she ever had as a shooter, and she hopes to move in the direction of doing more motion work/directing in the future.