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Since 2010, I have been involved in the animal welfare world. By starting at my local animal shelter as a People Care Specialist, I found my love for shelter animals. Throughout my years of being employed at this shelter, I saw that many of our images didn't represent our pets in a great way. By picking up just a basic point-and-shoot camera, I started my journey of pet photography.

As the years went by, I continued to develop my craft and started volunteering at other shelters across the United States, mainly in Wyoming, to help increase the chances of adoption for the shelter animals.

In this short series, you will find a comparison between a shelter dog's intake photograph and the ones I took on my camera.

Most shelters are overcapacity and staff and volunteers are overworked and drained, mentally and physically. With increasing numbers of pets being surrendered to shelters, the animal welfare problem is at an all-time high.

Even having an intake picture like these 'befores' is better than the animal having no picture at all.

I step in to help, to hopefully alleviate some of the stress on the staff, and to also help those animals find forever homes.

More info: wyomingpetphotography.com | Facebook | pinterest.com | twitter.com | Instagram

When I first started to take pictures at the shelter, I definitely found some challenges. The first and foremost being that I just didn't really know how to take a good picture! I knew that taking the dogs outside of their kennel would make a much better portrait. When allowed, I would take the dogs outdoors either into a fenced play yard or out on a walk and take their pictures. At times I would also have another volunteer or staff member help hold the dogs on a leash, while I stood back and took the pictures.

Early on in my journey, I stumbled across a wonderful organization called HeARTs Speak. They are a non-profit organization that works together with artists across the nation that help shelter and rescue pets. "HeARTs Speak is a 501c3 international nonprofit organization that unites art and advocacy to increase visibility of shelter animals. We're dedicated to changing the way the world sees shelter animals through programs that leverage creativity and collaboration to ensure more animals are Seen and Saved." - HeARTs Speak.

For someone who wants to help give back to animals through their artwork, I highly recommend checking out and joining HeARTs Speak. They have endless resources that have helped me and so many others along the way.

#2

Angel

Before and after shots of Angel, a shelter dog's photo getting retaken

German Shepherd dog.

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Having high-quality photos of shelter animals has been proven to increase their chances of adoption. A study done in 2017 by Mary Wood found that 65% of adopters view photos online before adopting. Of those, dogs that are shown 'happy' in the photographs have better chances of adoption. You can read more on that study done here.

Basically, the proof is in the pudding. When you look at intake pictures, those images are usually taken right when an animal arrives at a shelter. Generally, most animals are extremely stressed given the variety of factors when entering a new, scary environment. These adoption pictures are usually taken days or weeks after a pet's arrival, which has given them time to decompress.

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I have taken pictures at various shelters and rescues in Wyoming, Colorado and Michigan. When approaching a new shelter, it is very important to talk directly with a volunteer manager or director. Basically, I'll reach out to them through a phone call or email, explaining that I want to help their animals get adopted by taking new pictures of them, free of charge! Some shelters have different rules, such as only being able to handle dogs or cats after going through some type of training. In those scenarios, it can really help to have a volunteer who is already trained to handle the dogs, that way the photographer can be 'hands-off' and just do the picture-taking.

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When taking pictures of shelter dogs or any dogs in general it is super important to get down on their level. Another important thing is to take the dogs outside if possible. By taking them outside and away from the shelter environment, the dogs are usually less stressed and appear more happy! When taking pictures, you should try and get a picture of the dog's face and also their full body so that potential adopters can get an idea of their body size when they are looking online. Also, make sure that you are rewarding the dogs. I always carry a treat pouch filled with treats. It is vital to make photographing the dogs a positive experience, so reinforcing with treats is always a must.

#8

Candy

Before and after shots of Candy, a shelter dog's photo getting retaken

Cattle Dog Mix.

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#9

Doug

Before and after shots of Doug, a shelter dog's photo getting retaken

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karenmashler avatar
crazydogmama
Community Member
8 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I can't help but tear up at the first photo, even knowing they are happy now.

If someone wants to help their local shelter or rescue, I say GO FOR IT! Like I mentioned before, shelters and rescues right now are over capacity and workers and volunteers are tired and overworked. Most organizations will be happy to have the help, because in the end, these pictures help the animals get adopted faster. And I will reiterate that HeARTs Speak has tons of resources and a wonderful community!

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#13

Piper

Before and after shots of Piper, a shelter dog's photo getting retaken

German Wirehaired Pointer Mix.

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#17

Minion

Before and after shots of Minion, a shelter dog's photo getting retaken

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301eliriv avatar
Dynamite Samurai Koala
Community Member
8 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

poor doggo. I've seen so many mistreated doggos and their pitiful faces just stared at me like "help me..." and if I was alr living on my own and was rich I would adopt all of them.

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