If you’re reading this blog you’re probably interested in pet photography and saving homeless animals — and about a billion of us are also on facebook — so why not use every possible resource to speed up adoption? My friend, Erin Hannigan, is not a photographer –she’s a world-class oboist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra but she is always looking for ways to get dogs adopted.
A couple of years ago she started posting photos of her foster dogs on facebook and because she had a following of music lovers, she tapped in to a whole new market for adoptions. Most of us have lots of dog lovers as our facebook friends so we see endless (BAD) photos of dogs on the euthanasia list at the local shelter or see photos our friends post. But Erin started doing quick little cell phone videos and cell phone photos of her fosters and TELLING THEIR STORY. People LOVE stories! Now people tune in on a daily basis just to see what the latest foster is up to over at Erin’s place. And it’s working! She has so much web traffic that her fosters almost always get adopted before it’s time to place them in the shelter (she fosters Moms with their pups). Music fans (and her personal friends) all over the country have shared the adventures and adopted Erin’s puppies. It’s a true success story. Here’s Erin with one of her foster pups.
So how can you use social media to help homeless pets? Maybe a blog? Or a facebook page talking about your adventures in pet photography? Or make some cute little videos with your cell phone and post them on YouTube! You don’t have to have professional photos. But make them clear and uncluttered. Play the cute card. This is just one creative way to help dogs get adopted. She’s now set up a facebook page just for her foster dog stories — so check it out and click LIKE so you’ll get the latest updates!
Possibly one of the toughest assignment for any pet photographer is photographing pets on site at an animal shelter. If you’re just starting out, I strongly encourage you to work with a rescue group and photograph pets that have had some time in a foster home –they’ll be more socialized and calm and your job will be much easier. We all know that pets in a shelter are not relaxed and a quiet corner for photography may be hard to find. So do yourself a favor if you’re new to this and start with pets that live in foster homes. It’s not cheating! Every pet that gets adopted makes room for a pet that might be euthanized because rescue groups pull many of their pets from the shelters.
If you’re not already connected with a rescue group they’re easy to find. Google is your friend. Take the time to research the group you’re interested in –make sure they’re organized with a good track record, professionally managed with a good web presence. Social media is huge for getting pets adopted.
Do you need something in writing? Yes. But it does NOT necessarily have to be a five page contract with witnesses and notary signatures. A simple one page (even one paragraph) letter signed by both parties is usually sufficient. You can spell out what you’re willing to do for them and what they are allowed to do with your images.
I personally do not give shelters or rescue groups printable images. The images I give are sized for the web only. Usually 4×5″ at 150ppi. You could even send smaller images (72ppi is common for online use). All of the images I send are watermarked because I own a business and images are how I make my living. You do not necessarily need to put your name on your images but if you don’t, other people will use them as their own. If that doesn’t matter to you, save yourself the time and send them without your name. When one of the groups I work with needs an image for their website or advertising or promotional purposes they simply call or email me and ask permission. If the image is to be printed in their brochure, or other collateral materials, they give me photo credit and I send them files that are larger and without a watermark.
If you have questions about re-sizing your images there are literally thousands of good tutorials on youtube.com here but you will need software like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements (the lite version of Photoshop), Picasa, or even in a pinch, Microsoft Picture Editor. Here’s a typical adoption photo with my standard watermark.
Pet Portraits 101 — Use a living room chair and a window. Everyone has those, right? Even your local shelter might be able to provide enough space to do something like this!
We’re looking forward to new projects and new ideas to share for 2015 –but until then, don’t hesitate to join us on facebook and share some of your successful adoption stories and photos. Enjoy your holidays knowing there are a lot of happy dogs sleeping in their new homes because of your hard work.
I did a short spot on Fox News Good Day Dallas this week with some tips for photographing pets –and to promote our Tiny Dog Calendar. Maybe these tips will be interesting for some of you!
Someone just posted this on my facebook page and I thought I would share. Those of you with a thrift store nearby that sells children’s clothes should have so much fun with this idea!
For those of you that love cats, like I do, take a minute to read Louie’s story. Just an ordinary rescue cat, adopted by a dog trainer, my friend Robin at Good Dog Fetch. Louie was only one cat but he made a remarkable contribution to his community. One helluva great guy. Click to read his story: Louie the Great.
The 2015 Tiny Dog Calendar voting contest began late last week. To give you a brief re-cap on how it works: I put out a “model call” on facebook and via email. Friends tell friends and before you know it, I have TONS of people sending me snapshots of their dogs, hoping I will like what I see and offer them a free modeling session. I choose the dogs that I think will send the right message (and look cute of course) and we photograph approximately 20 dogs over the course of a few weeks. These dogs then compete for votes (votes are $1 each) and all the money from voting goes to the Legacy Humane Society – one of my favorite local animal charities. The 13 dogs with the most votes get in the calendar. The TOP DOG also gets a $350 gift certificate to my studio. So competition is fierce! We will be selling the calendars online starting in October — but if you’d like to see the contestants and place a vote or two, please visit the Teresa Berg Photography blog and click on 2015 Tiny Dog Calendar.
And don’t forget — calendars make great gifts!
A very successful adoption day was held on Saturday here in north Texas. Over 2200 animals were adopted in one day. Why not try it in YOUR area? Yes, adoption fees were waived, and so the shelters didn’t get their customary fees to help defray the cost of rehabilitating adoptable animals — but look at the positive interest in generated in the community! Thanks to good local news media coverage and lots of social media by the individual shelters, it seemed like everyone in the Dallas area was at one shelter or another on Saturday. Congratulations to all these hard working people.
I’ve had lots of requests to show how I make the bow ties that I use on rescue dogs — but this is so much better! I’m planning to stop at my local thrift store and stock up on some wild ties and get busy!! Have fun and glam up those handsome four-legged boys…
Often I hear about volunteer photographers who get “turned away” from their local shelters because the shelter staff believes that their photos are already good enough. I always encourage these photographers to ask for a 60 day trial — just to prove how much difference it will make in speeding up adoptions. Sometimes the shelter staff is not even willing to do a trial. At this point, the photographer doesn’t have a lot to lose — so they might as well throw a few “before and after” shots on the table and hope that these dramatic visuals do the trick.
Here is an example from my friends at the Dallas Fort Worth Dachshund Rescue Foundation. We photographed this little girl at our workshop this last weekend and the rescue group was shocked when they put the two photos side by side. You can do this!