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.