adoptable dogs

Using Holiday props for adoption photos: Do they help?

Any sort of attention getting device can help get a dog adopted. There are statistics showing that bandanas are the number one prop most photographers should consider when doing an adoption photo. Why?  Because the dogs look FRIENDLY.  They look playful  and not scary. Imagine you’re a mom or dad wanting to get a small child their first pet — do you choose the dog slumped in the corner looking at the floor?

pit bull puppies poster

order this poster and use it as a gentle reminder to all your friends to ADOPT not SHOP

Those of us who love dogs know that great dogs sometimes just don’t do well in a shelter, or even in a boarding facility. The withdraw and look sad (to us) and scary (to someone less familiar with shelter pets).

But what about holiday props?  I, personally, have never liked pet portraits with lots of decorations. My style as always been the clean neutral backgrounds with just a pop of color or even (gasp) JUIST THE DOG.  But this time of year it’s tempting to use a holiday related prop to grab attention for that pet.   And I think that’s fine, as long as you also photograph the pet without any props so the rescue group can swap out the photos if the holidays come and go and the dog is passed over for adoption.   Nothing looks sadder than a holiday adoption photo in February or March… it just calls attention to the fact that the dog has been there ALL that time. Many people will assume there is something wrong with him.

teresa berg: do not copy

Even a big blue dumpster will work as a backdrop!

Grab a quilt and a fast lens…

We often photograph adoptable dogs outdoors — but we don’t always have time to scout interesting locations. Most of the time we’re restricting ourselves to what we find just outside our door. At my studio we are located in a business park with a lot of asphalt — but across the street we have an office building with a strip of green grass between their parking lot and the (very busy) street.  Our challenge is always how to create an engaging photo that will stand out in a crowd of other photos and help get that dog a new family.

So, lately we have been using quilts as backgrounds.  They are easy to wash and carry around, and they even cover up the not-so-pretty spots where the grass isn’t filled in. The only trick is that you have to be able to use a fast lens (in other words a lens that will open up to an f-stop with a very low number) to throw the backgrounds out of focus. Too much sharp detail in the background distracts from the dog. In my opinion, the soft blurry colors of the quilt make a sweet summery backdrop for a dog portrait!  These shots were done at ISO 200, using an 85mm lens and an f-stop of 1.6  and 1.8.  Not every lens will get you there, but there are some pretty good lenses for under $500 that will do the job.

This month we added the dogs names to their photos — we’re hoping that see the name with the face helps people remember that dog and come back to their photo when they’re ready to make their decision! A little pop of color around the dog’s neck helps complete the look. Start visiting garage sales and even places like and add some quilts to your collection.

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