I have a very talented friend named Erin. She is a world class musician by day, and by night and weekends she is an animal lover and rescue volunteer extraordinaire. I’m writing about her because even though she is not a professional photographer, she has found a way to use her photos to save dogs. She does cell phone photos and videos of the dogs she rescues –and they’re adorable– but recently she has been using her cell phone to tell a story.
A story of two abandoned pit bull puppies. So young that they had to be bottle fed around the clock by Erin and one of her students until they could eat on their own. When she first started posting their photos on facebook I thought “How clever! Let’s show everyone how cute pibble puppies are!” Now, as the puppies turn 6 weeks old, I’m just shaking my head in amazement. It seems like the whole facebook world has fallen in love with “the girls” and not because of any fancy photography or media exposure –just one very clever, passionate animal lover and her cell phone. Everyone has seen these two adorable sisters grow from wiggly little spotted THINGS, to lovable, adoptable dogs. And no one who looks at these photos is going to think of them as mean, dangerous, damaged or undesirable. All because my friend introduced them to the world and let us all watch them grow.
So here’s the beautiful, simple lesson: one person and one cell phone camera can make a huge difference. Not just for two dogs, but for all animal shelters overrun with puppies, and for all families fostering pit bulls and for animal rescue in general. So don’t get discouraged if your photos don’t look like museum quality art — just tell a story and show the world how much joy there is in saving a dog’s life. Erin has been nominated as a PET HERO. If she wins, she will donate the money one of her favorite animal rescue charities. Read her story here: https://apps.facebook.com/offerpop/Contest.psp?c=136923&u=29960&a=254553244581393&p=187932427898496&v=Entry&id=409048&rest=1
Erin with puppies then and now
- Pibble sisters at 6 weeks
Sometimes, we’re so glad just to get a sharp clear photo that we forget to look at a dog’s body language. Hurray! He’s looking at the camera and he’s in focus –CLICK! But just because we can look at his photo and tell what breed he is doesn’t mean that photo will help him get adopted. You have to take it one step further. My previous blog post talked about recognizing animal behavior — so now let’s build upon the idea. Most dogs look friendlier with an open mouth, but you MUST pay attention to the ears. Forget the wagging tail, it may not even show in your portrait of this pet –but the eyes and the ears are key. The little guy pictured here was sleepy. You can see by the first image posted that we weren’t getting that happy alert face. We photographed the whole litter and shot him last, hoping he would perk up, but all he wanted to do was slump down and take a nap. Plus, because he was almost all black, I really needed him to look friendly. No amount of coaxing made him a happy camper –so we placed him in a shallow basket with a couple of his litter mates (who were wide awake) and he started having fun. Then, we were able to photograph him alone for an individual portrait for his online listing. What makes puppies happy? Other puppies! What makes a fat older dog happy? A treat! What makes a hunting dog happy? A ball or something he can chase –he doesn’t know you’re not going to throw it for him.
The bottom line: friendly dogs get invited to stay. Sad, frightened or mean-looking dogs get left behind. So do your best to learn what makes your subject tick, and then make him happy. Just a couple of days until our next webinar!
Animal Sheltering Magazine interviewed me recently and they wrote a great article, complete with before and after photos and all sorts of tips. If you haven’t seen their publication, you can subscribe online – it’s a great magazine. It’s published by The Humane Society of the United States and the people that read it are serious in the world of animal rescue. They run shelters and rescue organizations all over the country!
The real reason I’m mentioning the article is that I constantly hear from people who have taken the webinar and are trying to get started with their at shelters and they meet with resistance from the shelter employees. So NOW you have some printed information to walk in the door with — ask them if they receive the magazine (they probably do) and suggest that they to read the 4 page article that starts on page 44. Hopefully, they’ll at least listen. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t appear on their website, just in their magazine — so I can’t link to it for online readers. But it’s well worth the price of a subscription 🙂
If you’re interested in the April webinar, we still have some room — see more info by clicking the “webinar sign up” tab above.
Just a few days left to sign up for the March webinar! We’ve scheduled it for March 13th at 6:30pm Central time. Use the pull down menu (above) to sign up.
We’ve added a couple of new ideas for outdoor shooting — and we’ve started our private facebook group for webinar attendees. So now you can watch, learn, practice and share with other people around the country who are doing animal adoption portraits. It’s been fun seeing photos posted by people who took the webinar a few months ago and hearing about their success!
If you saw us recently on CBS The Early Show, you know what we’re all about. Saving dogs and other shelter animals! We found that these animals just weren’t getting the best marketing –and you can’t fault the employees of the animal shelters. They are overworked and underpaid, and have little or no time to perfect their photography skills. But that’s what it takes. Good photography and good marketing to raise the public’s awareness for the quality and beauty of these animals.
Over and over, we see TV commercials depicting shelter animals as pathetic, injured, battered and miserable. No wonder the average family goes to a puppy mill or a pet store — they sell cute little fluffy babies. What we never see is the living conditions of the animals that are left behind to breed litter after litter with little or no affection or basic health care.
We photograph animals for their online adoption listings, for rescue blogs, and for facebook. We make sure each animal has a clear photograph showing them at their best. No “jail shots” through the cage door with glowing green eyes. And no “cowering in the corner” shots. We pay attention to lighting and their body language and try to represent them as the beautiful little spirits that they are. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? We find that just a decent photograph can increase adoption rates up to 100%.
So join us in a national effort to give shelter pets better marketing! Reach out to a rescue group or animal shelter in YOUR community and volunteer. If you don’t have the photography skills, take one of our webinars (see the sign up page on this blog)– or even a class at your local community college. You don’t have to be a professional and you don’t even have to own an expensive camera. You DO need a few basic lighting skills, patience, and a deep love for your subjects. You can do this!
I’ve had a few dozen questions about what class materials will be available after the webinar and the answer is: we will be emailing a pdf of notes to all webinar participants the day after the webinar.
The class notes (without the class) don’t give the whole picture, in my opinion. So we’re not furnishing them to people that have not attended the webinar. Diagrams and bullet points are an easy way for some people to learn but not for everyone.
So please attend the webinar if you can, but if you can’t, we’ll keep you posted on this blog for some sort of follow up materials. We have only a few seats left in the Thursday evening class and about 20 seats left in tomorrow’s class. Thanks!