After being off for a few months, I am back to photographing for the City of Dallas Animal Shelter (Dallas Animal Services-DAS). Like many shelters, DAS realizes the benefit of having professional pet photographers donate their time to photograph their animals. The goal is to make them as attractive as possible so they can get adopted.
Some shelters let photographers take the animals to their studios and others, like DAS, have a tiny area set up to do the photography. It is far from ideal, but we make it work. Which ever way the photography is done, the challenges are likely to be the same. The animals are probably going to be pretty frightened. You will need to use continuous light, not flash, if you are indoors. If outdoors, you will need to find some appropriate ambient light. Remember, we want to show off the animal in the best way possible so detail in the fur is important.
You need to make sure the ears are up and the tail is not tucked. It doesn’t matter how afraid the animal is, it can’t show on your pictures. This is not always possible, but you need to try your best. Having a patient handler will help a lot. I find many times I need to explain to the handlers the importance of patience so we can get the best pictures possible.
When you process the images, make sure the white balance is correct. Also take a little time to clone out leashes or other distracting items. This is volunteer work so you don’t have tons of time to spend on each image, but if little things will make the image better, do it.
Most importantly, make sure you are doing this for the right reasons. This is not the time to build your portfolio or to try to market your services to prospective adopters. I don’t even put my logo on the images I take for the shelter. Some people do and that is your choice. In any event, word will get out about the good that you are doing for the animals and good karma is always great to have!