Tag Archives: adoption

Pet Adoption Tips: Good photography places pets.

With exceptional resources like www.petfinder.com,  www.adoptapet.com, and www.rescuegroups.org, it is easier than ever for people to see and choose adoptable pets.  For potential adopters who get overwhelmed with emotion when walking through shelters, or who are sensitive to the sounds or smells of crowded facilities, these resources prevent the need to step foot in a shelter until a potential match is found.  Websites such as these have made it possible for people to “visit” many shelters at once, scanning hundreds of animals in just a few clicks, without having to drive from place to place.  With the help of the internet, foster-based rescue groups have emerged as an incredible force in  animal adoptions, all made possible because of their ability to present their animals on the web for people to see. This media outlet- what I like to call “virtual shelters”- comes with a couple limitations.  The sheer number of animals available to choose from when searching online can be such that it is easy for pets to get overlooked and so first impressions are a must, and in that vein, a picture really does say a thousand words.  When scanning pages on Petfinder, for example, you see a pretty simple list without a lot of personal detail, and you must click to read more detailed biographies.  What makes the difference?  Tiny thumbnails.

Here you have one dog straining on the leash, disengaged, one dog that has no photo at all, two photos that don't stand out really well in thumbnails and have typical shelter backgrounds (leash, half-bodied volunteers, Helen looks a little nervous...) but Tasha's photo stands out AND she looks happy.

Here are some tips that will help with your pet photography in general but especially when concerning adoptable pets.  You do not have to be a great photographer to take great pet adoption photos!  These tips are for anyone at any skill level or with any camera.

  1. Get up close and personal.  Especially when petfinder thumbnails are concerned, you need to fill up the space with a nice shot that will draw someone in.  Engaging the viewers with a soulful glance can make a huge difference.
  2. Get down on their level. Typical top-down photography is a staple among shelter volunteers, but this can really create a disconnect.  Top-down angles are generally unflattering, and without a zoom (or an edited crop) they create distance between the viewer and the animal.
  3. Watch your lighting. Natural lighting is always best.  Try outside on an overcast day for best results, or in a well-lit area.  Good light will eliminate blurry photos and give you a great opportunity for action shots. Sunshine is not always your friend, although sunny days can bring out the shine and features of black animals, especially.  Be sure, though, to use an indirect angle.  Do not put the sun behind the animal you’re photographing, as you may end up with a pet silhouette in front of a glaring bright spot.  Be careful when using a flash so that you do not end up with unflattering “laser eye” effects, which creates another disconnect.  A direct flash can also wash out features or create distracting shadows.  That’s not to say that there aren’t great opportunities for wonderful flash photography, especially when you are going for action shots or the dog is backlit.
  4. Catch the side of the pet that you want to promote.  Candid shots of animals having fun are sometimes the best, most engaging photos.  Don’t show dogs straining on a leash, barking, jumping up, or cats hunkered down in a litterbox or hiding in the corner.  Playing with toys, showing off tricks, running and having fun, all these things are great ways to show off what this pet has to offer.  It may take some time to get an animal to warm up and come out of its shell, but it’s good for them to have that interaction and it’s worth the time in order to help them present better in their photos.  Happy expressions will make people happy but sad, depressing photos of animals that look like they want to shrink into nonexistence will not win anyone but the saddest saps (yours truly!) over.
  5. Editing can be your friend, just don’t overdo it.  A photo doesn’t have to be perfect right off the camera in order to make a great web shot.  A few minutes spent adjusting color and exposure, cropping, editing out intrusive background distractions, etc, can make a huge difference.  If you have Photoshop or a similar program and some extra time, try removing leashes, clutter, even people if possible so that your photo looks more natural.   However, not every problem can be easily fixed and some things are just best left the way they are.  I have seen an increasing trend lately where enterprising photographers use something like Microsoft Paint or other basic editors to basically paint black irises over the “laser eyes.”  This doesn’t look so bad at thumbnail level, but it becomes pretty obvious when the photos are enlarged and can give a creepy look to the photo.

    Borrowed this pic from a shelter on Facebook

  6. Look behind/around the pet.  Staging photos doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it does pay to practice and learn and to really examine what’s going on in the viewfinder before you snap a picture.  Leashes and cages and concrete floors make for dull scenery- just adding a colorful backdrop can make a big difference.  Taking photos in kennels or cages with urine or feces present is a huge turn-off for people- if you get home and find out that there is some waste in your photos, use a photo editor or toss those pics and try again.
  7. If you have multiple photo slots, use them wisely!  Don’t take multiple similar photos and load them up.  On Petfinder, for example, you have the option to upload three photos.  I suggest you try to have a head shot (as we covered!), a good profile or other body shot that helps people see what the animal looks like, and then a just plain for-fun shot.

Good luck and happy shooting!


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Filed under Make a Difference, Pet Adoption Tips, Pets, Rescue


Wow, has it really been a month since my last blog post?  I’m sorry.  There has been so much going on, and I’ve let this go unintentionally.

Just recently, we’ve added a new permanent dog to our household.  It’s not the way I thought it would happen, and I am so glad that I hadn’t recently followed through with my desire to adopt and bring home a missing pet search candidate to train, because things might have ended differently for this dog.  Murphy was returned to our rescue after three and a half years in a loving home because of a bite that sent his human girl to the hospital.  It was provoked- he was grabbed and startled when he got loose while out on a walk, and he was reacting to that fear- but unfortunately, we can’t erase mistakes even when made in earnest.

When a dog bites so severely, there are few options.  It is irresponsible to attempt to rehome this dog, even if a rescue deems it “rehabilitated”- stay away from groups that claim that an animal’s aggression is rehabbed and gone, because they are showing serious inexperience with dog behavior.  Management and safety will always be a necessary part of that animal’s life from the moment of the bite until the day the dog dies.  This leaves the following options.  First, the adopter/owner keeps the dog forever, providing management and seeking professional help to work out the cause of the behavior, following any dangerous-dog laws that may encompass their situation.  Second, if returned to a rescue group, the rescue may wish to keep the dog forever but this is only humane, in my opinion, if they are providing a quality home environment for the dog, not permanency in a shelter/kennel.  The last alternative is euthanasia.

When I picked up Murphy, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen but I was pretty sure we were going to have to go with the last option and had, in not as many words, told the family so.  He was reportedly very bad with most other dogs, and we’d seen this during his first stay in our rescue so we knew it was true.  He had bitten someone that he had known for many years very badly.  There was not much we could do and it seemed unlikely that keeping him would ever be an option.  I had run through all the possible scenarios many times in my head on the three hour drive to the arranged meeting spot three hours away.  I had come to the decision that if he needed to be euthanized, I could provide that last kindness for him with as much peace of mind as is possible in such a sad situation.  Once arriving at the meeting place and seeing the profound love the adopters had for this dog, though, all that changed.  The obvious heartbreak they were feeling was a testament to the wonderful dog that he is.  After a day of crying and soul-searching while this dog napped at my feet, only one option seemed right and my husband and I adopted him ourselves.

Murphy is good with the dogs, if a little unsure what to think about them, and he has bonded with me, deciding that I am A-ok.  He already responds pretty well to me and wants to spend as much time as possible sitting with me.  He laid at the gate at the top of the stairs all afternoon yesterday while I was cleaning my guinea pig and rat cages, even napping at one point but making sure that he knew where I was.

Let me back up a bit now.  Four years ago I had a dog, Buddy, that arrived as a foster the day before “Matty,” the dog that became Murphy.  While Matty went to another foster home, Buddy stayed with me due to his issues. Buddy was horribly insecure and had a history of biting. His saving grace was that he never bit hard enough to really be dangerous. I worked with him for six months before making the decision to adopt him. We had bonded deeply by that time. Buddy’s routine involved classes and training at home to help build his confidence, exercise and socialization, and we used medication, supplements and other measures to help him get over his fears.  He was a horribly anxious dog, would pick fights with the other dogs out of fear/insecurity, and was starting to display severe symptoms of anxiety when I was not home (even if my husband was) and during any mealtime. After a year and a half together, we made one last trip to the vet to release him from his suffering. I loved him so much, and was not the same after losing him. Every day had revolved around keeping Buddy happy, and then he was just… gone.

I see a lot of qualities in Murphy that my Buddy had- not just quirky insecure behavior but the good ones, the endearing things that I remember when I think of him. Even when I look at Murphy’s face, there is something there that I see that looks so familiar. Murphy obviously does not have the depth and severity that Buddy had, but his root issues are the same and it feels so… normal… to work with them again. It is strange to think that they became “STAR”s in the same weekend, and are so similar, and now both have ended up with me. Having Murphy here is actually comforting because it feels almost like I didn’t lose Buddy, not completely. Buddy would stand sentry at the top of that gate when I cleaned cages, too, and so yesterday, though I wished Murphy would go hang out with my hubby, there was something in that simple act that made the void Buddy left feel way smaller. I had to say goodbye to Buddy and have always wondered if I could have done something differently, or if there was some other way to keep him here.  Euthanasia is a serious, permanent situation that I only believe in as a last resort and though I don’t regret doing what I really believe was the right decision for my mentally anguished dog, I’ll always wonder if I’d done everything I could.  I have spent a lot of time learning about dogs and behavior since his passing, hoping I never end up in a situation like that again.

Maybe Murphy is here because we both needed a second chance.


Filed under Make a Difference, Personal, Pets, Rescue