When I shopped for our newest family member a little over a year ago, I was no different from scores of people who pour over hundreds of teeny tiny hard to see photos on websites in search of "the" dog face that would somehow speak them. What an enlightening but maddening experience!
It was easy to see why some shelters attract more rescue help and adopters than others - they know how to win hearts with a good photograph. Below are some dos and don'ts when capturing dog faces in hopes of attracting those solid homes.
Many thanks to Berkeley Animal Car Services, whose volunteers set the tone with some of the best examples of public shelter portraits on the Net. All of the appealing photos in this post are from their facebook page. I won't tell you where the not-so-great photos came from!
Above - Look into My Eyes - Which dog do you feel connected with? Unless you want to send potential homes running straight to the backyard breeders, avoid using photos of distracted dogs in bleak and dismal backgrounds. Eye contact is golden and easy to get with a dog treat and a silly sound at the right moment. Black dogs photograph best in the early morning or close to dusk. You might end up taking 20 photos to get that winning shot, but with digital cameras, who cares? That one winning shot you spent 10 minutes trying to get will empty your kennel much faster then the bad photo you grabbed in a fast hurry.
Above - Touch Me. Adopters are rightfully hoping to find family dogs who welcome touch, but institutionalized settings only serve up the heebie jeebies. Get that pooch outside where he'll look (and feel!) more like herself. If your subject is shy or uncomfortable with the camera, a warm embrace can make all the difference in her experience as well as the viewers' opinion of her.
Above - What a difference a pretty background makes. This photographer was smart - it looks like she waited until her subject was back from her walk and 'smiling' before she pulled out her camera. Dogs that are tied to walls might beg up sympathy from a select few, but the fearful body language that comes along with being tied will send the more discerning dog shoppers to websites where it "feels good" to look for dogs. You can't blame them.
Above - Ouch. Did that dog on the left do something bad to land him to jail? Probably not, but the chain link mimics the photos news outlets use of dogs who've been involved in bites. Compare to the photo of the happy dog who wants to show us how much fun her adopter will have with her.
Finally, I had to end on this most inviting shelter photo. It says, "Yep. I'm an older, brindley mixy girl. But I'm loved here at the shelter and I've got a lot of life left to give. Come on down and get me!" The gentle hand on her flank, the splash of color with the bandana, the smile that came from (probably) taking photos after she'd been exercised. And note how she's standing on her handler's shoe. Love it.
Here are more tips from fab photographer Lori Fusaro on ways to grab a digital masterpiece. And, more examples from Berkeley Animal Care Services. Good luck!