Yesterday was my first volunteer session with the Humane Society of Charlotte! Having photographed shelter dogs previously, I was prepared that it would be challenging work. It is so rewarding though. Sidenote: a lady recently contacted me to tell me that she adopted a dog from Gaston County Animal Control based on the photos I took of him that were posted to the shelter’s Facebook page. In fact, she had him flown from NC to Canada to be with her and he is now living happily with his new fur family! How awesome is that?
I am very happy to begin a new partnership with the Humane Society of Charlotte because it is so close to my home and although they are a “no kill” shelter, every animal that gets moved out of HSC makes space for a new one to come in (and there will always be another animal to take their place). HSC pulls many of their adoptable pets from the local animal control, which has to take every animal that comes in their door (meaning those that are not adoptable will be euthanized at Animal Control). So, if I can help an animal get adopted, then I can actually be saving two lives at once. I hope that makes sense!
From here on, I will just post the photos of adoptable pets on the blog, but to start I want to give you an idea of what I’m working with so you understand the limitations of photographing shelter pets. First, understand that most of these animals have either been strays with little socialization, were once pets that were neglected, came from hoarding situations or puppy mills…you name it. I often photograph the pets who are new intakes or have been there the longest and need a fresh photo. The cute, toy breeds and puppies either get adopted quickly or live in foster homes offsite. I photograph many large breeds that honestly tend to look the same as the next dog and what they really need is to stand out (think mixes of Pit Bills, Boxers, Labs and Shepherds). Some have recently been walked, others have pent up energy that makes it very difficult to photograph them without them looking crazy, and I’m limited on time.
Second, I have to work with what I’ve got – meaning, if it’s raining (as it was yesterday), this play yard is my only option. The good thing is that the tent acts as a big light diffuser, there’s green turf and we have some toys and treats to use. The bad thing is that the play yard is right next to the kennels, which distracts most dogs. To avoid background clutter like fencing, poles and trash cans, I mostly have to shoot down, which is not always the best angle, however, it’s clean. I’ve included some photos to show you the space (and this is actually better than most shelters).
Lastly, the staff and other volunteers can be my best friends. They create a list of dogs and bring them out as needed, kind of like an assistant. I might have them hold a treat or otherwise help me get the dogs’ attention. What’s unique about shelter dogs is that my usual tricks don’t always work. An anxious dog isn’t interested in my noises or even my peanut butter. Yes, more than half denied my peanut butter offer! However, I’m persistent and determined to get the best photo possible, even if that means staying longer. It just takes a lot of practice and even more patience. If you’re not patient, this isn’t the assignment for you. I feel for these beings and I try to communicate with my voice and body language that I’m there to help them.
If you read this far, thank you! Now, enjoy the images and if you have questions, I’d be happy to answer them at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.