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How Dog Portraits Save Lives

Mabel, English Bulldog - Rescue from Dogs Trust Essex

Mabel, English Bulldog - Rescue from Dogs Trust Essex

We are all at least dimly aware of the tragedies that take place at animal shelters.

The unfortunate truth is that dog abandonment in the UK has reached a crisis point. A survey by Dogs Trust found that a total of 102,363 stray and abandoned dogs were handled by UK Local Authorities in 2014.

5,142 of those dogs were eventually euthanized. That means that on average, Local Authorities put down one dog every two hours.

This shocking statistic is one that plenty of dog-loving creatives couldn’t ignore.

In recent years, professional photographers have begun volunteering their services at local animal shelters, providing high-quality photos and significantly increasing adoption rates, in some cases by as much as 100%.

Because the photos on shelter websites play such a big role in whether or not pets get adopted, it makes sense that professional dog portraits are so effective in helping pets find homes.

By portraying dogs in positive environments, highlighting their best traits, and showcasing their potential as pets, professional pet photography really is leading to more adoptions at animal shelters.

A More Paw-sitive Approach

Too often, the photos on animal shelter websites are just plain depressing.

A teary-eyed spaniel mix pressed up against a cage door, a pit bull that looks like it’s about to break free of its leash, a muddy-looking chihuahua curled up on a concrete floor — the last thing these gloomy photos do is make you want to adopt.

It’s the same with higher-budget adoption campaigns. In 2012, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) aired a heartbreaking commercial designed to encourage donations and adoptions.

But with its graphic and truly disturbing shots of crying kittens and despondent dogs, the ad doesn’t make you want to adopt— it makes you want to change the channel!

However, smart professional photographers are reversing this approach to pet adoption campaigns. Rather than guilt-tripping people, they’re taking pictures that show happy-looking dogs in positive environments.

One such photographer is Teresa Berg, a professional pet photographer whose volunteer dog portraiture was featured on BBC Radio.

Berg noticed that too often, potential pets are overlooked simply due to poor photography.

In many amateur photos on rescue websites, the dogs “look like they are either about to be kicked or they were just kicked.” The pictures are badly lit or look like they were taken in someone’s cluttered garage. The dogs aren’t groomed or even looking at the camera.

Berg knew she could do better. That’s why she began offering her professional photography services to her local dachshund rescue, leading to a 100% increase in adoption rates.

In contrast with traditional adoption photos, Berg’s high-quality portraits depict potential pets rather than strays. Her professional photos take a positive approach to pet adoption, encouraging more people to adopt, and saving countless lives.

From Least Adoptable to Dog-gone Adorable

Another advantage of professional dog portraits is that they highlight the best traits of dogs that no one seems to want.

The shelter animals that are least likely to be adopted include elderly and abused dogs, as well as overrepresented breeds like pit bulls and chihuahuas.

Most people can’t see past a dog’s advanced age, physical disfigurement due to abuse, or unfortunate breed stereotypes.

That’s where professional dog photographers, like E5 Dog Photography, come in.

Barlcay, Jack Russel Cross - Rescue from The Mayhew

With high-quality portraits that highlight each dog’s unique personality, potential pet owners can see all that a dog has to offer, regardless of age or appearance.

And that’s exactly what photographer and arts student LaNola Kathleen Stone accomplished with her volunteer project at a local animal care center.

In 2009, Stone photographed 15 of the least adoptable dogs from the care center, including black dogs, which are statistically less likely to be adopted, and a pit bull. These 15 dogs had been at the shelter for at least six months and still hadn’t found a home.

After Stone’s photos were posted, all but one of the dogs were adopted. Stone noted that the one that was not adopted was “really old.”

Knowing that your new pet probably won’t live very long can be a big deterrent to adoption for many people. That’s why photographer Pete Thorne began photographing senior dogs in his portrait series entitled “Old Faithful.” Thorne’s goal was to show that old dogs need love just as much as puppies.

And so do overrepresented breeds, like pit bulls.

Pit bulls, and other bully breeds, have gotten a bad reputation for being vicious and aggressive. Thus, it’s no surprise that these dogs commonly wind up in shelters and rescues.

But the truth is, just like people, every pit bull has a unique personality, and they need love and companionship as much as any other breed.

Photographer Guinnevere Shuster knew that, and her photography work for her local humane society has helped place several pits into forever homes. Shuster’s photobooth style pictures help potential owners see what great pets these dogs will make.

Or Sophie Gamand Photographs Pit Bulls In Floral Crowns to show their softer side and encourage adoption.

Showcasing Pet-tential

The professional dog photography adoption campaign is gaining ground everywhere. With big names like celebrity pet photographer Seth Casteel hosting free pet photography workshops for shelter volunteers, high-quality pet portraits are set to become the standard for shelter and rescue websites.

Initiatives like One Picture Saves A Life help to supply shelters with the equipment to properly groom and photograph their dogs. Some dogs have been adopted within 12 hours of having been photographed and re-posted online.

The results leave little room for doubt. Professional dog portraits save lives.

With high-quality, positive photos that showcase each pet’s best traits and unique

personality, every dog can find a new home.

These photos not only lead to more adoptions, but also provide each new doggy parent with awesome professional pictures of their new pet.

Tilly, (9y/o) Rescue from South West Essex RCPCA

Tiily, (9y/o) Rescue from South West Essex RCPCA

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