HomeArticles of Elisa Black-TaylorAnimal Shelter Photography: Prettify or Reality?


Animal Shelter Photography: Prettify or Reality? — 11 Comments

  1. Whatever gets them adopted. I think it may well be the pretty photos that get them adopted better – so be it then. This is an interesting topic. If I lived by a shelter I would be very happy to take on this job of photographing them as best as I could.

    • I would like to photograph rescue cats and dogs. I should find a local shelter and ask but they probably have their own systems and are probably miles away. Mind you, it does me an idea. I might investigate that. It is about available time. I am quite busy for an old geezer about to receive his state pension….

  2. Good subject, Elisa. Firstly, there is not much prettifying going on. The posed pics are not much better than the “real” ones. The photographer just put a scarf around the dog and took him out of the cage.

    However, the argument that pictures should be real (to tug at the heart-strings) is interesting. I had always believed that making the rescue cats and dogs more attractive would help them get adopted but perhaps not.

    My personal choice is that posed and prettified – done to a higher standard than seen on this page – is preferable.

    A mini studio somewhere out the back of the shelter should be set up and a proper job done. No Photoshopping. The picture should be real with respect to the cat or dog but the presentation should be attractive so people can visaulise the cat in their home and the cat or dog should be clean and groomed. Let the natural beauty of the animals shine.

    • A few notes in reply:

      You must work within the confines and constraints of the system. In a four to five hour volunteer shift we would often photograph thirty plus dogs. On teh surface that sounds like a lot of time, but factor in that we are responsible for finding the dogs as well as photographing them. Greenville has very very little in the way of tracking animals within the system. We would often spend half an hour trying to locate the dog we were to photograph. In actual time in front of the camera we were lucky to have two minutes with a terrified dog. Our backdrop is a concrete wall. The shelter does not allow us to use backdrops or props. The bandana is our only option.

      Regarding photoshop. You are woefully misguided in the proper application of photoshop if you dismiss it with a simply no. If I have a dog that is showing aggression but as massive “eye boogers” we photoshop them away rather than scaring the dog further and as a result having a DHEC bite record on the animal. Furthermore animals are often caked in feces and sometimes bloodied from living in close quarters with unfamiliar dogs. Would you have me show the poop stuck to a dogs head and blood on it’s white fur or photoshop it away? A true professional photographer enhances an image without altering it’s true form via photoshop.

      I have left as volunteer coordinator with the shelter due to many disagreements with management but continue to work with dogs through rescue groups needing photography. By doing so I am able to produce an image that far exceeds the images we were shoehorned into shooting at the GCAC shelter.

      Never forget that parameters are in place that you are unaware of.

      Todd Williams

      • Thanks Todd for shedding some light on this difficult work. Appreciated – really. I see the restraints more clearly now.

        The shelter does not allow us to use backdrops or props..

        Why is that? It seems like a strange decision to me.

        massive “eye boogers” we photoshop them..etc…

        I was generalising. Sorry. I agree some gentle prettifying is OK. Definitely. I do it myself, removing minor “defects” around the eyes etc. However, it does make me ask why the shelter doesn’t clean up the dogs in reality. Why depend on Photoshop? Feces, eye gunge etc can removed physically and isn’t it good for the dog? It seems that time constraints and staffing levels prevents this in which case it appears that Grenville is constantly under crisis management.

        This is an interesting subject. I guess you agree that some prettifying is better than the raw reality picture.

        • It’s an eye-opener to learn the dogs and cats have feces and blood on them. Doesn’t surprise me with all the negativity I’ve heard over the past 2 months. I know a lot more than I’m able to write about here but I’m confident the animal lovers in the Greenville area will bring about positive change. Todd spoke at the council meeting last night. Wish I could have been there to hear what was discussed.

          • Elisa, I am surprised that Todd is asked to photograph dogs with blood and feces on them. It does not give me the impression that the place is managed well or that the cats and dogs are well cared for. I may be too harsh and critical but if the shelter can’t even wash the dogs what chance of preventing disease?

      • No wonder you’re frustrated Todd. Blood and feces and everything. OMG! My Furby has a runny eye a lot of the time that I use a mole removal feature to remove. I do miss your shelter photos. The shelter made a big mistake when they lost you.

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