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Hot Shots: Getting Great Photos of Your Animals
The best photos speak volumes to potential adopters.
Fabulous photos are crucial to getting your animals out the door and into good homes. Whether you're posting adoptable animals on the internet or documenting your work in a newsletter or fundraising appeal, the photos you choose will represent you-and leave a lasting impression.
The professionalism of your organization is judged by the quality of everything you do, including the quality of your photographs. Here are some strategies to make sure your pictures send the right messages and show your animals and your organization in the best possible light.
To consistently get top-quality shots, find a professional or talented amateur to volunteer as your "official photographer." It can be done. Photographers tend to be very generous with their time and many love the challenge of taking great animal pictures.
Bring your photographer into your mission so she understands the messages you want to convey. Make her part of your web team or your newsletter's editorial board so she'll know the context for her work.
Ten Tips for Taking an Effective Photo
- Keep it positive. Negative or disturbing images can make adopters/donors feel sad and turn away. Happy shots showing animals ready for new homes or other results of your good work will make donors feel good about being part of your mission.
- Use a good-quality digital camera with a large LCD display (the screen on the back of the camera) so you can check to make sure you have the shot you want. When selecting your camera, you want to make sure you'll get high-resolution photos that can be posted anywhere from a small computer screen to a giant poster.
- Stick to close-ups or shots with one or two compelling subjects. Whether it's people or animals, faces tell the stories.
- When photographing animals for adoption, zoom in on the animal with no other subjects and as little background as possible.
- Make sure animals and people are looking their best. You owe it to your adoptables to clean up their eyes and give them a quick brushing. And no person wants to be captured for all eternity just as she stuffs a cream puff in her mouth!
- When taking photos of animals, have a second person on hand with plenty of treats and squeaky things to get the subject's attention. You want ears up, eyes bright, and happy expressions. Be sure the animal is comfortable and looks it.
- Check the lighting. Fluorescent light makes for green faces. Soft, even natural light is best (but no faces squinting into the sun or hiding in the shadows).
- Watch out for the flash. If you must use a flash, be sure to avoid red eye or the dreaded green or blue eyes that make your animals look straight out of a horror flick. Bouncing the flash off the wall or having the subject look slightly aside will do the trick.
- Check the background. No trees or lamp posts growing out of heads and no crowds of people or random body parts to distract from the subject.
- Crop and edit if necessary. The most basic image editing programs have tools to spruce up images by fixing red-eye or cropping out background clutter and other simple fixes.