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We’re Helping Shelters Take Amazing Animal Pictures

Adorable Kitty
Jack from the Humane Society of Sullivan County in Sullivan, Ind., has an adorable glamor shot thanks to the photography tips we offered shelter workers at the recent Animal Care Expo.

I got off the plane in Nashville, super excited be attending my first-ever Animal Care Expo hosted by the Humane Society of the United States. I was ready to meet hundreds of shelter workers from across the country, learn about the challenges they are facing, and figure out how we can help them do their hard jobs even better.

At the heart of my Expo experience was spreading the news about the Foundation’s One Picture Saves a Life program, which teaches essential pet-photography skills to shelter staffers and volunteers. We’ve partnered on the program with Underwater Dogs photographer Seth Casteel and our friends at The Animal Rescue Site, John Paul Pet and The program’s central premise is a shelter pet’s chances of being noticed by a potential adopter rise exponentially when they are represented by an attractive photo.

Seth Training Shelter Staff
Underwater Dogs photographer Seth Casteel taught shelter workers how to take better photos at the Animal Care Expo.

Again and again at the Expo I heard from workers who bemoaned their organization’s low-quality photos. They said that their animals’ pictures oftentimes showed them looking blurry, frightened and dirty. While some shelters said they counted on volunteer professional photographers to take pleasing photos, and an even smaller number said they have trained photographers on staff, most said they struggled to take engaging photographs that do justice to their temporary residents.

We pointed them toward the free teaching resources on the program’s website,, and told them about our upcoming workshops. We invited them to a talk we hosted with Seth Casteel and cat-behavior expert Jackson Galaxy (they had terrific chemistry!). We cheered as Debbie Heller of Little Rock Animal Village in Little Rock, Ark., won a digital SLR camera and choked up when she talked about all the lives it was going to help save.

Seth Casteel presents a digital SLR camera the winning shelter worker.
Seth Casteel presented a digital SLR camera to Debbie Heller of Little Rock Animal Village.

The Expo taught me that most member organizations the Petfinder Foundation proudly serves are struggling to take good pet photos. They may have money in their budgets for pet food, electricity bills or an animal-care attendant, but photography funds are much harder for shelters to come by.

The One Picture Saves a Life program is closing that gap, though, by providing easy-to-implement tips, in-person workshops, and technology grants so that shelter workers have the cameras and editing software they need.

And already it’s making a difference. Humane Society of Sullivan County President Miranda Webster Hay, who took the above picture of Jack the kitten, said the tips she learned at Expo have yielded terrific results.

“I am so excited about this program, it is all I can talk about since I arrived home from the HSUS EXPO!” Hay wrote. “Meeting Seth and just showing him some of my pictures, he was able to give me such great pointers in 5 minutes! Two days of shooting with this lens (50 mm/1.80) and I am in heaven–I am so excited to be registered for the August workshop in Chicago.”

Rachel Rosen from Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, N.J., also sent us this terrific photo of an adoptable pup that she took using the One Picture Saves a Life lessons:

Fresh, an Adoptable Dog
Fresh is available for adoption at Liberty Humane Society.

“I put quite a few tips I learned at the workshop to use in this batch of pictures,” Rosen said. “The fact that it was cloudy made me realize how much easier it would be to shoot in the shade rather than in the sun like I did in the past.” (Learn more about adopting Fresh.)

As a former shelter worker who has struggled countless times to get the perfect shot of a squirmy critter, I was thrilled to promote this progressive program at Expo. Because of the generous donations we receive, we’re able to provide life-saving resources that shelters wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Like the One Picture Saves a Life page on Facebook to see all this year’s success stories!

Learn more about the One Picture Saves a Life Program.

Donate now to help us teach shelters how to take life-saving pictures of their adoptable pets.


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