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TOPIC: Shelter Dog Portraits

Shelter Dog Portraits 2 years 3 months ago #6052

I went to the shelter and walked to of the dogs and took some photos. I would love some advice on the photos. The goal was to show the dogs looks and personality in the photo so they could be used to advertise the dogs up for adoption at the shelter.

Patience by Julie Anne Moore's Photography, on Flickr

Patience was an angel to work with and this is one of my favorite spots. She got tangled up on this rock, so I grabbed a couple shots before helping her get untangled. I love this photo, It could maybe be better if she was looking at me; however, I did not manage to get that shot before she moved. What could I have done different to make this photo better, in your opinion?

Colby by Julie Anne Moore's Photography, on Flickr

Colby was not very easy to work with. He was a puller, wanted to stop and smell everything and would growl or pull backward if I asked him to come along. A thunderstorm was rolling in so we could not walk far and I did not have much time to grab a few shots. He kept going into the woods on the side of the trail and at one point got down to roll and would not get up again. This shot has been liked by some of the people on my Facebook and Flickr accounts, but I do not like the lighting; to me it looks like he has dead eyes. In your opinion, what could I have done different to make this photo better?

Why do you think that more people are liking Colby's photo then Patience's? Is it just that people like the looks of the dog better, or does it have something to do with the composition of the photos? Which do you like better and why?

Appreciate any feedback you guys may have on these shelter dog portraits.

Julie Anne
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Shelter Dog Portraits 2 years 3 months ago #6093

  • Brent Ross
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This is just a theory but I think the same principles apply as when you shoot a portrait.

People that know the dog want to see identifying traits close up. The face showing to camera... etc.

The 1st photo is nice but imagine you photograph a child from a side profile like that, then one where the lighting wasn't as good but with the face toward the camera. Despite lighting a parent would like the cute face they know and love and so would their peers.

It's about the connection with the subject, not the lighting. Lighting is just technical
Last Edit: 2 years 3 months ago by Brent Ross.
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Shelter Dog Portraits 2 years 3 months ago #6101

I do a lot of photos for a local cat shelter and a some dogs when I get the chance with another local rescue group (not shelter, foster home based).

The photos look great Julie. Colby is going to get a lot more attention simply because he's looking at the camera. Replace Colby with Patience in Colby's photo and it would get attention as well.

Keep in mind what the images are going to be used for and how/where they will be displayed. Most rescue groups/shelters probably don't have great photo galleries, and many also probably leverage Petfinder. With limited display size (many rescue group sites present with just thumbnail galleries so that's what people see first), I think the head shot is the most important attention-getter. If they can display multiple images (Petfinder allows 3/pet), full body shots are good to, but if you can only get one, really, really try to get the headshot and try to get them looking through the camera lens.
I don't really think of or consider traditional photography "rules" too much when trying to get shots of shelter pets. I want a prominent head shot first, with sharp eyes looking straight through me. Still take and keep shots like you have below because they can still be used in other shelter business and social media because they are nice colorful and sharp photos.
The shot of Colby is awesome, but if I was sending it to the shelter for them to use to display him on their site and/or Petfinder, I would also give them a much tighter crop. Maybe even just the head if it's sharp, and another of the whole body. I know, it kind of ruins the whole image, but for getting people's attention on a homeless pet, you want the pet's face in their face when they see the image. While the whole scene is gorgeous and would make a great postcard for them, featuring more dog in the photo I think will get more attention on their website and/or petfinder. I would probably try to lighten the shadows in the face so it's more visible, and maybe lighten/brighten the eyes a bit.
Shots like you have, you should encourage the shelter to display on their facebook. They will get lots of attention. I use the rescue group's logo and website or facebook address as a watermark on the image to help promote the shelter if the photo get's shared.

You obviously have some photo skills :) but there is a good resource to check out for helping shelters with photography:
check it out.

While I don't have any shots of dogs posted online, I've got some cat photos posted at
you'll notice I'm mostly filling the frame with the cat and have the cat looking at me. One thing I've come to realize is that most dog eyes don't stand out like cat's eyes in photos. They just don't have the coloring and visibility (with some exceptions of course, for example, Husky with blue eyes) that cats seem to have.
When I post these photos on the shelter's facebook page, they get a lot of attention and shares, so would encourage you to work with the shelter to use your work with their social media. You'll see some great comments that will inspire you to keep doing it!
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