Adoption photos are very important for animal rescue groups. Sadly, post covid, adoption events are not as often. Potential adopters rely on photographs on social media and Pet Finder.
In the past, I have worked with a number of rescues taking adoption photos. I have volunteered my services for 7 years. My cost and expenses have climbed. I calculated the cost of my volunteer service & expenses. My services alone were over $75,000 plus all the expense of treats, props, camera gear, utilities, insurance, & far too many hours editing. I lost so much valuable time with my family, pets and friends. ( I was volunteering far too much).
In my book, Rescue Photography, I listed requirements that rescue groups should follow with my photography services. Sadly, at one time or another, those get pushed aside. I understand the number one goal is the animal in need. However, small businesses are barely hanging on. This includes small photography businesses. Especially us, because now, everyone has a camera cell phone. That does not mean everyone is a photographer. But yes, it is hurting our industry.
So I took some time off from volunteering. I wanted to step back and figure out where I had gone wrong with volunteering photography services.
I follow many rescue groups on social media. I have looked on Facebook, Instagram and PetFinder. I see many rescue groups with photos I took almost a year ago. I have questions.
Are the photos not getting the attention of potential adopters?
Why are they staying in rescue so long?
Why are we NOT UPDATING their photos?
Here is another thing... I am rambling, but … I have a style of photography. 95% of my sessions are in studio. In studio my photos all have a consistent look, because that is my style of photography. I shoot outside and natural light also. If I am photographing all rescue dogs - with the same style, it just becomes the "norm". When you scroll through FB & IG photos, how do the rescues "stand out".
I have noticed many rescues and shelters taking better and better photographs. I secretly hope they picked up some tips from my book! But they are posting better photographs or they have a photographer shooting for them. Either way it is so much better.
But here again, if those photos are better and improved. Then you have my photos. I scrolled social media thinking, they all look the same. They are not standing out and that is what the photograph should accomplish. It should scream... 'STOP SCROLLING, LOOK AT ME, I AM A RESCUE DOG, I AM FREAKING AWESOME, HOMELESS AND LOOKING FOR MY FOREVER HOME"
I never want my photography to be the "norm". I never want to feel burned out and used by volunteering like I felt last fall. I never want to stop giving back. And when I say giving back, I am not giving back to one rescue group or shelter. I am giving back for the homeless animal that deserves a good family, a good life and a second chance. I do this for the animals, NOT the rescue group. I am NOT sold out, employed by or indebted to one rescue group only. But my heart is touched by every single animal that is in shelters or rescues.
I have spoke to several friends in rescue and other professional photographers. My volunteer time must change. How I volunteer must change. Who I volunteer for must change.
For 2023, I have created a project, "Giving Back, One Dog At A Time". I have always wanted to help the dogs that needed my services the most. Those sitting in shelters and foster homes for 12 months, the ones that are too fast for a cell phone, black dogs, dark dogs or those with issues that require dog handling experience. Or black cats because they do not get picked because of their color only. Any animal that is not getting noticed or applications for adopting.
I will volunteer my services and create a special session for each animal. My volunteer time and number of sessions will be minimized. I can no longer volunteer a week each month.
This special session will let us focus on this ONE animal and be creative. I may do some extra photoshop magic. The goal is to let the rescue dog/cat be the star and let them tell their story through photos.
Each rescue will be required to fill out the form on my website. Click on the menu, Rescue Groups and the project "Giving Back, One Dog At A Time". I will select the animals for the sessions.
What about adoption photos for all of the other animals or multiple dogs? I have created a new session for adoption photos. Yes, you can still book adoption photo sessions with me. I have discounted my retainer fee for rescue groups 55%. Book the first hour with each additional 1/2 hour added. Normally 3-4 dogs per hour, approx. 15 mins each. Other requirements apply. (Or one dog for the hour) If you are interested in booking an Adoption Photo Session for multiple dogs or even one dog, go to my website, click on menu, rescue groups Click on the bottom form, "Welcome Rescue Groups". This will begin the scheduling process.
Change is always hard. I have spent the past 3 months seeking advice from peers in the pet photography industry and from longtime friends in animal rescue. I believe these changes are in the best interest of my photography business and also to get that one animal noticed.
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