A good quality photo can make all the difference in the life of a shelter pet. In fact, it can save a life. But, is having the skill and a high-end camera enough to be a volunteer pet photographer? Is that all shelters are looking for?
Shelters often struggle with busy schedules and insufficient staff members, making it difficult for most of them to find the time to put together a photoshoot for their animals. Don’t get us wrong, knowing what a great photograph can do, they definitely would if they can—and some already do—but you can only imagine the challenge of trying to take a (good) photo of every single animal that goes into the shelter.
Volunteering your time and photography know-how is a great way to help not only the shelter but the animals that are looking for homes. By snapping photos that really show off a shelter pet’s awesome personality, you give them a chance to charm their way into the heart of the right adopter.
However, it’s important to know that photographing shelter pets is more than just props and good lighting. Do you think you have what it takes? Here are 5 things that every volunteer pet photographer should have:
1. A Good Understanding of Photography
Okay, first things first—a good understanding of photography is a given. While it’s not the only thing that a volunteer pet photographer should have, it’s an important factor. You don’t necessarily need years of experience or a photography certificate, but you do need to know how to work your camera. Use your skills to capture the personality of the animals and help them look their best to attract adopters.
2. Necessary Equipment
Emphasis on necessary, because the thing is, an expensive camera with gigantic lenses and professional lighting equipment isn’t really required from volunteer pet photographers. You’ll be working with animals that are already feeling anxious and fearful, and would most likely be terrified of being surrounded with unfamiliar objects and bright lights.
Yes, a high-end camera would certainly capture amazing quality photos, but if you have a mid-range one or even just an iPhone, that shouldn’t stop you from offering to help take photos of homeless animals. Going back to number one, as long as you have a good understanding of photography, you’ll be able to take good photos even without the fancy filming equipment.
3. Passion for Animals
Of course, when you volunteer to photograph animals, it has to be something you actually enjoy doing. Does the thought of getting up close and personal with animals appeal to you? Are you cool with possibly getting fur and dog slobber all over your shirt or even your camera? Do you know how to use treats, toys, or weird high-pitched noises, to your advantage?
In order for you t o capture good photos, there needs to be a certain level of trust between you and an animal, so it’s important to know how to build a connection with them. And if you want to become a volunteer pet photographer, that’s something that you need to be able to do.
When you volunteer to be a shelter pet photographer, you need to have a lot of patience. You’ll be working with animals that just lost everyone and everything they’re familiar with, and are now in a different setting, surrounded with unfamiliar animals, people, smells, and sounds. Having someone they’ve never met come in one day and start pointing a strange black box in front of their face may not exactly make them want to smile and look pretty right away.
So be patient with them. Before beginning the photoshoot, spend a couple of minutes just sitting down with the shelter pets. Let them sniff you and inspect your equipment until they become comfortable around you.
5. Willingness to Commit
Let’s be honest, most shelters need all the help they can get. And while they won’t force nor expect you to be there week after week, being able to provide them with a specific volunteering schedule that you’re willing to commit to is a huge help. They’ll know that within that time frame, they can rely on you to help them out with their photography needs. Plus, if you enjoy being around animals anyway, then it’s a win-win!