I wish I could save them all

A year ago this December I started volunteering at one of our local animal shelters. Once a week I take photos of the dogs, cats, birds, bunnies and guinea pigs that are available for adoption. Life was leading me to a point where I felt like I needed to do something that made a difference.

“The meaning in life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Not that I am of the opinion that I have a gift, I have a passion for photography and I needed to give that passion a purpose beyond capturing memories for my family. I was first inspired by this post on Design Mom. In her post she discusses a photographer who went to her local pound and asked for the animals least likely to be adopted, she then set out to capture their unique personalities. Each of the dogs she photographed found a home.

I contacted our local shelter and found that they were indeed looking for photographers, I even went through volunteer training only to be told, “Thanks, we’re all set.” Luckily it was only a setback of a few months. Later, I happened to be on Facebook one day when I read in the comments on a post from the shelter someone complaining about the lack of photos of the animals. One of the employees responded that they didn’t have enough photographers so I immediately contacted the person in charge of volunteers who said she wasn’t aware of the issue and after confirmation regarding the lack of volunteers I was ready to go!

I did a little research regarding animal photography, especially dogs. What stood out to me as most important was focus on the eyes. The eyes are the windows to the soul and their unique personality. I wanted the viewer to be able to make a connection with the animal right there on the shelter’s website. Also, a shallow depth of field which means a small focus point with the remainder of the image blurry. The blur allows the background to fade away so the potential adopter doesn’t see the cages or chaos that a busy shelter can endure. I want the viewer to picture that animal in their own home.

My goal is to make that animal shine! Inside the shelter (for cats and small animals) the lighting is not ideal so my ISO setting (making my camera more sensitive to light) is usually pretty high and in the courtyard (for dogs) the lighting is a mixed bag of partial midday sun/shade, overcast and in the winter snow and oftentimes dirty snow. Superb editing tools are a must! I use a combination of RadLab for Photoshop and Aperture (soon to be switching to Lightroom since Aperture no longer has support from Apple).

So now every Monday I team up with with my photographer friend Michelle with a list of animals who need photos. I’m going to try to start blogging about the animals I’ve photographed on a weekly basis. In a future post I’ll choose some of my past favorites to share.

This week:

Bree

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Yara

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Moola

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Sasha

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Mama Stormy

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Boo Boo and Smokey (2 fur 1 bonded pair)

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Gail

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All of these animals are available at Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society.

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6 thoughts on “I wish I could save them all

  1. Becky – I loved your email on photographing animals. I was close to tears on the thought of their existence now in the shelter and wanted to run out and adopt one then and there.. Your photographs are so beautiful. You really have a talent for photography and you capture of each animal’s special look and personality so well in all the photos I see here. Good for you, you’ve found your gift and give it back so lovingly. — Millie

  2. Oh wow, Becky! These are beautiful—Moola looks exactly like our Neko who lived to a ripe old age of 16. You’re doing a wonderful service, and I can see how much you love them all.

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