Posted October 31, 2018 at 12:26 PM Under "Marketing, Event & Promotions"
Photographing Shelter Dogs

Interesting article from Faunalytics that provides advice for photographing shelter dogs.

"Some excellent advice for companion animal and shelter animal advocates: photographing a dog on a plain indoor background gives them the highest adoptability rating."

I honestly would have assumed it would be better to get the animals out in real-life shots or with people.

What have you seen work when photographing shelter/rescue pets?

You can read the full article here:

  • Caitlin Quinn    November 02, 2018 at 01:57 PM

    This is an interesting study, and definitely, agree that there's room for testing lots of other factors around the results! Her conclusion that "While these experiments provide some insight into the world of adoption photos, the information they give shows us that the specifics of shelter dog photography may not be as important as many people seem to suggest" definitely hits on one of my favorite mantras of "not letting perfect be the enemy of good". There are countless small things we can do to improve shelter photos that will inevitably lead to more exposure and more attention for our animals and organizations. I think it's hard to draw broad-based conclusions about some of the factors, given that appeal and attention are so subjective.

    However, another recent research project is this one, that helps identify some of what adopters identified as most important in terms of how the dogs appear and what they are shown, as well as how often they used things like online photos to make decisions about adoption prospects. Infographic for this study is attached and has some really interesting info!

    In terms of achieving some of what the author touches on and beyond, there are lots of ways to achieve a fairly uncluttered and almost solid-looking backdrop in a shelter environment by using a shallow depth of field (or portrait mode, on a cell phone!), even outdoors or in kennels/cages. We have some resources and examples that help show and describe this here: and

    I hope this is helpful in taking some of the data and creating real-world applications :)

    • afsplays    November 09, 2018 at 05:35 AM

      Does anyone have any feedback or opinions regarding photographs and videos for cats? There is always quite the lively discussion at our free-roam cat rescue (Fearless Kitty Rescue) over glamour shots vs. cats playing vs. cats with humans. We are exploring and leaning towards cats with humans and cats playing for videos, but no real consensus when it comes to photographs?

    • Jennifer    November 02, 2018 at 02:25 PM

      Thanks for sharing this study Charlotte! I'd like to see the photos the author used in her tests. I still have the prior and more comprehensive study she mentions bookmarked from when Maddie's Fund mentioned it Caitlyn, that's a great infographic. I agree with "happy" all the way! What I've found works best depends on what's feasible, fastest, and least stressful for the shelter staff/volunteers and the pets to get photos that aren't blurry or dark -- for me that's most often been in the pet's kennels.

      • Caitlin Quinn    November 10, 2018 at 09:41 AM

        Totally agree! I think it has to be that blend of efficiency and effectiveness, and in-kennel photos are so much easier for someone working or photographing alone

  • Sheltergirl    November 01, 2018 at 07:02 AM

    Oddly, I just finished reading an article (can't remember where) that said never photograph dogs with a plain background, but always in an environment that makes them look approachable and friendly, i.e. on a couch, with a child, playing ball, etc. That makes total sense to me, although obviously a plain background would highlight their looks.

    • Charlotte at Maddie's Fund   Maddie's Fund Staff  November 01, 2018 at 05:34 PM

      Thanks for sharing the article! I totally figured the same thing which is why that article saying to do it on a plain background really caught my attention. When you really dig into her experiment of the outdoor sunny location vs. plain white background vs. "caged" setting and the way the experiment was administered (online through SurveyMonkey) I'm sure there are a lot of variables that caused her to come to the conclusion that plain background is better. And I'm sure in actual practice, the results vary!