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Before and After: Why Animal Shelters Need Good Photographers


Florida’s Orange County Animal Services (OCAS) just broke a 48-year-old adoption record last month, and it says photography played a huge role in that. The organization has released a series of before-and-after photos showing what a difference good photos can make.

In the past, shelters would often use poorly lit snapshots of dogs and cats in cold and unfriendly environments, often shot immediately after the animal arrives. In recent years, however, OCAS and other shelters across the country have begun to recognize the value of using high-quality portraits to show the warm and loving side of animals that need homes.

“In the past, intake photos (which are taken immediately upon the seizure of the animal) might be the only image a person sees,” OCAS tells PetaPixel. “But those pics are mainly for documentation, and identification for lost owners — they are not quality images.

“Often the animal is frightened, injured, and overall doesn’t connect with a prospective family. For a long time, this was the only or primary means of photography some shelters had, including us. A quality image makes the difference in motivating someone to come meet an animal in person — especially in rural communities.”

“Amazing photography, coupled with social reach, have helped us take adoptions to new levels,” OCAS says. “Photography originally came to our shelter through the help of dedicated volunteers – some were professionals, amateurs, and some enthusiasts – but all loved animals.”

Last year, after seeing how much of an impact photography can make, OCAS decided to hire one of its former photography volunteers, Albert Harris, to directly support adoptions.

“The results have truly paid off,” the organization says.

The photos you see here are “intake photos” that were previously used to show animals (on left) compared to the new high-quality portraits that are now being shot (on right).

“Nothing compares to a captivating image,” OCAS says. “We find that people are connecting in a way with shelter animals that we’ve not seen before. Photography allows a family to see the dog’s personality, playfulness and of course – complete adorableness.

OCAS says it’s hoping that its success story with photography may inspire other shelters to improve their photography as well.