Pet Photography

5 Tips for Photographing Shelter Pets, with McGraw Photography

One of the most successful ways to help shelter pets find their forever home is through photography. Capturing that goofy personality, adorable face, and pink tongue smile for the world to see and fall in love with. 

I am very excited to have the ever so talented Sarah McGraw, owner of McGraw Photography, here today to give us her 5 tips for photographing shelter pets and in turn helping save lives. Sarah’s photography has helped many pets from The Humane Society of Charlotte find their happy ever after!



Sarah’s 5 tips

1) Use natural light: Whenever possible, use an assistant to help you work with the dogs outdoors in natural light (and place cats near a window if available). Many kennels and rescues use overhead fluorescent lighting which can be harsh and difficult to color-correct.

2) Warm the dog/cat up to the camera: The cats and dogs you are photographing are probably already stressed out and nervous so don’t instantly put the camera in their faces. Let them hear the click of the camera before really shooting. Warm them up by rewarding them with praise or treats (if they’re allowed – be sure to ask) when they respond positively to the sound of the shutter. If they still are nervous, use a longer lens and give the dog/cat plenty of space.


3) Use a shallow depth of field: Set your camera to manual or aperture-priority mode with the aperture set to one of the smaller numbers (like f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4.0). This creates a shallow depth of field which will help blur out any distracting elements in the background while allowing the animal to be the main focus of the image.

4) Show off the pet’s personality: Playing, smiling, and head tilts are all fantastic things to capture to show how personable a dog or cat really is. These types of images will jump out at viewers more than a scared-looking animal looking through a cage.

5) Post images with animal’s name and location: Social media has changed how the public hears about and searches for pets needing adoption. Sites like Facebook allow the word to spread about an animal in need (which is awesome!) so be sure to label each image with the name (or shelter number) of the pet along with the rescue’s name. That way, if the image is seen by someone thousands of miles away, the viewer knows who to contact. 🙂

About McGraw Photography

Sarah McGraw is a Charlotte, North Carolina photographer that captures modern images of posh pets. Being in love with photography since she was 12 and obsessed with animals since she was born, she can now happily say that she loves her job – the perfect combination of the two. Sarah is the proud mom of 2 dogs, Eva and Sadie, and 2 cats, Teton and Little Kitty. When she isn’t photographing clients’ pets, she donates her time photographing canine events for the American Cancer Society and fundraisers for local rescues. She also photographs adoptable dogs at the Humane Society of Charlotte.


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Comments (3)

3 responses to “5 Tips for Photographing Shelter Pets, with McGraw Photography”

  1. Sarah does amazing work! Great tips too! Thanks!

  2. Dave holzemer says:

    Thanks so much! We are a group of volunteer shelter dog photographers in PA and this will be super helpful!

    And I was hoping to mabe ask for one more tip in terms of focusing. When I try to use shallow depth of field I always seem to get more noses in focus then eyes.. Having any tips for that? Thanks again for sharing!

    All the best

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    299 Dogs & A Cat Puzzle

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