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Photos Worth a Thousand Lives

Posted: March 7, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
by Morgan Daniels.

Online profiles are an inescapable reality of today’s digital world; and what good is a profile without the perfect picture to represent who you are to the world? Whether on Facebook, LinkedIn, a company website, or, you spend hours trying to achieve the perfect profile or bio picture to put out there for the world to see.

Wait, Why would animals need profile pictures?

When animals are brought to shelters, they are immediately photographed for their paperwork and adoption websites. The animals are tired, dirty and not in the best of moods when these pictures are taken, leading to very unflattering portraits that do not accurately represent them or their personalities. In a world where presentation is everything, these animals are not on the best path to adoption. The One Picture Saves A Life campaign is on a mission to change that.

According to the One Picture Saves A Life website,  “three to four million” animals are euthanized in shelters across the United States every year. The campaign’s mission is to provide shelter staff around the country with the resources to groom and photograph shelter pets. This helps give them the second chance they deserve through flattering profile pictures on pet adoption sites. The campaign staff conducts national informational tours, provides pet photography video tutorials and encourages professional photographers to donate their time to local shelters.

Sites like, an official partner of the One Picture Saves A life campaign, make this campaign relevant and effective., the largest pet adoption website, features more than 300,000 adoptable pets from 13,474 adoption groups across the country.

The site acts almost like a dating service between potential pet owners and animals up for adoption. When people join a dating site, they go above and beyond to get that perfect picture to portray them. Why should these animals do anything less? They need the help of creative volunteer photographers such as world-famous pet photographer Seth Casteel, a founder of One Photo Saves A Life.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to be a world-famous pet photographer to help the cause and make a difference in a shelter animal’s life. Anyone can become a great pet photographer with the how-to videos available at

Until you have time to watch those videos, keep these animal photography tips from One Photo Saves A Life in mind if you want to donate your time to a shelter.

1) When photographing dark animals, use ample amounts of light and a white background.
2) Always use color photography so potential adopters don’t miss any details.
3) Use nature as a background as opposed to crates; the animals will be happier and it will show through the pictures.

Finally, here are some pet photography tips from the author to help the animals in your life put their best paw forward online.

1) Get on eye level with the animal; no one looks attractive from up above.
2) Play with the animal first. When dogs start to pant, it will look like a smile, and when cat’s eyes widen, they look kinder.
3) Have a partner to help make the animal look at the camera by holding a toy above the photographer’s head.

Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life
Photo Provided by One Picture Saves A Life


  1. Post comment

    Very interesting piece, Morgan. Before reading this article I had never heard of Having never owned a pet I also was unaware of the issue regarding the less than worthy photos of animals in need of a good home. I definitely stand by you. If I were looking for a pet, I would be more drawn to the better quality pictures of the animals. This blog is well written with detail and plenty of information regarding, the One Picture Saves A Life campaign and how to take a quality picture to benefit future pets.

  2. Post comment

    The title definitely caught my attention and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. This year I was in the market to purchase a puppy and am now a proud owner a rambunctious beagle. While searching online, I can relate to how important the pictures were of the animals. As pet buyers we want the cutest animals, showing the importance of that first picture on the website. I think this is a great service people are providing assistance with. As you said, people don’t have to be professional photographers and it’s so easy to snap shots with our smartphones now. Not only is this campaign great to hopefully increase the number of adoptions but also gives the animals enjoyment and maybe a little treat for good behavior.

  3. Post comment

    This blog successfully brought the issue of a proper picture for animals who need to be adopted to my mind. I did not realize this may even be an issue until reading the blog. The details given about the ways to ensure that the animals are happier when taking a picture are entertaining and accurate! That section brought a smile to my face. The section regarding ways to ensure better quality of the pictures proves the credibility of the author. It shows that the author took her time researching and organizing the blog. I think that adopting a child is more important of a deal than adopting an animal; however, I do agree with the point that the animals deserve a chance for adoption as well and why not make sure it is the best possible chance? And that possible chance includes a colorful, cheerful and happy picture of the animals in action.
    After all, who wants to adopt an unhappy pet?

  4. Post comment

    Morgan, great read. It just happens that I had no idea about I am aware of certain sites that advertise animals up for adoption. However I thought it they were part of the animal shelters. Nonetheless I do agree with you. Animals are no less than humans, and if they are going to be in the Internet they should deserve the same presence as we do. People tend to go for pictures that look appealing to them. Therefore the more attractive an animal looks the more likely they will find a happy home that fits them. The only problem I see here, is that this might encourage people to Photoshop certain images and people who are strictly looking online for their future pet might be deceived by false pictures when the reality is that the animal might not look as good as in the picture. Is there perhaps a way to avoid this?


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