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The Anatomy of an Animal Photography Volunteer

Animal Photography

photography volunteer, Blue J ImageryWelcome to today’s installment from The Volunteer Photographer’s Zone.  I’m JJ— an Artist & Photographer in Virginia, USA who does volunteer work with my art & photography.  I am also a Doobert Driver/Transporter since 2016, and currently studying to become an ARPA Certified Transporter.

I owned my own photo studio in the 90’s. Today I work in corporate America, and use my art and photography in many volunteer style capacities.  I come to you today to share my personal thoughts and experiences (unless otherwise noted), in my own words (again, unless noted otherwise).

Who is a good candidate to be a Photography Volunteer? You are of course!  Or… maybe you are reading this with a friend, family member, co-worker in mind?  Maybe you are more of a ‘happy snaps’* chick or dude, but your friend has the DSLR…. Well… first off… don’t count yourself out just yet!  If you knew how tricky it can be photographing pets/animals all by one’s self, you might be excited to actually be your friend’s assistant on photo shoots.  Trust me, in DSLR land, there is a lot to manage on the camera, let alone engage the animals, and tuff for a 1-person show. Haha. So whether you are behind the camera or to the side of the camera, you play an integral part in helping rescue animals!  Professional photography will help Shelters and Rescues place their adoptable pets quicker, so more pets can be saved. A pro, and the avid amateur professional, will pay more attention to layout, composition, as well as be able to edit a better end-resulting photo for the organization’s social media and other means they use to place the animals.  We’ll dive deeper into those things in future blog posts.

To you behind the camera: You can be of a wide age/talent range, a highschooler or college student studying, a seasoned professional, or a retired professional.   No gender criteria, no ethnic or religious criteria… no physical criteria, marital criteria, income criteria, or Meyers-Briggs criteria. No homeowner criteria, familial criteria or car style criteria. Ahhh… but… there IS attitude criteria. I know you thought that list would go on forever ;)….  

Attitude determines your directionYep, so in my opinion, attitude is the critical foundation to becoming a successful Rescue Animal Photography Volunteer. One needn’t be Mr. or Mrs. Happy Pants, but courteousness, respectfulness go a long way. Take a moment to leave your heavy cares on the doorstep and really exist in the hour or day you spend with the animals!  

To the student volunteer:  this will stay with you a lifetime! It will be an incredible addition to transcripts, resumes, etc., all while improving & developing your photography skills, personal & interpersonal skills, and provide infinite networking opportunities.

To the current Professional: community outreach is so important.  The animal rescue community is full of diverse people, and comes with extraordinary networking opportunities also.  Great time to help a young person grow by mentoring them as your assistant!

To the retired Professional:  you know how the yunguns’ flock to community adoption events, and what better way can you spend time than to delight in those little faces of wonderment and joy at seeing doggies and puppies?  Maybe you can set up a little stand and make some instant prints as memories– for a donation to the event holders….

Lastly…My little personal tidbit for today:

puppy kisses, Blue J Imagery

I love overnight hosting pets while on a relay transport, because it gives me the added time to take photos.  (When there is time between the puppy or doggy kisses!). To date, I have two absolute favorite photos from overnight hosting. Both taken by me with a remote shutter release.

I overnight hosted 7 boxer puppies on their way to NY. I had never had so much activity!  In the morning I attempted to take a pic of each one, one at a time, but the other 6 were like “wait… we want in the pic, too”, and before I knew it the gate was knocked down and I was being smothered in puppy kisses!  I managed a couple shots before the tree was knocked over, and I had to get them all corralled back to the kitchen.

Buster, dog on furniture, Blue J ImageryThe other pic is of Buster, who melted my heart.  That was us on a Sunday morning…before heading back out to the next leg on the relay transport.  He was being rescued by red rock rescue in pa, and has since found his fur-ever home; he’s thriving with a young boy who was diagnosed with Autism.

Well gotta run for now, but I leave you all with the following:

Join the Photographer’s Facebook Group for incredible roundtables, discussion boards, fund raising contests, and so much more.  Doobert will be growing and engaging its core of over 1,000 registered photography volunteers across the US. We need your input from your personal experiences…. Oh…you mutter under your breath “I don’t have [much] experience”…well, we need your questions!!!  The questions you ask will spark ideas and discussions faster than yawns catch-on at being contagious.



* ‘Happy Snaps’ is a phrase I picked up from a fellow photographer Chuck M.  He used it one day to compare the amateur photo of a pet (the happy snap), vs. what a pro or avid amateur could capture.  It didn’t even have to be on a DLSR camera — mobile devices used by a pro or avid amateur will be a notch above!

Learn how you can help animals by volunteering as a photographer. (image: large camera lens)

Photo by slon_dot_pics from Pexels

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