Photographs help homeless pets unleash their best features

When the homeless pets at the Dumb Friends League are ready for their close-ups, Animal Marketing Coordinator Emily Niemeier is ready to help them pose for a purpose. What, exactly, is the purpose, you may wonder? Why, finding a new family, of course!

The adoption pages on the League’s website are one of its most popular features. Patrons spend time searching for specific breeds, reading bios and looking at photos, and it’s these pictures that are critical to getting potential adopters into the shelter to meet the animals. “People may not adopt the pet they saw, but that photo motivated them to make the trip here where they will hopefully fall in love and take someone home,” said Niemeier. “The key to these photos is eye contact. Being able to see their bright eyes gives you a little insight into their personality and helps an adopter make a connection with them before they even meet them.”

Niemeier takes about 30 photos for the adoption pages every day. To save you from doing the math, that’s about 7,200 pictures a year, and after her six years at the League, the number reaches 43,2000 photographs. In addition to capturing the essence of homeless pets at the League, Niemeier also takes about 200 or so photos a year for other marketing collateral. Wow!

So, what are some of Niemeier’s favorite tricks for capturing the energy and personality of an animal? For dogs, Niemeier uses crazy high-pitched noises to get their attention. With cats, she uses a pen to touch them gently on their nose and then moves the pen up toward the camera. When the cat looks up, wondering what touched them, Niemeier gets the shot.

Sometimes, photos include seasonal or fun props. “Dressing up cats is my favorite,” said Niemeier. “They always have great expressions on their faces when they are wearing hats. I love when I find a tolerant cat to put a sweater or hat on. Whoever adopts one of these easygoing cats is lucky to have them!”

While all photoshoots are memorable in their own way, there is one that stands out in Niemeier’s mind, and it included a dog named Bolton. “Bolton was a very high energy hound mix that had been with us far too long. I had low expectations of getting a good photo of him because he had a hard time sitting still. I wanted to dress him up as a sports all-star to show off his athleticism, so I put a sweatband on his head and was going to pose him next to a basketball. As soon as I set that ball next to him, he put his paw right on it. I quickly grabbed my camera and was so excited that I got the shot! Some photos work out just because of luck. This was one of them!”

We know that a picture is worth a thousand words, and they are a vital piece in the adoption process. Sometimes, the perception is that shelters are dismal places filled with unwanted pets. Oh sure, the animals in our shelters need homes, but the League’s facilities are bright, vibrant and filled with staff and volunteers who lavish love on the pets all day. Niemeier’s photographs are instrumental in showing that these homeless pets aren’t sad and broken; instead, they are happy, hopeful pets who are ready for forever homes.

“There is nothing greater than hearing people who come in talk about how they fell in love with an animal they saw on the website,” said Niemeier. “I’m so proud to have the opportunity to show off the best side of these very deserving pets!”