Using Photography to Help Animals


Do you love animals and photography? Did you ever think about using your photography skills to help shelter and rescue animals in your own community? Most animal shelters and rescues are looking for people to donate their services to help the animals in their care. Taking adoption photos is one service that is needed on a regular basis. In the United States, approximately 7.6 million pets enter shelters each year and, of those, around 2.7 million are euthanized. The power of a compelling photograph is far reaching and in some cases, can mean the difference between life and death. Consider volunteering your time and services by taking adoption photos and giving shelter animals a chance to make a lasting impression. Your work can save lives and be the ticket for animals to get out of the shelter and into loving homes. Knowing one of your images helped get an animal adopted is the best feeling in the world. Every time an animal is adopted, that frees up space so another one can be saved.

I’ve been taking adoption photos for animal welfare organizations for 13 years and I can tell you it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. You help animals and they help you. It’s a win-win situation. It’s a great way to hone your photographic skills while helping animals at the same time.

Are you a natural light shooter? Do you enjoy using flash units or speedlights? You can photograph adoptable animals indoors or outdoors using natural light or with studio type lighting – any way you want. Photograph animals in a way that appeals to you and makes best use of your skills.

Taking adoption photos using flash Units and a soft box.

Sometimes I photograph rescue animals using one flash unit with a soft box against a seamless paper backdrop. This is my preferred method when I have to photograph a lot of animals during a session, which can be anywhere from 20-80 animals. Having a clean backdrop makes things easier and go faster. My lighting equipment is portable. I travel light and keep it simple, since all of my sessions are done on location. I do not have a permanent studio. Below are some adoption photos taken using this set-up. I photographed the puppy against green seamless paper and the black dog against white seamless paper.


Taking adoption photos indoors using natural or available light.

If I’m only photographing a few animals (10 or less) and have decent light, I will use natural or available light. Below are adoption photos of cats taken indoors using natural/available light. I photographed the orange cat on top of a table and the gray/white cat in a free-roaming cat room.


Taking adoption photos outdoors.

If you prefer shooting outdoors, you can take adoption photos outside. Find some open shade and go for it. Below are some adoption photos of dogs I took outside. I like to photograph small dogs and puppies on top of a table. That makes it easy to get an eye level perspective. Sometimes I hang sheets on a wall to create an appealing outside-backdrop or may just use the existing surroundings like I did with the German Shepherd.

Rescue Puppy
Rescue GS

Need to sharpen your pet photography skills? My 4 week Pet Photography Course at BPSOP covers photographing animals using both natural light and flash units. You can tailor the class to learn how to photograph your own pets, pets for clients, and/or shelter pets. I recommend that people who take my class, use the type of light that inspires them and photograph what they love.

Have questions about the class, please email

Hope to see you in class!

-BPSOP Instructor – Jill Flynn

Jill teaches:
Pet Photography

Discovering North Carolina’s Outer Banks

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Bodie Island Lighthouse. Nikon 17-55mm 0.7 sec.@ f/16 ISO 200.

There’s a reason why so many aspiring and professional photographers flock to the Outer Banks. Ocean sunrises, sound sunsets, piers, and miles of quiet wildlife in between create some breathtaking landscapes, ideal for photographers.

I especially love photographing the many piers located along the Outer Banks. There are many of them and give the photographer many opportunities for great images and to practice slow exposures.

This is just a portion of the remains of the Frisco Pier after Hurricane Earl in 2010.

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Nikon 24-85mm 30 sec. @ f/16 ISO 100 & tripod.

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Nikon 24-85mm 30 sec. @ f/11 ISO 400 & tripod.

Piers are great places to get under at night to photograph shadows and light.

The fishing boats are always great subjects to photograph. It’s always more dramatic at sunrise or sunset when you have an interesting sky.

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Nikon 24-85mm 1/8 sec.@ f/22 ISO 800 & tripod.

I love to look for the intimate scenes. Crab pots make colorful and graphic images.

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Nikon 80-400mm 1/160 sec @ f/11 ISO 400.

A scene found around the shrimp boats when they come into dock for the evening.

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Nikon 80-400mm 1/400 sec @ f/5.0 ISO 400.

Of course, one cannot overlook the ocean itself for creating artistic and lovely images. In this image, I panned along with the waves as they broke on shore during the sunset to get the lovely colors.

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Nikon 80-400mm 2.5 sec. @ f/16 ISO 200.

The possibilities for beautiful photographs are endless along the Outer Banks. I will be co-leading a workshop May 11-14, 2017 with Kevin Adams. Contact me if you can join us on a fun and educational adventure to discover the beauty of the Outer Banks of North Carolina!

– BPSOP Instructor- Donna Eaton

Donna Teaches: 

Creating Compelling Compositions

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words…. But a Good Sports Photo Shouldn’t Need Any of Them

One of the things I’ve noticed about burgeoning sports photographers is that they tend to tell stories about their photos that far exceed the stories told by the photos themselves. I have been there. I have done that. I understand it. And good sports photos don’t require it.

Starting at a very young age and for a good part of my life, virtually every photo I took was for the purpose of documenting my experiences. Once I’d had the film developed and held the photos in my hands, I could look at them to trigger memories of the places I’d been and the things I’d been doing when the photos were taken. When those experiences were shared with others, such as at a party or on a family vacation, I could share the photos with the people who’d been with me and we all could reminisce about the good times we’d had. Those photos helped to tell our stories for us and their power was in the experiences we had shared. For that reason, sharing those photos with people who hadn’t been there didn’t always work so well to. Even accompanied by a running narrative, the connection wasn’t there, and thus, I call these my ‘you-had-to-be-there’ photos (which are only slightly less annoying than inside jokes you aren’t privy to).

It’s not surprising that when I started photographing sports, I produced the same kinds of photos, the sort that captured elements of the events that would have meaning only for me and for others who had shared in those events. It wasn’t until I put some of these photos out there for ‘outsiders’ to see, and witnessed their unimpressed reactions, that I began to understand both the problems associated with you-had-to-be-there photos and the importance of creating images that told a story that transcended ‘being there.’ As I have viewed and critiqued many photos over the years, I’ve run across lots and lots of these you-had-to-be-there photos, or perhaps more specifically, photos for which a story is offered that far exceeds any story the photo alone can tell. A generic example: a photo of a football player holding his helmet in his hand, his hair damp and messed from having worn the helmet, his uniform looking played-in. The description: “This is a photo of the local high school’s senior quarterback after the last game of his high school career. He missed his entire junior year due to injury and worked his way back onto the starting team only to get injured again, but he recovered in time for the state semi-final game, which they’d just lost, so this is the end of the line for him.” It’s a compelling story, and the photo likely would have great meaning for this young athlete and his parents. But this isn’t the story the photo alone might tell, and good sports photos should be able to speak for themselves. I’ll say again that I understand completely why we take these photos, and I would maintain they are important photos to have. (I also expect it was wanting to have these very kinds of photos that led many of us to try our hands at sports photography in the first place!) These images represent experiences we share with others, and they serve as reminders of those important shared experiences. There’s nothing about them being ‘sports’ photos that changes that. BUT, it is necessary to understand the difference between photos for which you can tell a story, and photos that tell their stories for themselves. In my Sports Photography class, we are striving for the latter, and for that reason I go out of my way to comment about this in my critiques.

Here’s an example from my archive taken quite a few years ago:

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At the time, I was very proud of this photo. I posted it in a sports photography forum and I’m sure I had a lengthy story to tell, with details about my trip to Shea Stadium, who I was with, the camera gear I was carrying, where I sat, the inning, game situation, outcome, and oh yeah, the home run by David Wright.

Home run you say? Game situation? Camera gear? (Okay, we’ll give you David Wright.) Of course the reality is that this photo doesn’t tell any story at all other than that I appear to have been at a Met’s game, sitting somewhere in left field, and I snapped a photo. End of story. It’s a you-had-to-be-there moment. Now take a look at a few of these next photos, and while each viewer might come up with different versions of the stories the images are telling, I don’t think we could argue against the fact they are succeeding at speaking for themselves.

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-BPSOP Instructor – Russ Isabella

Russ Teaches:

Sports Photography

My Favorite Quotes: Helen Keller


It was 1899 and I was Edgar Degas

Not all my favorite quotes have been said by photographers. There have been several that have been said by painters, writers, and musicians, all artists in their own right.

After recently reading an article about the work Helen Keller did, I started reading some of her quotes, and one in particular stood out to me as having a profound effect on not only my photography but in my teachings as well.

First, it’s important to give you the true meaning of the word Vision since several of my online students with the BPSOP, and my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop participants can sometimes confuse a word that actually might mean something else; something I have done from time to time.

[vizh–uh n]


1. the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight.

2. the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be.

3. an experience in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present, often under the influence of a divine or other agency: a heavenly messenger appearing in a vision.

4. something seen or otherwise perceived during such an experience: The vision revealed its message.

5. a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation.

Btw, I like number three, but so far after nearly fifty years of being a photographer, I’ve never had a heavenly messenger appear in my composition as a vision; which is unfortunate.

Helen Keller said, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”.

One would have to agree that vision is imperative and what fuels the engine that pushes creativity forward. The sad part is that with the coming of the digital age, some of my fellow photographers don’t rely on their personal vision, instead they count on their computer to create their imagery which over time will make them really good computer artists…and if that’s your thing, to each his own.

What the computer can do is important to this new age, and it should never be said that I don’t appreciate it, but to me it should be used to add the finishing touches, i.e., contrast, lighten or darken,  occasional sharpening, etc.. Those things that can enhance an already strong photo made before the shutter is depressed.

This is where vision comes into play, and what you can do to create strong images before the fact. This is all about definition number two, and what I want to write about: “the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be”.

There are photographers (great photographers) out there, many of them teaching that photograph what they see and never looks for anything else. In other words what is will always be just that. To add or alter anything when composing is strictly against their beliefs, and to that they call themselves purists.

The funny part is that they have no compunction when it comes to sitting in front of their computers and altering the light, color, saturation, shadows, and some even apply some weird trick they picked up in one of the thousands of plug-ins available to them; and then there’s the crop and straightening tools!!!!!

Since I’ve never cropped one of my photos in nearly fifty years I can’t even or don’t ever want to think about that…but I digress.

Don’t photograph what is, photograph what could be, and that’s what my definition of vision is all about. I’m not talking about vision in Fine Art photography in this context, which I plan on talking about in upcoming posts. I’m talking about images that exist in nature and are readily available for all to see if you set your mind to seeing them. This is the kind of vision I’m talking about.

You can actually practice in your spare time!!! How???

Suppose you’re walking down a pier very early one sunny morning and you immediately stop to take a photo of a Vanishing Point created by the converging lines of the two sides of the railings extending out from either side of you.

Without any hesitation you quickly take the shot and now you have created a photo that via a Vanishing Point, leads the viewer down to the end where the two lines meet on the horizon exactly where the sun is coming up; a great photo by all accounts.

Now, you’re standing there and if you’re like me you wish that there had been a fisherman at the end of the pier, silhouetted against a warm, soft, and beautiful sun minutes after breaking the horizon.

Or what if you were walking in a park late one Fall afternoon and you noticed a bench next to a winding path covered with leaves painted by mother nature with every color known to happen during the peak days of Autumn. You bring your camera up to your eye and take a picture; another good photo albeit fairly predictable.

Again, if you were like me and were on your knees up close and personal to the texture and patterns of the leaves, you might have wished there was an elderly couple sitting at the other end of the bench feeding a group of pigeons that were milling around next to their feet.

These are the thoughts that are always running through my imagination when I’m out shooting. I think of various scenarios because it’s a way of exercising my mind, because you just never know when an opportunity might come up. An opportunity that will change a good photo into a special one.

In the above photo, While shooting in Cuba I saw this woman just finishing up posing for other photographers in an old house. I immediately envisioned Degas paintings of the ballerinas. At that memorable moment I led her into another room, had her sit and take off her slippers; it was 1899 and I was Edgar Degas.!!!

Give it a try sometime. Think of yourself as a painter instead of a photographer. Your camera on  tripod is a blank canvas on an easel; use it to color outside the lines.


-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II



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  • "Thank you so much for your kind, generous & encouraging words in your critiques, and otherwise. I truly enjoyed your class, and I think it came to me at a very good time as I am trying to hone my skills with portraiture. Part of my struggles with this is finding willing subjects for periods of time. That issue was resolved for your class... I appreciate you directing my attention to the "details" in my images (or lack of...). With self-portraits sometimes those are missed by nature of relinquishing some control of the timing of the shutter release. However, you pointing the importance of those elements resonated and will stick with me going forward. So again, thank you for that insight. "
    William Lee The Art of Self Portraiture
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