A Picture Worth a Thousand Words
By Sally Smith
Photographed by Sally Smith
As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
But, you also want the pictures of the four-footed family members in your facility to solidify your relationship with your clients and make them want to share with friends and family.
People love pictures of pets—their own pets especially. Just peruse your friends’ (or your own) social media accounts and you’ll likely see countless pet photos. As we know for many pet owners, their pets are like children. And you can use this to your advantage in a couple ways to foster good feelings and promote your facility.
Many pet owners will recognize that their pet hates being away from home. You can show off how well-adjusted and how much fun their dog or cat is having at your facility just by texting a photo. You can really impress a first-time boarding client with a picture every day or two to waylay their fears that their beloved pet is not just stuck in a cage.
The snapshot is the “quick & easy” picture; the one where all you do is whip out your cell phone. It’s a good way to let the pet owner know what is happening in their dog’s day at your facility. For instance, with dogs:
- In the tub covered with soap (assuming he is not showing fear of being bathed)
- In the play yard with a ball, or playing tug of war with a staff member
- Chowing down a meal (for the owners worried their dog isn’t eating)
- Out for a walk
- In a play group enjoying the company of other dogs (if approved by owner)
And Don’t Forget the Cats
- Sleeping away on a cushion or blanket
- Playing with a toy, or rolling in catnip
- Being brushed or combed (if the cat enjoys it)
- A staff member holding or petting the cat
Ideally, these pictures are just a quick shot of a day in the life at your facility. And, most importantly, they can put clients’ minds at ease. You could add a brief caption like, “Sunny is really enjoying her spa day!” or “Mittens likes the catnip mouse so much you may need to get him one!”
10 Hints for a Great Shot
- Make sure the eyes are in focus. Part of the dog, even the nose, can be out of focus, but the eyes need to be bright and sharp. Eyes are the window to the soul, and pets’ eyes can be so expressive.
- Use natural light. Take photos outside, if possible, or near a window. This will help show depth perception and body detail. Bright light from one direction, like a camera-mounted flash, can flatten the pet’s look in the final photo.
- Close-up shots are best. Unless it’s an action shot, like a dog running, it’s best to go close-up. Sometimes a picture of just the face can show much more expression and happiness than a full-body shot.
- Take your time and take several pictures. Professional photographers might shoot hundreds of pictures in a session and get only a handful they would deem worthy of publishing. And while your in-house efforts won’t demand this level of expertise, a nicely composed photo takes time. The pet needs to be comfortable and may need time to settle before a photo starts to convey the scene you mean to communicate.
- Have help. Often a second person is needed to distract the dog from what you are doing, or the cat needs to be enticed to look at you. If you try to take a group photo of a family of pets, several pairs of hands may be necessary!
- Use objects to get their attention. Squeaky toys or other sounds can work wonders to prick up ears to show real facial expression. Or, try a treat with for a pet who is very food oriented. For cats, a feathered toy just out of reach to interest them and hold their attention for a few moments works well.
- Use a fast shutter speed. With the SLR camera, this will help capture the moment and avoid blurry photos.
- Think beyond a portrait. Try different settings to create more interesting and unique photos. And photos turned into black and white can be very dramatic.
- Have the camera at the pet’s eye level. Photos that show the pet looking directly in the lens are so much better than when the camera angle is looking down upon the pet.
- Have a simple background. Or you can use aperture priority as low as possible with an SLR to blur the background. Keep the pet as the center of attention and eliminate anything that might be a distraction in the background.
Your photos do not need to be professional quality; however, the more you practice, the better the pictures will become. Look through pet magazines and notice how photos are presented. The pet owner will just love the fact that you took the time to do this for them.