Volunteer – as a photographer!

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It has been over a month since my last blog post and I have been busy – volunteering my time as a photographer. While this topic is somewhat tangent to all of my previous posts, my purpose for sharing this topic will become clearer in subsequent blog articles I have in mind.

I have been a volunteer photographer at our local SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) for almost a month now. My family and I have a house full of our own pets: five cats (yes, five!) and a dog. For the past 18 months we have also been a foster family for kittens through our local SPCA – and the whole family just loves doing this. Since we started fostering last year we have taken lots and lots of snapshots of the kittens that lived with us. The foster kittens typically spend about 6-8 weeks with us. The goals are that the babies get used to human handling and interaction and gain weight to reach a target of about 2.5 pounds before they are ready for adoption.

A captive audience

It finally dawned on me after a while that with all of these kittens passing through our home that I had a captive audience of animal subjects! Ever try to photograph a moving object? Moving objects in a small room? It’s a challenge, let me tell you!

It is also lots of fun. You can capture load of cute images of kittens that almost everyone adores. You can practice using new equipment, artificial lighting techniques, and do your best to get little critters to pose for you.

Seasonal photo opportunities

We were fortunate to be fostering a litter of black kittens in October, and I thought that would be a nice opportunity for some cute Halloween photos. I finally nabbed one image of a black kitty checking out a pumpkin, but it was the only one of a litter of six black kittens that even dared get close to that pumpkin! Nevertheless there are still good opportunities to capture some great animal portraits.

This little kitty we called “Patch” because he was the only black kitten with a distinguishing mark – the white patch on his chest. All of his siblings were totally covered in black fur, and the only way we could tell them apart was by the colored collars they wore.

Take a photo, save a life

You don’t have to foster animals, or even keep pets yourself in your own home to have a captive audience. If you have a love of animals and are passionate about photography, this could be a match made just for you!

It certainly has been for me. I have the pleasure to be a new member of the photo team at the local SPCA. I have one or two opportunities per week to spend a few hours photographing animals that need families to adopt them. Everything is coordinated through the Volunteer Director. The little ones go quite fast, as you may imagine, as everyone seems to love kittens and puppies.

Those kittens we foster typically get adopted within the week that they become available. There’s also a foster program for dogs too. Yet I have not personally seen any puppies at the shelter. Some time last month before deciding to volunteer I finally came to realize that there is a real need to help the older animals that live at a shelter. Some animals are a few years old, and some are geriatric – but they need a loving home too. The older ones seem to be those that have the longest residence time in a shelter.

Pandemic Problems

There is a great need for animal shelters these days. So many families across the country are in the midst of very tough economic strife. Layoffs, unemployment, unpaid bills, rent and mortgage … and so many people without steady income. Folks in this situation have had to make the incredibly difficult decision to surrender the family pet to a shelter. Can you imagine the heartache that a family with children must endure when they can no longer afford to keep the family pet?

These things weighed heavily on my mind, and my heart, and with the opportunity to volunteer the meager talent I have I am doing what I can to help promote adoption of dogs and cats.

At our local shelter a few hours of training was required – a useful amount of time to understand how to approach unfamiliar animals. Many of these poor creatures are afraid, in a place that is unfamiliar, under emotional stress, etc. Learning how to gently approach and gain acceptance is a key thing to learn about animal photography. This is true if you endeavor to photograph a family with their pet or to become a volunteer photographer.

In giving there is much you will receive

Offering your time and photographic expertise not only can save a life, but bring a forever home to a cat or dog where those adopting benefit too. Be a volunteer photographer that creates a loving image of a pet, and become part of the process. In just the few short weeks of my personal involvement I have seen adoptions take place of animals that I have photographed. My heart has been filled with joy, and sometimes my eyes filled with tears … of happiness for an animal placed in a home where it will be loved, and will give much love in return as well.

Volunteer! Share your expertise and skills to do good! And while you do this good work as a volunteer you will also be honing your photographic skills at the same time.

Merry Christmas!

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