Kim de Araujo, a professional photographer and HeARTs Speak member, could pass for a realtor given her talent for setting a scene. She recently happened upon One Eleven East, a new and dreamy event space in Hutto, TX. Kim recalls falling in love the moment she laid eyes on its broad, light-filled windows, rich wood floors, and delicate marriage of historic and modern trappings. Smitten, she immediately put wheels in motion to make it the setting of a photo-shoot for a dog in need of a little superstar treatment.
The superstar in question is Harley. He’s undeniably dashing, looks great in a bowtie, and is as patient as a bump on a log — and let’s be real, what more could one want in a man? But patient or not, 8 months is more than long enough to hang around waiting for your forever-after to roll up and throw open the car door.
Kim’s shelter photo-shoots typically focus on capturing the dogs of Williamson County Regional Shelter who are experiencing an abnormally long stay. Through the careful selection of a location matched to the dog’s preferences, skills, and positive features, Kim and her assistant, April, work to highlight their personality in a fresh, more genuine, and memorable way.
If taking a shelter pet on a little field trip for fresh photos is an option in your situation, here are Kim’s top 3 tips for choosing the perfect location:
1. CONSIDER VERSATILITY AND VARIETY
“I like a location that allows me to move the dog around to different spots for a different look and feel and add variety to the story we are trying to tell. It could be anything from the type of background, the style of lighting, or other small features that can add interest in the frame: stairs, a bench, or long pathways, for example.”
2. CHOOSE A PLACE WHERE THE DOG WILL FEEL SAFE AND COMFORTABLE
“Some dogs will do well in an urban downtown setting, others prefer a quiet park while some just want a bench in the play yard at the shelter. When they’re comfortable, it will show in their photos, so be respectful of their needs and preferences.“
3. WORK WITH THE LIGHT
“It’s great to shoot when the light is perfect and dreamy, but that's not always possible. So, choose different locations for different times of the day based on how the light will be. Making the very best use of the light you do have adds a lot to an image.”
Harley’s excellent manners, easy-going nature, and Zoolander-good looks made him the obvious choice for Kim’s newly discovered location. Concurrently, the One Eleven East space itself presented a unique opportunity to showcase Harley’s basic training and compatibility with relaxed home life. After Kim settled on a small couch she picked up at a yard sale as the primary prop (giving potential adopters the chance to visualize him in their own home), April suggested red as a feature color to build a strong visual theme. That in-turn led to bright red roses and balloons as supportive props.
Not surprisingly, all of this forethought paid off. Kim’s photos brought Harley’s 9-month shelter stay to an end, and he’s now adopted.
In addition to Harley, however, this shoot also celebrated something more personal for Kim. Following the loss of her father last year, she was feeling creatively uninspired in her grief. The knowledge that she could change the lives of shelter dogs through her photography work was a consistent motivator during a difficult time. But when a picture of the One Eleven East space appeared in her Instagram feed, Kim felt a familiar and powerful rush of inspiration finally flood back. In an instant and from somewhere totally unexpected, Kim regained her creative fire.
Wrapped up in Kim and Harley’s parallel journey from a life-altering loss to a lifesaving image is the lesson that, through daily rediscovery and appreciation for even the most unassuming beauty around us, we can harness and channel our creative inspiration in ways that transcend the expected, save lives, and transform conversations about pet adoption. And it could all start with location, location, location.