Back to Basics: Shelter Photography 101

A quality photograph has the power to form a connection that can change a life. It’s a little theory we’ve lived and grown by here at HeARTs Speak since our inception, and it’s helped us unite a global community of creative professionals who believe the same! It’s also the foundation for our Perfect Exposure Project — a hands-on workshop that empowers animal shelter staff and volunteers with tools to help them promote the animals in their care more effectively.

Both of those programs are further fueled by our belief that knowledge is for sharing, and that through collaboration and teamwork we can truly create a world where no shelter animal goes unseen! It’s in that spirit, that we’ve condensed the DSLR and point-and-shoot photography section of our Perfect Exposure Project curriculum into a handy dandy, 3-part downloadable series — so anyone with a desire to help shelter pets can improve their skill set and get great adoption portraits in any environment!


All three installments are available totally free through the EDU program! Or click the links below:

The 3 Stooges. Charlie’s Angels. Rock, paper, scissors. History is full of awesome trios, but our favorite is the exposure dream team, more formally known as the exposure triangle. It’s the subtle interaction between aperture, ISO, and shutter speed and the first stop for a great photograph! If you’ve been happily snapping away in auto mode, today’s the day to nudge that dial to manual, take charge, and make some new magic happen.

In the first installment of our 3-part guide, learn how the exposure triangle works and get inspired by real-world examples and actionable tips for any environment. Click to download



Teamwork makes the dream work when it comes to efficiently and effectively photographing shelter pets! Because shelters and rescue environments can be unpredictable, busy places and personalities can vary greatly among adoptable models, we love this team setup solution to help you make the most of your time and resources. Grab another volunteer or two and try out the ‘muse + wrangler + photographer’ combo we teach during the Perfect Exposure Project.

Available as a digital infographic, with an accompanying printable flyer and cheat card you can hang and share! Click to download



And the cherry on top! How can we make any setting the perfect backdrop for an adoption portrait? As we become more comfortable in an environment — from play yards, to offices, to cat rooms and dog kennels — it’s natural to overlook their potential as stellar locations for photos. But beauty lies waiting in unexpected places, and this installment covers how depth of field and a keen eye can work in tandem to help you get eye-catching photographs in any space! Click to download



Looking for more photography tips, tricks, and inspiration? We gotcha’ covered! Eye-catching photos are easier to get when the photo session is stress-free. Or print these tip cards from our Shelter Photography Field Guide for an easy, on-the go set of cheat sheets.

BONUS! No DSLR camera? No problem! The best camera is the one you have on you, so if you’re a cell phone rock star, check out this free resource or one of our favorite blogs for a few tips to make the most of the power of the cell phone photo.

Happy snapping!


Posted in ,
HeARTs Speak

HeARTs Speak

HeARTs Speak's goal is to increase the visibility of shelter pets by uniting creativity and advocacy. Through programs based in partnership, training, resource-sharing, and innovation they are proud to be the only organization of their kind uniquely focused on the portrayal and marketing of animal services and pet adoption. A tiny but mighty organization with over a decade of work under their belt, they're passionate about ensuring that no animals go unseen, and that creative marketing for shelters and rescues is fast, easy, and fun.