Creating an Internal Stock Library Shelter Shot List

When it comes to putting our best marketing foot forward in animal welfare, much of promoting our animals, services, and organizations comes down to being able to tell the stories of our work. Beyond promoting available animals, we start to connect with our communities best when we’re showing them everything from the enrichment we provide to the work of our Animal Protection Officers to a good old fashioned snuggle session with a pet in need and everything in between. It’s one thing to tell those stories on our social media channels, blogs, and newsletters, but true connection comes from showing it.

That’s where the idea of a shelter “shot list” comes in! In order to connect with the community, help spread the word about our good work, and ultimately start to change minds and open hearts we need to have at our disposal a little arsenal of images that help us tell these stories. Better yet, these kinds of images also come in handy for general promotion — whether on the website, when advertising an event or service, or even putting together a quick adoption promotion on the fly. Think of this as your internal stock photography list!

Images open the door, and having the right one handy makes the difference between stop-you-in-your-tracks marketing and keep-on-scrolling marketing. Thanks to help from Miranda Hitchcock, the Shelter Operations Manager at Austin Animal Center in Austin, TX, we’re proud to present this sample shot list:

  • Front of shelter
  • Dog in play yard
  • Volunteer walking smiling dog
  • Volunteer cuddling smiling dog
  • Volunteer holding cat
  • Staff walking smiling dog
  • Staff cuddling smiling dog
  • Staff holding cat
  • Staff or volunteer with other pet (depending on what shelter takes in)
  • Person opening cat cage
  • Dog in kennel wagging tail smiling
  • Cat in cage looking happy
  • Bottle baby kitten eating
  • Kittens being cute
  • Neonatal puppies
  • Dog- great shot w background blur, different types
  • Cat- great shot w background blur, different types
  • Animal control/protection officer with truck and dog
  • Animal control/protection officer carrying animal and cuddling
  • Animal control/protection officer with wildlife, if possible
  • Animal control/protection officer shaking someone’s hand
  • Animal control/protection officer or dispatcher on radio
  • Adopter family photo
  • Lobby with customer service smiling at patrons
  • Office with pet in it
  • Staff carrying bags of food
  • Surgery suite
  • Vet doing surgery
  • Vet/tech doing animal exam
  • Vet/tech with injured-looking pet
  • Vet/tech holding pet
  • Vet/tech handing pet off to adopter
  • Staff group photo
  • Volunteers and staff talking about a dog/cat
  • Cat rooms/kennels
  • Dog kennels
  • Dog/Cat with toy
  • Playgroups
  • Dog playing fetch
  • Feet and paws walking down hall
  • Person holding kitten/puppy over shoulder (from behind)
  • Staff/Volunteer with cat on lap
  • Volunteer or foster orientation group shot
  • Front desk shot with customer service
  • Animal control/protection officer getting a pet out of the truck
  • Staff member handing out food
  • Staff member cleaning kennel
  • Director-level positions with an animal
  • Someone walking dog on leash, dog sitting and looking at them

Or, download it in a handy, printable PDF version here:

How and where to start, you ask? Having a list like this available to all staff and volunteers, especially folks who tend to snap photos already, can help provide direction and inspiration! Additionally, pulling aside and saving adoption photos that also check some of these boxes for bigger picture marketing projects can help save you time later on. Check out these tips for how to best use your shelter surroundings to get beautiful shots, whether with a DSLR or cell phone.

Finally, where possible, get releases signed by members of the public to ensure you have permission to use their images in perpetuity for future marketing. Talk to your shelter’s favorite legal expert or check out resources like this to learn more about best practices for model/property releases

Psst! One final tip: Should you find yourself in a pinch or in need of profession stock photos featuring shelter and rescue animals, check out our stock photography for good program Images with HeART

Miranda Hitchcock is the Shelter Operations Manager for Austin Animal Center. She previously worked with Austin Pets Alive!, Houston Pets Alive!, and Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center. She takes mediocre photos but loves iPhone videography, and still goes “squee!” at every kitten in the shelter. She thinks every shelter should have a magical marketing genie (in addition to paid staff) and has a HeARTs Speak t-shirt that she gets lots of compliments on that you should totally buy from their store.

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Caitlin Quinn

Caitlin Quinn

Caitlin is passionate about working with shelters and rescues to reimagine the way they tell their stories and connect with new audiences. She has served in the animal welfare field since 2008 and early on had the honor of working closely with diverse organizations across the U.S. to maximize resources, redesign policies, and find life-changing marketing solutions. In 2015, she got her MPA with a concentration in nonprofit management and in 2021, she began teaching marketing + communications for the University of Florida Master of Veterinary Science, Concentration in Shelter Medicine program. She lives in NY with a petite brindle pit bull named Sally who owns her heart.