Every Picture Tells A Story. Or, Does It?

It’s tough to photograph a shelter dog and make him look good for adoption. How do you make one black dog stand out from all the other black dogs? And, a Pit Bull by any other name is still a Pit Bull, right?

With thousands of dogs coming through Florida shelters every week, what is the significance of one photo on a shelter’s website to help get a dog noticed? How does the photographer capture the look on a dog’s face that will hopefully lead to adoption?

Donating countless number of hours, professional photographers have been asking that question of themselves for years. Thank goodness, through their tenacity, learned skills and creativity we’re seeing much more colorful, professional-looking portraits of shelter dogs. It has become a wonderful marketing tool for shelters and rescue groups alike, ultimately leading to more adoptions. But, make no mistake about it, this is not an easy task to accomplish, nor is it for the squeamish. 


Photographers encounter shelter dogs that are often scared, sometimes dirty, certainly not well-groomed, most definitely excitable, skittish, and unable to look at a camera. Before setting up the shot, a photographer may wonder what the backstory is on the dog. Owner-surrendered after years of serving up love and companionship to a human who can no longer care for him? Perhaps found wandering the streets for who knows how long; hungry for food, starving for friendship? What could possibly be going through the dog’s mind as it’s walked down a concrete hallway among other barking dogs; confined to a cage until, who knows what will happen next?

Sometimes, the photographer will be able to read a little bit about the dog’s history on the clipboard attached to his cage door. Of course, it’s never a happy story. So it takes a lot of deep breathing to regain composure. After all, it’s pretty difficult to set up a good photo when the shooting eye is blurred. 

To help give shelter dogs the second chance they deserve, photographers like Seth Casteel offer up best photography practices through his One Picture Saves program. He was doing this long before his Underwater Dogs project took off. Another photographer from Budapest, Hungary is creating surreal scenes to help change the perception of shelter dogs. The project, Help Dogs With Images, is the creation of photographer Sarolta Ban who has close to 200,000 Facebook fans. Now through June she is asking her fans to upload images of shelter dogs. To increase the photo’s visibility, she uses her Photoshop skills to create a montage. Some of her photos appear below this post.

All of the photographers who contribute to The New Barker dog magazine donate their time and money to photograph shelter dogs, capturing their most positive attributes. It is an honor to work with this talented group of people who make their living as professional photographers, including St. Petersburg’s Danette Morse, Clearwater’s Laura Allen, Boca Raton’s Tina VaLant, Miami’s Jaime Seymour-Newton and Orlando’s Donna Miller.

Some, like Laura Allen, will set up shop several weekends a year for professional photo sessions. Using her mobile studio, she donates a portion of her sales to non-profits like the SPCA of Tampa Bay and Animal Coalition of Tampa. “These organizations provide a great service to our community. It’s important to me to support them,” said Laura.

When you see these photographers around your neighborhood working, thank them. They are doing their part to help increase adoption rates, thereby reducing euthanasia numbers in Florida shelters – one photograph at a time.

Mia was once a shelter dog. She was photographed by Laura Allen Studios.
Shelter dog, Photoshop montage by Sarolta Banilla of Budapest, Hungary.
Shelter dog, Photoshop montage by Sarolta Banilla, photographer.
Shelter dog in a Photoshop montage created by Budapest, Hungary photographer, Sarolta Banilla.



Cover of Magazine Fetch’s $5,000 Winning Bid.

Every cover of The New Barker features an original piece of art by a different Florida artist. Over the last seven years, a cult-like following among dog and art lovers, has bestowed collector’s item status on many of the original works of art chosen for the magazine’s covers.

Generally, the cover art is selected from a substantial portfolio of artists on file at the publication’s office. “The process is daunting, terrifying and exciting, all at the same time,” said Anna Cooke, Editor-in-Chief. “There are so many talented artists in Florida. Our cover is the cornerstone of our vision—The Art Of Dog —and as such, awarding it is the most important decision we make. Of course, as ‘the cover as art’ tradition has become our defining signature, so too have expectations (in our minds) that each cover live up to that billing.”


Anna and her partner/husband Steve Cooke, who is the Publisher of the magazine, donated an upcoming cover to the Humane Society of Sarasota for a fundraising event. During the live auction portion of the 8th Annual Paws on the Catwalk, the item was the first to be presented on the auction block. A starting minimum bid of $1,000 quickly grew to $2,500, igniting a bidding war that electrified luncheon participants. The winning bid of $5,000 drew a spirited round of applause and a chorus of cheers. The frenzy continued as guests enjoyed outbidding each other on auction items such as cruises, spa packages, vacation getaways and adoptable pets. Yes, a couple of homeless dogs from the shelter found their forever homes as bidders opened their hearts as well as their wallets. So far, more than $110,000 has been raised during Paws on the Catwalk.

Jill Raleigh, whose husband sits on the board of the Humane Society of Sarasota County, kisses her new puppy. Her winning bed for the dog, who was pulled from a high kill shelter in Mississippi, was $1300. All the money went to the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota played host to the sold-out event that included specialty boutiques for shopping, a luncheon, entertainment and a fashion show. Co-chairs Chris Voelker and Alex Miller are already working on next year’s event, promising to raise the bar in attendance and money raised.

After meeting with the winner, who has three Golden Retrievers, a photo shoot will be scheduled. The photos will be given to a selected artist to begin working on the cover art, scheduled for a 2015 edition of The New Barker. Afterwards, the original portrait will be presented to the winner of the auction item.

The New Barker is a Florida-based lifestyle magazine all about dogs and the humans who love them. Feature stories cover where to stay, play, dine, travel and just have fun with dogs in Florida. Currently in its eighth year of publishing, the magazine reaches upwards of 30,000 readers in print each quarter.