DC: Small Companion Animal Photos

Often the quality of a photo can be the difference between life and death for animals awaiting homes in shelters that euthanize for lack of space and help an animal find a home more quickly in those that don’t.  In either case, the result is that more animals are saved and saved more quickly.  When I directed the dog rescue that I founded, about 90% of the adopters lived 4 hours away or more and some drove from other states based on the power of falling in love with a photo (and description!).  Those photos were worth more than a thousand words!

I volunteered time in late November to photograph animals for a local shelter and after photographing cats and dogs for 10 years, I’m fairly confident in my ability to photograph them.  So I was a little thrown when I was asked to photograph their small companion animals.

I knew that it would be difficult because I don’t have a macro lens- making it difficult to get close-ups.  I would’ve loved to have had great lighting, a great background, and a macro lens to get the type of photo below.

istock photo

But unfortunately the lighting in the shelter was very poor and I was a lot from my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens by attempting such a short focal length in low lighting . . . and with quick-moving hamsters, no less!  Luckily, I got some great shots by perfectly aligning the subject and the focal points.


This is my favorite hamster photo from the day.  She’s saying, “Let me out!!!”

Apparently the birds are usually pretty “flighty,” so they can be difficult to photograph.  The project certainly would’ve been easier with a flash, but small animals quickly become frightened and it shows in the photographs.  No one wants to adopt a scared guinea pig!

Luckily the rabbits were pretty simple to shoot.  One of the things I’m most conscious of when shooting is the background of pet photos.  People typically don’t fall in love with a photo if the background is a cage or an undesirable object such as a bunny’s litter box.  It was unavoidable in some of these shots, because I was unable to remove them from their cages.  A low f-stop helped me blur some of the backgrounds so that they were less noticeable.


I was a bit more comfortable shooting this pit bull, Choco, outside in a play yard.  The ample light and larger subject definitely made it easier!

And finally, some rats to round out the day!  They were super friendly and laid-back!

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