Never underestimate the power of a portrait, be it of a person or… a pug. Samy’s Camera Outreach spent an afternoon at Pug Nation Los Angeles, photographing their very adorable, adoptable houseguests.

Pug Nation Los AngelesPug Nation LA is a no-kill rescue organization, moving mountains to find their pups forever families. Many other pets aren’t so lucky.  The statistics are heart-wrenching.  Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide each year; an estimated 2.7 million of those are euthanized (Source: ASPCA).

The Los Angeles Times reported in 2015 that “close to 50% of the 72,000 animals brought to the six Los Angeles County shelters were killed by lethal injection.”  Euthanasia rates are falling nationally, thanks in large part to the No-Kill movement, but the numbers expose a still shocking reality.

The No-Kill movement attacks the problem from two sides: spay/neuter services and life-saving adoption efforts by rescue organizations.

The secret weapon on the rescue side?  Photography.

The secret weapon on the rescue side?  Photography.

Photography is the language of modern society, online shopping our national pastime.  As any eBay seller knows, excellent product photos are the key to sales.  So when it comes to people ‘shopping’ for a pet?  Cute sells.  So does “Playful.”  Photography holds an awesome power to capture an animal’s personality.

But shelter staff, no matter how caring and dedicated, often lack the equipment or photo skills to showcase an animal’s best characteristics.  Pug NationDim lighting, cage bars, and cement floors certainly don’t help matters any.  Even worse, darker-furred pets unfairly fall prey to BDS (“Black Dog Syndrome”), referring to the particular difficulty in properly exposing photos of their dark coats.

One quick snap of an animal, upon arrival at a shelter—dirty, skinny, and scared—will come to define them to the outside world.  That photo is their best, and sometimes only, chance at adoption.  So when potential pet parents scroll through the pics on Petfinder.com, the consequences for the animals can be devastating.  And that’s especially true of breeds with image issues, like pit bulls.

Photographers Pug Nation Rescuecan help break that cycle, and the results can be extreme. CBS-featured photographer Teresa Berg helps rescue organizations “cut foster care from six months to eight weeks” and sees dogs languishing in shelters for months “get adopted in a matter of hours.”  Pug Nation LAOrganizations like HeARTs Speak and Second Chance Photos have watched adoption rates soar after photographers provide portraits and equip shelters to improve their photography, too.

Samy’s Camera Outreach is proud to do our part.

Which brings us back to Pug Nation—land of snuggly pugs in need of a home.  Pug Nation was recently featured on the CW/KTLA’s program Save our Shelter.  This awarded them some great exposure, plus upgrades to their facility, including a portrait stand for the dogs (which I reluctantly forfeited in favor of the white seamless I’d brought along).

Upon arrival, (first things first!) I plopped down all my equipment and invited ten pugs to sit in my lap.  After the love fest, I set up lights and a backdrop to take the pugs’ portraits one by one. Not an easy task! Samy's Camera OutreachI sprawled out, often on my belly, and with the expert assistance of Gwenn Vallone, CEO/CFO, and her wonderful team including Zuleyma (pictured), we employed a rotating bag of tricks—namely treats, belly rubs, and squeak toys.  I twisted and turned, whistled and cajoled, and did my best to capture all those adorable mugs and unique personalities. Samy's Camera Pug Nation Dog photography is often the most challenging, backbreaking photography I do, but also some of the most rewarding.  Over the course of the day, I took portraits of all the adoptable pugs at the facility and gave tips to the staff on taking photos on their own.

Samy’s Camera Outreach hopes to help many shelter animals find homes.  Stay tuned for more portrait sessions at local shelters and upcoming tips on pet photography.

Pug Rescue Los Angeles