We always advocate for shelters and rescues to have a robust social media presence. Part of that, if not 90% of that, is to have photos that convey a dog’s personality. You don’t need to have professional photos, but they do need to be eye-catching.
There are lots of different ways to do that. Old Yeller Ranch Rescue found a simple way to take these photos – they let their dogs take them.
Okay, the dogs don’t really take the photos, but some of them really do look like selfies! Old Yeller Ranch Rescue (OYRR) uses a GoPro to capture the personalities and interactions of the dogs in their care. This gives a dog’s-eye view of the lives of these rescue pups.
We spoke with Dee Diaz-Folgner about the rescue’s work and how photography has impacted their adoption rates.
The first thing she told us was about the rescue’s mission – it’s to rescue urgent dogs from shelters in California. OYRR fosters up to 19 dogs at a time.
“We pride ourselves on being open and honest in trying to place our dogs with a compatible forever home. We test for dog aggression, child compatibility, leash and standard obedience and if necessary, cat compatibility. We provide as much veterinary care as the dog needs to be able to enter his/her new home with a substantial amount of information on his/her current state of health. We give these dogs love and affection and will work tirelessly to find them their perfect forever home that they deserve.”
Dee’s work doesn’t stop at the dogs. The organization also participates in the Pet Education Project (PEP!). They work with local schools and take their OYRR ambassador and registered therapy dog, “Sweet Sochi,” to nursing homes to provide comfort. They also give free dog training services to members of their community.
Dee started using a GoPro two years ago and noticed an immediate change in the rescue’s social media engagement. They even had a few photos go viral, like the one of the puppies kissing (two photos up).
We’re going to be honest here – GoPros can sound pretty intimidating to use. Dee says it’s not as difficult as you may think, in fact, it’s rather easy.
The key, she says, is to set the camera to “burst mode.” She prefers to set hers to 10 frames per second.
According to Dee, even if there’s a small learning curve to using an activity camera, like the GoPro, it’s short lived and the payoff is worth it:
“Most days, I shoot several hundred photos in one day but, you are guaranteed a couple amazing shots with great quality to use for flyers/posters and videos. I have the GoPro app on my iPhone and grab photos and post instantly to Facebook and Instagram. People are intrigued by what we do every day. It seems so normal to us but to the average person they are amazed.”
You can attach the camera to a dog harness, which Dee sometimes uses to capture Sochi’s perspective when she’s working as a therapy dog, but for the most part, Dee says she prefers to get adorable pictures of the dogs, rather than just pics of their adorable ears.
Dee notes that OYRR’s online presence serves a dual purpose. There’s the adoption marketing aspect, but the photos also give people a glimpse into what it really takes to run a rescue. She keeps the GoPro on her at all times and captures everything – not just the cute moments of playtime. She catalogues everything – car rides, vet appointments, education events, etc…
That behind the scenes look has increased donations to the organization.
“A good portion of our donations come in because of the amount of work they see us do on a regular basis through Instagram and Facebook. They are able to watch short videos that I can easily create in minutes on my phone with the “Splice” GoPro video app. I can edit music and fonts to make it interesting or dramatic.”
The opportunities to create something that will connect with that one person who’s a great match for that one dog are pretty endless, Dee says. Even if it takes a long time for that one person to scroll to the picture of their future companion, the photos have helped build an online community around the rescue.
“People actually develop a relationship with our dogs because of the progress we share with their journey.”
More adoption marketing tips are available in our ebook.