More on Colorblind Adoptions

"Tessa" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

Wow! What a terrific response I received following my recent blog post about colorblind adoptions. I discussed the fact that black colored dogs and cats tend to languish in shelter and rescue situations because they are less likely to be adopted. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond with your terrific comments. Some of your stories about your own animals brought me to tears.

Jackie Jurasek, supervisor of City of Rosenberg Animal Control in Texas, pointed out that the darker the animal’s coloring, the more difficult it is to capture their facial expression in a photograph. Such marketing photos are key for creating the “Awww!” factor amongst potential adopters. Jackie has recruited professional photographers to take photos of her shelter animals. The photos they take result in higher numbers of adoptions, and as Jackie so eloquently states, “We see a lot of the bad and the ugly in my profession, so adoptions are the ‘balm for our souls’… it is what helps us keep on doing what we have to do.”

The photos in this blog come from Jackie Maples, one of the three professional photographers who volunteer their time snapping photos at City of Rosenberg Animal Control. Jennifer Marie,  a second photographer, has graciously provided us with some tips for capturing the funny, adorable, and endearing expressions on the faces of our dark colored dogs and cats. Thank you Jennifer!

Tips on Photographing Black Pets By Jennifer Marie Photography

Are you tired of your cute pet looking like a black blob with red eyes in your photos? The color black absorbs light thus making it difficult to see texture and shadows on fur. And then if you have used your flash aimed at them, often times you see the red-eye effect and a funny blue-cast on the body.  Ugh! We need to see those cute personalities shine through!

"Elvira" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

So here are some tips to help:

  • Go outside and turn off the flash! Take your pet outside in the early hours, around dawn or later at dusk when the light is warm, and have the sun at an angle to your back. If you have to go out during the bright daylight, seek shade from a big tree or the shaded side of a building. If those are not options, have a friend hold a big piece of cardboard or a sheet stretched out over the pet to prevent harsh light. Turn off your flash! If you can change your ISO setting (equivalent to film speed) to 800+, do so. This increases the light sensitivity of your exposure but keeps the shutter speed fast enough to capture some small movement.
  •  Turn your flash to the side! If you have to take the photo inside, turn your flash to the side and bounce the light off of a wall close to the pet. This will light your black pet from the side and give some nice shadows and visible texture on the fur as well as reducing red-eye effects. If your flash is built in, try using a piece of white paper just to the side or under the flash to direct the light to the wall or ceiling. Best yet, if you have a large window, place your pet beside and close to the window and turn off the flash. Use the window light from the side as the lighting source instead of the flash.
  •  Be aware of the background! Keep an eye on what is behind your pet, but still visible in the frame of picture. Try to use a background that is not busy or cluttered, that way the attention goes to the pet. Importantly, use a significantly lighter background behind a black pet to create contrast. Vice versa for a white pet. And focus your shot on the eyes of the pet.
  •  Don’t forget treats, squeaky toys, and your high-pitched funny voices to get your pet’s attention for that one second, and then snap away!

Now go have fun with Fido’s photo session!

Tell us about your successes( and your foibles) while taking photographs of your dark colored four-legged family members! Please feel free to share your favorite photos on my Facebook page.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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10 Comments on “More on Colorblind Adoptions

  1. Thank you for the hot tips on photographing darker pets, Dr. Kay! I think it is even harder to get them to stop moving and sit still for the 1/2 second it takes to snap the photo – that applies to kids, too!

  2. A dog is a dog is a dog.

    They come is all shapes, sizes and colors.

    We have had people specifically looking for black dogs, contact and adopt the black dogs we have had.

    People like them, but old notions take a long time to change

  3. How about photographing a white dog with a black head? I find my Camellia difficult to photograph.

    Here’s one picture of her:

    I did manage to get a series of Camellia with her DogDaddy George, which I altered in Paint Shop Pro (the Poor Woman’s Photoshop), by changing contrasts – effectively softening them – then the black doesn’t appear QUITE as black as to the eye!

    But it’s best if you don’t have to use a photo editor to make your photo work!

    Of course, Camellia is already adopted – by me! Should I admit that I didn’t care much for her looks at the time I adopted her? No. But I do admit it.

    But when you love a dog so much, looks mean nothing. And I’ve become used to having a white (ticked) dog with an all-black head – apart from the grey on her muzzle! Which, as a previous comment noted, eases some of the problems of photographing a black dog!

    Mon, 31 Oct 2011 20:23:49 (PDT)
    Camellia and Carol

  4. I have always had Bernese Mountain Dogs and find my biggest challenge in photographing them is the face and eyes. If I use a flash their eyes tend to glow like setting suns and depending on the lighting, if I don’t use flash, ,often you cannot see the eyes. I think the lighting is much less forgiving when photographing in black dogs with dark faces.

  5. Hi Dr. Kay,
    I wasn’t able to get back to you last week but do have two darling black animals in the COLLECTION and have always had a black dog, was raised with black labs and love all my dogs and cats. I never thought they would be hard to adopt although I do have trouble taking good photos of them, especially in my house. Guess I need to plop them on a white sheet.

  6. Great tips. I think adoption photos are really important, and, you’re right, black pets are particularly difficult to capture. I’ve got this in my tweet queue so that many people can see it. :) Thanks!

  7. Stanley Coren just recently wrote on the subject also. He had a great suggestion which was proven effective that day. At an adoption event there was a black dog who couldn’t find a home for the longest time. Stanley went and bought a colorful scarf and made a bandana for the dog. Then he instructed the rescue to change his name to Happy. Happy was adopted that day.