I love social media. Ask my boyfriend (who happens to absolutely hate it) how much I Facebook, Tweet and Instagram, and he will say way too much. Having a smart phone means we are instantly connected to all these social media platforms and between my job and this blog, I have real reasons to be on each of them. Sure, I probably use them in excess like most other twenty-somethings who grew up with all of these sites, but I also know that they can hold serious value for helping the missions of non-profits and advocacy groups (and even for-profits).
My latest and possibly favorite social media find – and by latest I mean about a year ago – is Instagram (follow me! @julianajean). Instagram is similar to Twitter, except in photo form. You upload photos and can use filters to enhance them, and then you share them with whoever follows you. Most of my photos are of my fosters, and you see a lot of them because they end up on this blog. Similar to Twitter, you use a “hashtag” to tag your photos using different subjects. My most often used hashtags are probably #fosterdog, #pitbull, #socute, #silly, #adoptable, and #lovebug. If you click on a photo’s hashtag, it brings you to all the other photos on Instagram that have been tagged with the same phrase. My favorite is clicking on the #pitbull tag – talk about examples of every day dogs and every day people! I love it! (More gushing about that on a later post.)
As an amateur photographer, it’s pretty clear why Instagram and I are a good fit. Instagram can instantly make photos taken on your phone into something better, something more creative. One of my favorite parts of photography is composition (even though it might not seem that way on this blog, ha), and I’ve learned to love that all of Instagram’s photos require a clean, square crop. I also love post-processing, and Instagram gives you a quick and easy option to apply image enhancing filters.
Working at a shelter, I often need a quick photo of an animal for a variety of reasons, including to put on our social media sites, to send out to rescue groups or to document for future marketing. Instagram makes it so that the photos I take of shelter animals on my phone are actually presentable, and much more eye catching. Here are a few “before and after” shots of different animals that I’ve done through Instagram (the afters are the square cropped ones).
Pictured below is Pooh Bear. She was given up at fifteen years old (don’t get me started). As you can imagine, a fifteen year old dog can be very difficult to locate a foster or forever home for. Often times an adopter is found after rescuers share a dog in need’s photo far and wide, so the photos needed to be attention grabbing. I am happy to report that Pooh Bear is heading to her forever home this weekend thanks to LOTS of networking!
Cropping, an element of composition, is something I try to be very aware of and use to my advantage. I do my best to cut out as many unnecessary background images as possible without chopping off key parts of an animal. In the photos of Pooh Bear I cropped out my coworkers legs and made sure to still keep Pooh’s paws in the frame.
My next before and after subject is an adorable Miniature Pinscher that was given up to us (ding ding ding, purebred alert!). My coworker wanted to send her out to rescue groups, and needed a decent photo. I again used cropping and filters to make the photo a little nicer than just an out-of-camera shot. She’s pretty adorable to begin with, so it wasn’t too difficult.
Last but not least is this cutie patootie named Priscilla who has the best underbite I’ve ever seen. She’s got some pretty serious skin issues that we’re in the process of clearing up, and that unfortunately prevent her from photographing well. Nothing a little backdrop improvising can’t help! This is another tip for low-quality photos, especially of adoptable animals: try to control your background. Instagram helps with this because you can blur out the background, but choosing a solid backdrop over a cage or cluttered background can really make a difference. For Priscilla we grabbed a few towels and a Santa pillow, and voila – an adorable makeshift photo session!
All three of these dogs have been spoken for by rescue groups for either a foster or forever home (yay!). I’m definitely not saying it’s because of the pictures, but we all know what a difference a good photo can make. Because I can’t bring my big camera in every day and take the time editing camera-quality photos, Instagram is the perfect solution. And even when I’m not photographing shelter animals, my Instagram feed is a really fun peek into the lives of some of my blog friends!