Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Making a Difference

Why are you are photographer? Is it for the money? Is it just a hobby?  Maybe just to pass the time or perhaps to help you relax and get away from the daily job?  Hopefully in the end there is something about it that makes you feel good about what you are doing.

Ive sat in my basement studio photographing water drops, flowers, fire and all sorts of things, but I get not true joy out if it. It all seems lifeless... and when you think about it, it is.  Nothing about that drives me to want to do more.  Even spending the day hiking up a mountain or walk local trails, although fun and possibly exciting at the time,  is rather lack-luster when the day is over.

I have found the photography that makes me feel best about the time I am spending is when I can make a difference in someone else's life.

Now, I use the term "someone" rather loosely, as I don't only mean people, but animals.  Mainly dogs, cats -- pets.

I can think of two ways in which I try to make a difference with my love for photography.

The first is with people, their family, and their relationship with their pets.
It is a good feeling to be able to give someone a great photo of their pet.
So many times, I hear; "you'll never get a good photo of fluffy", or "we've tried a dozen times to get a good photo, but fluffy just never listens to us and won't sit still for a second".
You can see how their face glows with excitement when they are given the result of a photo they never thought would have been possible to capture.
The real difference often comes much later when that person writes or calls to express how important that "last photo" was to them.  Once their furry family member passes, the photos then become a keepsake of that loved-one's memory.
It is of course sad to hear that their beloved friend has passed. But it saddens me more when I hear someone express how they wish they had just one decent photo to hold onto.
To that end, it makes me feel good that can make a difference.

Another is donating my time and ability at a local animal shelter... and making a difference in a pet's chances of finding a new family!
My wife and I help in various ways with shelter activities, but where I seem to make the best use of my time and talent has been with photographing the dogs for their web page profiles.

It is a small thing, but when someone visits the shelter's web page looking for their next pet, the first impression is often the photo next to that dog's name.  If the photo is not appealing, it
may get overlooked by a majority of viewers.

I cannot blame the photographer that takes the dog's initial photo, as they are battling many issues at the same time and in locations or conditions that do not lead to a quality photo of that animal.  To compound issues, the dogs are often photographed shortly after they are picked up. Thus, the animals are frightened with their new environment, likely have come from tragic circumstances and may be in less than show-worthy condition (to put it mildly).

Instead of a background consisting of a cage, a cement kennel, or the backseat of a car, I will take photos within more enjoyable environments; along wooded pathways, in the cozy welcome center, or running free in the play areas.  After a few days, these dogs will have been well cared for, been well loved, and have become a bit more adjusted to their environment.

The change can be dramatic.  In some cases you would swear they are not the same animal.

It is a small amount of time from my weekend, but it makes a difference for the dogs and for the families that want to take them home and make him or her their companion.

Hearing that someone saw one of the new photos of the dog and "just had to put in an application that day", warms my heart. I know I have played some small part in changing a life.

So, if you feel that your love for photography is giving you less enjoyment than it should for the time and effort you are putting into it, maybe looking at how you can make a difference with your ability can turn that around.

Below are some before and after photos of a few of the dogs (left/right) that I have done for the local shelter.  There are not the most extreme cases, but they are good examples of what a little time, patience, and training as a photographer can do to help make a difference, if only for one dog at a time.

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