How photography can help animals: My time with Second Chance Animal Rescue, Southampton

I recently stumbled across an article by a brilliant American photographer, Seth Casteel, who is involved in an initiative to improve the chances of animals needing re- homing, by providing shelters with the resources to properly groom and photograph shelter pets.

On looking more into this subject I learned that having professional, high quality pictures of the animals needing homes was really helping them to be adopted. So I started to think about doing this myself. I had the obvious predictable worry about how sad it might be spending time in a rescue centre but quickly shook that off. It is much more important to be helping these animals than worrying about any small discomfort it might cause me.

I researched to find out which centres were near me, and contacted Second Chance Animal Rescue in Southampton to explain what I had in mind. I arranged to go and visit and chat to Rose who runs this organisation, so that she could meet me in person, and so that I could get a feel for what I could do to help. 

I must tell you at this point that I immediately realised this was in no way a sad upsetting place, quite the opposite. What a welcome I had... I was greeted at the gate by two big friendly dogs, who accompanied me to the office, one of them even pulled down on the door handle so it opened for me!! 

To cut a long story short, I have been going once a week for a couple of hours for the past 5 weeks and I am so happy being there....the staff are incredible, and so welcoming and friendly to me. The animals, albeit some with sad backstories, are so well cared for and clearly loved by their carers. I am sure I have no idea of the immense amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep this amazing centre running, and I am full of admiration for all the staff and volunteers who put so much time and hard work into Second Chance. 

As I'm writing this, one of our very pampered cats, Stanley is curled up beside me. It made me think that luckily for him he has always had a safe loving home, but for many reasons that isn't the case for all pets. Since having this involvement with Second Chance I am absolutely certain that when we are able to take on another animal, he or she will definitely be from a rescue centre.......

I feel so fortunate to be able to combine my passion for photography with my love for animals and will leave you with a couple of photos of beautiful cats who have recently found their forever homes! 

rescue cat 2

Worried your furry friend might not be "helpful" at their photoshoot? Don't worry and read on!!!

I wanted to put myself in the position of an owner who might like a photoshoot of their pets, as it's all too easy for the photographer to forget how it feels to be on the other side -  there would be questions I would have, and anxieties about how my pet might behave, what do I do to help on the shoot and so on.

Firstly, unless your dog or cat is literally likely to try and attack and devour me, you absolutely do not need to worry.  I have photographed the shyest cats and the most excitable dogs and with patience and a bit more patience, and a sense of humour, I am confident I can get the shot. I know people often feel apologetic about their pet's crazy behaviour but please don't worry, I wouldn't be doing this if that was going to be an issue!  For me, I really enjoy being around the animals, and will spend a bit of time getting to know them, letting them acclimatise to me. I do not put a time limit on the session, sometimes we are done in 30 mins, other times  not, and that is just fine.

I want to tell you about a beautiful cat called Lulu I photographed. This darling cat was so shy, and her owners wondered whether I would be able to get any shots at all, but after about 30 minutes of gentle coaxing with the invaluable help of her fantastic owner, Amber (picture us both laying on our stomachs on the bedroom floor with  my head under the I wish I had this on film to show you) we managed to entice her out just far enough to get some shots, resulting in this one here..... which I and her owners were delighted with!

Beautiful Lulu

Beautiful Lulu

As far as what you, the owner needs to do to prepare for the session, just make sure your animal has been brushed, isn't hungry, but not over-fed as we may need to use a few treats to coax them.  I will normally get you to stand or sit behind me, to get your pet's attention and looking towards the camera. If we are out in a park with your dog, we may be getting shots of your dog running and jumping, so I will involve you in that, throwing their ball, or stick and generally having fun! Don't worry if he or she needs to keep their lead on, I can remove that with the magic of photoshop afterwards.

You know your pet better than anyone and we will have chatted about them before the shoot and where possible I will have come to meet them beforehand too.  So what I'm trying to say is relax, don't worry, and just enjoy it. You will be amazed at what can be achieved within a situation of apparent chaos! Check out  my blog about Frankie and Nelson (pictured below) for more about this!

The cheeky duo, Frankie and Nelson  

The cheeky duo, Frankie and Nelson


Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this, til next time...

Sophie x


There is a time that all of us who have ever owned and loved animals know - the time when we are anticipating the loss of a beloved pet. When we have a bit of time to prepare for this, it can be so important to have some special photographs made to celebrate and remember the beautiful bond we share with them. 

I recently had the privilege of photographing a dear friend with her dog Barney, who was approaching the end of his life. Barney had been a part of her life for 15 years, from a puppy, so to lose him after all those years together was extremely painful. To be asked to create some memories for her and her family felt like a very special thing to do, and I felt honoured to be trusted and invited into their home to to do this important session. We took these in her living room, to avoid Barney being moved around, or taken to somewhere unfamiliar, and what was so endearing was their other dog Frisbee looking on and being involved too. I hope that these photos will help to bring back many happy memories of the years Barney spent with Debbie and her family.  Rest in peace Barney.