What was once a volunteer role at an animal shelter has turned into a pet photography company that aims to raise awareness about pet adoption as well as raise funds for rescue animals in need.
Back in 2013, I was hired by the Humane Society of Broward County to manage its website redesign as well as the shelter’s social media as a full-time role. Once the website redesign was finished, the shelter asked if I could take on the photography program.
Back then, photos of the adoptable animals were taken inside their kennel with flash and did not show them in the best light. A dog may look miserable in their kennel or on their intake photo, but when we got them out of that environment, their personalities shined.
The only problem with their request was that I didn’t know anything about photography nor animal behavior. I didn’t even own a dog growing up. What seemed like a daunting task at the time, turned into a successful project that helped more shelter animals find homes.
After months of research, practice and watching videos online, I taught myself how to take photos of shelter animals. I had an unlimited supply of pets to practice on and they were often shy, nervous and it was challenging to capture their good side. I also recruited and trained volunteers to help get better photos. The shelter was constantly taking in animals and it was difficult to make sure each pet had a quality photo.
In 2015, I decided to leave my position at the shelter to take a corporate marketing role at a software company in Tampa. After a few months, I realized I missed interacting with pets at the shelter every day. To feel more fulfilled, I contacted the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and offered to volunteer and take adoption photos. My first day as a volunteer was in April of 2016 and in July, a shelter staff member asked if I would consider hosting a Pet Photo Shoot Fundraiser.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I set up a Facebook event, a sign-up page on my website and offered a few examples of the photos they would get of their dog.
Pet Photos often are full of props, busy backdrops and can be a little cheesy and distract from the subject. I wanted to photograph dogs being dogs and without any special outfits or costumes. My approach was to make sure the focus of the photo was on the dog and nothing else.
The first event was a huge success and all the spots sold out. The following month, I was able to accommodate double the amount of spots and that sold out too!
With the response from dog owners in Tampa, I knew this would appeal to dog owners in other cities too. The next day, I started reaching out to shelters all over Florida offering to host similar events and those sold out too! We don’t have our own studio as we often set up at a local craft brewery. Dog owners get to grab a drink before their dog’s photoshoot and it helps take the edge off.
In September of the same year, I met my now wife, Mary, during a photoshoot back at Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Her advertising agency was working with the shelter on a fundraising campaign and they asked if I would be the photographer. Mary rolled her eyes at the thought of a volunteer photographer for a professional photoshoot, but we really hit it off during the shoot and we’ve been together ever since and got married on March 1, 2019.
Mary left her ad agency role to help run AGoldPhoto full-time and didn’t go back to work after our wedding. Now, we travel and host Pet Photo Shoot Fundraisers all over the US.
You’ll often see Mary and I travel with our dogs, Rigby and Bee. When we drive to our destinations, they come with us and they make for great travel companions.
Since the first event in 2016, we have hosted over 250 Pet Photo Shoot Fundraisers and have raised over $160,000 for over 50 animal shelters and charities.
In 2020, we have set a goal to raise $100,000 by taking photos of 2,000 pets in 365 days. We have Pet Photo Shoot Fundraisers already scheduled in Florida, California, Texas, Georgia with more to come. We’re also donating 10% of any private, commercial or corporate photoshoots as well.
Our Pet Photo Shoot Fundraisers are meant for dogs, but if you have another type of pet, you can schedule a private photoshoot. We have photographed chickens, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits, birds, squirrels, raccoons, possums, ferrets, and tortoises. The team will also come to pet-friendly offices too.
Typical pricing for a Pet Photo Shoot Fundraiser is $80 for the sitting fee, $50 of which is donated to the benefiting charity and photo packages start at $100.
You can expect to spend at least $180 at an event and you’ll get 5 digital edited photos that really capture your dog’s personality. Private, corporate and commercial photo shoots are priced separately.
Pet owners can see our list of events to see when we’ll be taking photos in their city. If your city isn’t listed, we do take requests.