Photographer Gives Shelter Dogs a 'Second Shot' With Professional Adoption Photos

A screenshot of an Instagram Reel showing the back of a camera; a photo of a brown Pit Bull, and a screenshot of a TikTok of the behind-the-scenes of a pet photo shoot

For most of us, it doesn’t take much for a cute dog photo to stop us in our tracks. But there’s a difference between seeing a photo of a cute animal and thinking “awww” and thinking “I need to adopt that dog.”

This phenomenon is something that a lot of shelters grapple with: making sure the adoptable pets on their websites and social media pages are depicted with clear, beautiful photos that show off their personalities and make future pet parents want to give them a forever home.

With overworked shelter teams working day in and day out to keep overcrowding at a minimum, it can be hard to prioritize a photo shoot.

That’s where professional pet photographers like Adam and Mary Goldberg of AGoldPhoto come in.

The couple and Tampa Bay, Florida residents started their journey when Adam worked at the Humane Society of Broward County, managing the shelter’s social media and website. 

He had to teach himself how to become a photographer and quickly discovered that it was his true passion.

Adam and Mary Goldberg pose in front of a dark gray backdrop and smile at their two gray dogs
Adam & Mary Goldberg, and their dogs Rigby and Bee. Photo courtesy of AGoldPhoto

“Adam quickly became an expert at putting pets at ease and capturing their unique and loveable personalities in every picture,” the photography company’s website reads.

“His pet photos were helping the shelter animals get adopted faster, and he began to train other volunteers in the art of animal photography.”

Adam was scooped up by other area shelters for pet photo shoot fundraisers, and he and Mary even quit their jobs and began traveling around the country for similar events. 

“The lightbulb moment for me was when I was able to put a sign-up sheet online for our pet photo shoot fundraisers, and they would sell out in a matter of hours,” Adam said in a video for Chewy. “It blows my mind when I think about it.”

Over the course of about three years, these fundraisers raised over $250,000 for over 50 different animal shelters, rescues, and charities.

In front of a white backdrop is a German Shepherd being photographed by a man sitting on the floor. A trainer holds the dog's leash, and a woman gets his attention in front of a large strobe light
Photo courtesy of AGoldPhoto

Once the COVID-19 pandemic changed the duo’s travel schedule, they shifted their focus to opening a pet photo studio in Tampa. While most of their time these days is spent photographing pets who already have loving families, a key element of their work will always be these stunning adoption photos.

They call it the “Second Shot” program, and once a month, the duo (and their other team members) pack up their gear and head to the Tampa Bay Humane Society for some glamor shots.

“When a pet comes to the shelter, they go through an intake process, and the staff at the shelter will grab a tablet and take a quick photo, and then they move onto the next one. They look scared. It’s not doing that dog, cat, animal any justice,” Adam explained in the Chewy video.

“And that’s the first representation people see. … They can’t visualize that dog in their home.”

By spending more time with each dog, the Goldbergs enable the animal to relax, making their photos a lot more genuine and compelling.

A screenshot of 15 dogs and cats from the Tampa Bay Humane Society
Part of the Second Shot portfolio of adoptable animals that have been photographed over the years in Tampa. Photos courtesy of AGoldPhoto

“He can come in, and take an animal, especially those who are a little bit more difficult to place or have been in our shelter for a while. It can be the difference of getting an animal home or not,” Sherry Silk, the CEO of the Tampa Bay Humane Society, said.

With treats, backdrops, supplies, shooting and editing time, and the help of animal behaviorists, outside support makes these Second Shot photo sessions possible. 

Recently, AGoldPhoto introduced a sponsorship package, allowing businesses and companies to sponsor these shelter pet photo shoots.

“With our new sponsorship initiative, instead of going to the shelter once a month to take adoption photos, we can go more,” a TikTok video posted by the photographer shares. “Instead of photographing roughly 10 shelter pets a month, we can now photograph almost 50!”

In addition to sponsorships, money earned from the Goldbergs’ scheduled pet photo shoots at the studio also contribute to this charitable arm of the business. 

Individuals can also donate through Patreon to fund these special photo shoots.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about the photos, it’s not about the shares on social media,” Adam told Chewy. “It’s about connecting pets and people.”

Header images courtesy of AGoldPhoto

Article Details

January 9, 2024 2:12 PM
Yosemite National Park on a foggy morning

Following wildfires, 100+ rare amphibians have been released back into Yosemite National Park

After the Rim Fire of 2013, this amphibian population declined by 50%. Now, they're getting a chance to start again in their native habitat.
Two dingoes touch noses in a park in Australia

Previously hunted as pests, dingoes to be re-classified as a protected species in Australia

Despite pushback from farmers, groundbreaking new DNA research has led Australian officials to consider the protection status of the iconic dingo.
No items found.

Want to stay up-to-date on positive news?

The best email in your inbox.
Filled with the day’s best good news.