Shuster’s photos were inspired by New York City-based photographer Sophie Gamand’s work with pit bulls. Last year, Gamand took stunning photos of adoptable pits wearing elaborate flowered headdresses to help break down stereotypes and increase adoptions for the dogs, which are overrepresented at her local shelters and rescue groups.
“Here at the Humane Society, it was black dogs needing the extra spotlight,” says Shuster.
It’s worked. Since the pics first went up at the end of January, six of the eight dogs who modeled for the initial round of photographs have been adopted. That includes two 10-year-old Labrador retrievers who’d gotten no interest up until these photos, even though they’d been featured in the Utah Humane Society’s weekly TV spot.
“I would have expected two, maybe three, to have been adopted within that time without the photos,” says Shuster, who previously found success with photo booth-style adoption pics.
The pictures came out so well, and the results have been so striking, that a few other shelters and rescue groups have reached out to find out how they can highlight their black beauties’ best features.
Shuster says it’s really easy — and cheap. She used a black backdrop, to best show off the dogs’ gorgeous eyes. Then she spent $22 on faux flowers to be hot-glued into paper crowns, picked up at a Dollar Store.
“Oh, I did raid one dried flower arrangement for the two lotus flowers and dried wheat grass,” says Shuster.
“When people see this series I hope they see how beautiful black shelter dogs are,” says Shuster, whose ultimate aim isn’t just to get her own rescue group’s dogs adopted, but to inspire folks from all over to bring home black dogs of their own. “Using photography to feature adoptable animals is a passion of mine and I’m always trying to come up with ideas to help those who need it most.”
Along those lines, Shuster’s already working up ideas for the next group of hard-to-place animals who need her — and her camera’s — special attention: cats.
“Last year during kitten season I just tried doing the studio shots without huge success,” she says, “so it will be interesting to see if doing a series will really help with them like it has the dogs.”
Check out more adoptable pets — and more of Shuster’s photos — on the Utah Humane Society’s Facebook page.
By Erin Greenwood from The Huffington Post on Feb. 10, 2015.