Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

More on Colorblind Adoptions

October 30, 2011

"Tessa" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

Wow! What a terrific response I received following my recent blog post about colorblind adoptions. I discussed the fact that black colored dogs and cats tend to languish in shelter and rescue situations because they are less likely to be adopted. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond with your terrific comments. Some of your stories about your own animals brought me to tears.

Jackie Jurasek, supervisor of City of Rosenberg Animal Control in Texas, pointed out that the darker the animal’s coloring, the more difficult it is to capture their facial expression in a photograph. Such marketing photos are key for creating the “Awww!” factor amongst potential adopters. Jackie has recruited professional photographers to take photos of her shelter animals. The photos they take result in higher numbers of adoptions, and as Jackie so eloquently states, “We see a lot of the bad and the ugly in my profession, so adoptions are the ‘balm for our souls’… it is what helps us keep on doing what we have to do.”

The photos in this blog come from Jackie Maples, one of the three professional photographers who volunteer their time snapping photos at City of Rosenberg Animal Control. Jennifer Marie,  a second photographer, has graciously provided us with some tips for capturing the funny, adorable, and endearing expressions on the faces of our dark colored dogs and cats. Thank you Jennifer!

Tips on Photographing Black Pets By Jennifer Marie Photography

Are you tired of your cute pet looking like a black blob with red eyes in your photos? The color black absorbs light thus making it difficult to see texture and shadows on fur. And then if you have used your flash aimed at them, often times you see the red-eye effect and a funny blue-cast on the body.  Ugh! We need to see those cute personalities shine through!

"Elvira" Photo Credit: Jackie Maples

So here are some tips to help:

  • Go outside and turn off the flash! Take your pet outside in the early hours, around dawn or later at dusk when the light is warm, and have the sun at an angle to your back. If you have to go out during the bright daylight, seek shade from a big tree or the shaded side of a building. If those are not options, have a friend hold a big piece of cardboard or a sheet stretched out over the pet to prevent harsh light. Turn off your flash! If you can change your ISO setting (equivalent to film speed) to 800+, do so. This increases the light sensitivity of your exposure but keeps the shutter speed fast enough to capture some small movement.
  •  Turn your flash to the side! If you have to take the photo inside, turn your flash to the side and bounce the light off of a wall close to the pet. This will light your black pet from the side and give some nice shadows and visible texture on the fur as well as reducing red-eye effects. If your flash is built in, try using a piece of white paper just to the side or under the flash to direct the light to the wall or ceiling. Best yet, if you have a large window, place your pet beside and close to the window and turn off the flash. Use the window light from the side as the lighting source instead of the flash.
  •  Be aware of the background! Keep an eye on what is behind your pet, but still visible in the frame of picture. Try to use a background that is not busy or cluttered, that way the attention goes to the pet. Importantly, use a significantly lighter background behind a black pet to create contrast. Vice versa for a white pet. And focus your shot on the eyes of the pet.
  •  Don’t forget treats, squeaky toys, and your high-pitched funny voices to get your pet’s attention for that one second, and then snap away!

Now go have fun with Fido’s photo session!

Tell us about your successes( and your foibles) while taking photographs of your dark colored four-legged family members! Please feel free to share your favorite photos on my Facebook page.

Best wishes for good health,

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.


August 4, 2009

My husband, children, and I just returned from a sojourn in Africa, enjoying the diverse landscapes and cultures of Kenya. Africa is a dream come true for most veterinarians- my husband and I are no exceptions!  Observing the magnificence of the animals and their behaviors was every bit as amazing as we thought it would be.  Some of it was challenging for me to watch- cheetah cubs “playing” several minutes with a gazelle fawn before mama cheetah closed in for the kill; a young wildebeest with a newly broken leg sustained during the chaos of the Great Migration river crossing.  I saw enough mating lions to last me a lifetime and could have spent days rather than hours watching baboon and Vervet monkey antics.   

© Susannah Kay 2009

© Susannah Kay 2009

I expected the animals to be captivating.  What I did not expect was that the cultural aspects of the trip would “wow” me so profoundly. We had the privilege of living within a Masai community, meeting the families, learning their customs, and exchanging ideas. We thoroughly enjoyed the small island of Lamu, a Muslim community that has maintained traditional Swahili customs and lifestyle.  Lamu is devoid of cars- one travels on foot or via boat or donkey, and the mosque provides a 5:30 wake-up call to prayer every morning.  We survived the hustle and bustle, insane traffic, and congestion of Nairobi.  The peaceful tranquility of Mt. Kenya was captivating.  We visited four primary schools during our travels.  At each one the children were exceptionally well behaved and were learning sophisticated concepts in extremely primitive classrooms- often three to four children sharing one textbook, in a structure that people in my part of the world would not consider using as a barn.  They were enthralled with visitors from the “land of Barack Obama,” and many asked that we tell him, “hello” when we returned to our country.  By the way, the children were learning English in all of the schools we visited in Kenya. We visited a school for children with disabilities- a rare find in Africa where people with disabilities are often hidden from view.  Everywhere we traveled in Kenya, we were met with genuine hospitality, openness, and curiosity.  

© Susannah Kay 2009

© Susannah Kay 2009

I hope you enjoy the attached photos taken by my daughter, Susannah ( 

© Susannah Kay 2009

© Susannah Kay 2009


© Susannah Kay 2009

© Susannah Kay 2009


© Susannah Kay 2009

© Susannah Kay 2009

Have you ever been to Kenya?  If so, I hope you will share some of your own stories!

Now, here’s wishing you and your four-legged best friend a most enjoyable and safe summer!

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

Look for us on Twitter –

Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Listen to Dr. Kay’s interview – A Veterinarian Advises “How to Speak for Spot” on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross –