May 22, 2012
Michael Kloth is a renowned Dog Photographer who has done two beautiful books called Shelter Cats and Shelter Puppies. The Yorkshire Gazette & Herald called it “Ahh” photography. This is not just a book. This is a cause that all dog lovers and cat lovers should ally themselves with. We caught up with this heroic man at his studio in Tucson, Arizona.
*all images © Michael Kloth
Q: You worked as a cancer research technician for 8 years before you got into photography. What triggered this sudden career change?
A: It was a gradual thing. I was doing cancer research while supporting my wife through medical school and residency. When she finished her training, we decided that I’d try life as a househusband for a while. That didn’t really stick. It was then that I picked up my first camera and one thing led to another after that.
Q: Can you tell us about your work at the shelters and how it started?
A: I had a dog that was diagnosed with lymphoma, and I realized I had very few photographs of her. Knowing that our time was limited, I knew that I just had to take more pictures of the dog. I think we take for granted that our dogs will not be here forever and it’s only when that day comes we realize there aren’t enough pictures to cherish. It was also at that time I was introduced to a shelter public relations director and started volunteering there to photograph their adoptable dogs. Soon after, I realized that the cats needed help at least as much as the dogs, so I began to photograph them too. This was in early 2006. Later on that year, I enrolled into grad school for Fine Arts and used the photos of shelter animals for my entrance portfolio.
My work with adoptable animals became my thesis project. The books were a result of that work.
“I had a dog that was diagnosed with lymphoma, and I realized I had very few photographs of her. Knowing that our time was limited, I knew that I just had to take more pictures of the dog.”
*all images © Michael Kloth
Q: Did these photos make a difference to the adoptions?
A: Yes, the photos have definitely made an impact. The shelters noticed people would sometimes come from cities hours away to adopt dogs they saw in the photos. Quality photos drive a lot more clicks on pet rescue sites, and ultimately, more people to help the dogs.
Q: You are also a founding member of HeARTs Speak. Can you tell us a little about this organization?
A: HeARTs Speak is a non-profit organization. The organization provides artists with tools to help them in their work with adoptable animals. Art is a powerful thing and it can change the lives of these shelter animals. Our goal is to set up photographers and artists with shelters to encourage better communication in the form of photos and art. It can make a profound difference in the future of these special animals. Through photography and art, adoption profiles can be used as a marketing tool designed to bring adoptive families into the shelters rather than mere records of the animal’s existence.
“Art is a powerful thing and it can change the lives of these shelter animals.”
Q: On that note, can you share some tips on taking photos of dogs?
A: The most important thing is to just get out there and do it. The more photos you take the better skills you will have. The second thing is to use good lighting. Morning and late evening tends to be the best lighting of the day and is best for photos. Avoid noon time because it has too much contrast and it leads to harsh shadows. If you have a black or white dog that doesn’t show up very well in photos, it helps to use flash. The only catch is that green eyes may show up so it might help to diffuse the light by bouncing it off of a wall (direct the flash at a wall so the light bounces off the surface and reflects the light onto the subject), ceiling or even a white piece of paper. And remember, since it is all digital now for most of us, mistakes are very
Q: Does it help to use treats when taking a photo?
A: This really depends on the kind of dog. If you have a highly motivated dog, or one that loves treats this would work. Other dogs may just become too energetic when they see the treats. Toys can sometimes work too, but again it depends on the dog.
Q: What is the biggest misunderstanding about shelter dogs?
A: People think they are flawed in some way, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Perfect partners can just as easily come from a shelter, as do people who were adopted. There are also a lot of people who don’t realize that over twenty-five percent of dogs in shelters are purebred so that’s another misconception. Lastly, people think of shelters as these dirty and depressing buildings but many humane societies are working to build new facilities. These new constructions are truly amazing places filled with incredible animals.
“People think [shelter dogs] are flawed in some way, which couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Q: How many dogs do you have?
A: I have 3 dogs: Lyle, Spring, and Maebe. Lyle was adopted as a puppy. Spring and Maebe were both adopted as adults after we briefly fostered them. All three are absolutely remarkable and affectionate companions.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: Saving a life is a humbling thing.
*all images © Michael Kloth
Share your Shelter Dog story with us. It can be inspirational, funny, unusual or uplifting. The 10 best stories selected by an “elite” panel of judges (Oscar, Lucy and their human companions) will win a signed copy of Michael Kloth’s beautiful book, Shelter Puppies. The only requirement is that the story is less than 207 (really, we mean it) words. Photos are highly welcomed with the story. Send in your submission by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The winners will be announced in a week. The best stories will be posted on the Dogbook newsfeed.