About 15 years ago, Lori Fusaro was looking online at photos of adoptable dogs and was shocked by how “horrible” many of them were—the photos were dark and the dogs looked scared, with red eyes from a camera flash. So, the Los Angeles-based photographer and life-long animal lover decided to do something about it.
“I thought I had something to offer these rescue groups and shelters, so I started volunteering by taking adoption pictures,” she says. “The most important thing is to capture the spirit and essence of the dog’s personality. If it’s a shy dog who’s more laidback, I want to capture that. If they love toys, running and playing, I want to capture that. If I can show their true personality to help them get a home, that’s just amazing.”
Her efforts have helped countless dogs find forever homes. She’s volunteered for rescue groups including Karma Rescue, Barks of Love, K9 Connection, and Bad Rap, and taken photos for the nonprofit Guide Dogs for the Blind. For the past four years, she’s been a staff photographer for Best Friends Animal Society, which operates the country’s largest no-kill shelter in Kanab, Utah. After adopting a 16-year-old bulldog/pit bull mix named Sunny, she traveled across America taking photos of inspirational senior dogs — including George Clooney’s rescued cocker spaniel, Einstein (pictured) — for the bestselling book “My Old Dog: Rescued Dogs with Remarkable Second Acts.”
Fusaro, who also takes portraits of family dogs with her company Fusaro Photography, says photographing dogs for a living is her “dream job.”
“I love their zest for living — their joyous, happy nature, and how everything is so exciting and so fun,” she enthuses. “’Oh, we’re going on a car ride? It’s the best thing ever! Oh, a treat? That’s the best thing ever! We’re going on a walk? Best thing ever!’”
Fusaro shares these tips for taking perfect pooch pics:
Get your dog used to your camera or cellphone: “Don’t be afraid to put the camera on the coffee table. Let them sniff it . . . Make sure they’re comfortable with it.”
Be conscious of the background: “There’s nothing worse than an adorable dog picture that has a garbage can or an unmade bed in the background.”
Use natural light: “If you have a big window, move the couch closer to the window facing out, so that when you’re shooting the dog, the natural light is coming in. It makes it really beautiful.”
Get low on the ground — even lie on the floor: “I like having the camera that way so it’s their vision, how they see life.”
Keep treats handy: Fusaro often brings Zuke’s Mini Naturals to shoots: “I don’t like to overfeed them, so those are the perfect little treats. The dogs love them.
Use squeak toys or blow whistles: “The whistles always give that head tilt.”
Photograph their tongues in action: “If I give them a little bit of peanut butter, for some reason, they can’t walk and eat peanut butter at the same time. They’ll stop and lick and lick and lick. I get really good tongue shots with that.”
Shoot close-ups: “You’ve seen newborn pictures where people take pictures of the toes and the fingers. I like to do that with dogs, too: their cute little paws, their nose, their eyes.”
Before you put your photo skills to the test, enjoy these images by Fusaro of senior dogs that she photographed for the book, “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts” by Laura T. Coffey. The book spotlights innovative efforts to spring senior dogs from shelters across North America and demonstrates how meaningful it can be to give older animals a second chance.
Have fun fueling the love by taking awesome photos of your dogs!
Stella was abandoned right before Thanksgiving one year when her owner moved and decided to leave her behind. After she got adopted from a shelter, her new owner marveled at how happy Stella was and how much she relished opportunities to play and go for car rides. (Copyright Lori Fusaro / “My Old Dog”)
Even though dogs over the age of 6 or 7, like the one pictured here, make fabulous pets, they often represent the highest-risk population at animal shelters across the United States. (Copyright Lori Fusaro / “My Old Dog”)
Senior dogs Flopsy and Sebastian were rescued from neglect in a backyard. Despite their arthritis, they still loved to play, chase squirrels and frolic in parks.
Sunny fit right in with Lori Fusaro’s other rescue dog, Gabby (right), and she went on to thrive for more than two and a half years until she reached the age of 18 in her new, happy home. Sunny inspired a photography project that ultimately led to the creation of “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts.” (Copyright Lori Fusaro / “My Old Dog”)
Photos courtesy of Lori Fusaro. Check out more of her work at fusarophotography.com.