Seth Casteel has been photographing animals for years. You’ve probably seen his work; his book Underwater Dogs was a New York Timesbestseller. 7 years ago, Seth began volunteering at animal shelters, photographing homeless pets to help them find their forever home. After several years, he realized the difference that quality photographs can make in adoption rates. Too often, animals in shelters are photographed when they are first brought in; scared, sad, dirty, and possibly sick. And all too often, the shelters don’t have money for high quality cameras, or experienced photographers to take the pictures. And it’s these grainy photos of frightened animals that get put on the shelter’s web site to try and entice potential pet owners into adopting.

Casteel was determined to help shelters and pets, all at once. To do so, he created Second Chance Photos, whose mission is to provide shelter staff and volunteers with the resources to successfully photograph shelter pets, aiding in giving them the second chance they deserve. They provide basic tips on their website, like keeping the photograph positive, getting pictures of the animal’s face and body, and avoiding leashes and cages. They have also created One Picture Saves a Life which travels to shelters around the country to provide photography lessons to staff and volunteers.They also offer learning videos on their site, and encourage other professional photographers to volunteer their time for the cause.

So what difference does a picture make? It can literally mean the difference between life and death. 8 million animals enter homeless shelters each year. Most shelters are run on a combination of government grants and volunteer workers; they simply don’t have the resources to house and feed all those animals indefinitely. The animals’ best hope is a quick adoption, or they may face euthanasia. Some shelters have posted their new improved pictures on their sites and seen the animals adopted later that day!

If you’re an animal lover, be sure to visit One Picture Saves a Life. You can learn more about their mission, donate to their cause, and browse through their gallery of before and after photos to see the difference one picture can make.

Image Credit: Josh Feeny