Telling Pet Owners Stories – A simple guide to photographing and writing about the people you’re helping

By Kristen Hassen

Kristen Hassen | November 23rd, 2020

Wondering how to take photos and tell stories of the people and pets you support? Follow these steps and show the world the great work you are doing.

1. Take a great photo

  • Take 30 minutes to review all the great materials on HeARTs Speak.

2. Amplify voices

  • Read these guidelines of the ethics of photographing subjects from Photographers without borders and remember their mantra: “People have voices. We amplify them.”

3. Introduce yourself

  • Approach your subject and introduce yourself. Let them know you are hoping to share a bit about how your services helped them and ask if they’re willing to share. It is important people don’t feel they have to speak to you just because they received a service. Look for body language and verbal cues the person is not comfortable talking to you and back off whenever you notice these. This article explains further.

4. Ask them three to four questions

Some helpful ideas for questions include.

  • What is your name?
  • What is your pet’s name? (use the name after this instead of saying ‘your pet’).
  • What services did you receive from us?
  • Tell me what brought you to us today?
  • How did you hear about our services?
  • Tell me about Daisy! She’s so cute!
  • How did this service help you and your pet?
  • What is your favorite thing about your pet? Can also ask what do you love most about your pet?
  • What advice would you give to anyone with a pet that could use this service?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share with me?

5. Ask for permission to share

  • Ask the person the following questions:
    • Can I take your picture and share with our supporters?
    • Can I use your pet’s name?
    • Can I use your first name?

6. Verify information is correct

  • Repeat back to the person what you heard and wrote down. Ask them, “Did I get this right?”
  • Ask them if there is anything they want you to add after they’ve heard their story told back to them.

7. Use these photo tips

  • Being on their level or below their level is better than taking a photo from above
  • Taking pictures outside in bright light is usually easiest for most of us. Make sure the person is facing the light, they can be on an angle if the sun is too bright.
  • If the person does not want to be in the photo, you can always ask if you can share their pet.
  • Zoom in to faces, leave out the lines, allow for the photo to show the love between people and pets.

8. Thank them and be transparent

  • Say thank you and tell them how you plan to share their story so they can see it. Offer the pet owner a copy of the photo/story. This copy may be in print, email, or text format based on accessibility.

9. Consider the following when taking photos or videos of people you’re serving

  • Could your photo or story jeopardize the person’s safety or wellbeing?
  • Does the person seem uncomfortable and put ‘on the spot’ or excited to be speaking with you?
  • If you were close friends with this person, would you be comfortable telling the story you’ve written? If it were about you?
  • Are you amplifying someone’s voice or objectifying their struggle?


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