May is a fairly slow month for Minneapolis photographer Leslie Plesser, who specializes in portraits and pets, so she usually takes on some pro bono work. This year was a little different.
“This year, I decided to do something for the dogs,” she said.
Not just any dogs, rescue dogs. And not just any rescue dogs, ones that have a hard time getting adopted — older dogs, black dogs (which Plesser calls “the dumbest reason ever”), certain breeds (like pit bull mixes), dogs that are blind, deaf or both.
“I’m just a huge dog person,” she said. “I know rescue dogs with cute photos tend to get adopted easier.”
In April, she contacted local rescue organizations and quickly heard back from a handful (including Wags & Whiskers, Pet Haven of Minnesota and Secondhand Hounds) that were willing to bring a rescue dog awaiting adoption to Plesser’s Minneapolis studio for a glamour shot.
After each half-hour shoot, the rescue organizations get the photos for free (“which they love,” said Plesser) and the picturesque pups get shared on Plesser’s website (shuttersmack.com), her Facebook page, Instagram account and her blog, sites seen by as many as 2,000 people a day.
Lucy & Co., a Minneapolis-based company that makes pet accessories, agreed to kick in bandannas to cute up the dogs for the photo shoots, and to post some of the photos on its Instagram site.
Exposure is what Plesser is looking for with these dogs, all of which “have their challenges,” but have been warm and loving during their photo sessions.
Plesser, who’s adopted three long-lived and much loved rescues and is now on her fourth, has lots of tricks for photographing dogs. She uses squeaky toys to get their attention for the split second she needs to click the shutter.
“If you can get a dog to lie down on its side like it’s getting a belly rub, it’ll look so happy,” she said.
For the month of May, she’s posting a picture a day, along with a short bio she writes about each dog. She also includes information on how to adopt each dog.
Already, one of the dogs she’s photographed (a four-year-old hound mix named Dixy) has been adopted. And there are still more than two weeks to go.
For Plesser, the pet project has been such a success that she’s thinking about doing it again next year.
“They all deserve a home,” she said.