How to make great pet adoption videos (even when you think you can’t)

July 20, 2017

Video may have killed the radio star, but it can definitely save the shelter cat.

In fact, video may be more effective than great photos and descriptions in helping pets find homes, particularly if they have perceived behavior problems. Unfortunately, many shelter staffers don’t think they have the skills and software to make good adoption videos. That’s why when the great folks at Challenge shelter Dakin Humane Society offered to share their system for making quick and easy adoption videos with a smartphone, we couldn’t wait to pass along their tips.

First, they recommend using the Google Photos app to create the video (here’s how to get started):

The Google Photos app turns video clips and photos from your library into short movies that are great for adoption videos. No video editing needed! If you prefer to use a different video making app/program, just make sure you are able to meet the following requirements: add [your organization’s] name or logo to the video, upload your video to YouTube, and add copyright free music.

You can learn how to use Google Photos by viewing these tutorials:

How to use the Google Photos app on an iPhone:

How to use the Google Photos app on an Android smartphone:

Here are more sure-fire tips from Dakin Humane:

Items to bring to the shoot:

  • Interactive toys
  • Wand or peacock feather
  • Treat bag
  • Catnip
  • Noisemaker

Things to consider when filming:

  • Horizontal vs vertical filming is better for adoption videos
  • For automatic video apps (like Google Photos), film short clips
  • Aim for 15 different clips that are 6-10 seconds each
  • Remember to press “stop” between clips, not “pause”
  • Natural light is best
  • Keep brightest light source behind the camera, not behind the subject
  • Try different angles and positions to get the best light

Have a plan for shots to capture:

“Think of the adoption video as a highlight reel for the animal,” they advise. A variety of shots will lead to dynamic videos. Use the checklist to stay organized and efficient. As soon a you get a few good seconds of one shot, move on to the next.

Ideally try to include the following clips for each cat:

  • Resting
  • Close-up with eye contact
  • Full body shot
  • Playing
  • Interacting with people
  • Catnip (but keep for last and be careful

Among their tips is one of the most important — and it’s valuable when shooting still photos, too: Getting good eye contact. They suggest:

  • Try to grab the cat’s attention (with toys, treats, sounds) and then bring their focus to the camera
  • Film at cat’s eye level
  • Even when playing, try to bring cat’s attention toward the camera
  • Try to capture a few different instances of eye contact in the video

In their guidelines and checklist, they also include tips for filming shy animals, how to include still photos in a video, using burst mode, and making videos of bonded pairs.

They even made a video about how to make a video:

Additional resource:

Playlist of adoption videos made with the Google Photos app

Thanks to Dakin Humane for their generosity in sharing these valuable resources!


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