Luckily, Casteel continues to make time for his personal passion: the non-profit he founded in 2011, Second Chance Photos, which professionally photographs shelter pets to increase adoptions and save lives.
Often, a pet’s chance of being adopted rests on an unflattering mug shot. Casteel is on a mission to save animals’ lives through quality photography and marketing. He travels across the country training volunteers and shelter staff to take better photos of animals, giving them a greater chance of finding homes. Second Chance grew out of Casteel’s volunteer work at the West Los Angeles animal shelter and pet shelters across the country. Four years ago, he found some frisky kittens on a Sony Pictures Studios lot, sneaked into an executive’s office, and took photos of the kittens playing on the office furniture. He used the photos to promote the adoption of the kittens, and they all found homes.
Connecting more professional-looking photographs with increased adoption rates, he now teaches free photography classes at animal shelters nationwide. Upcoming workshops in Denver, Orlando, and Austin are already at capacity. “My goal is to give people the tools to do this themselves,” Casteel says. “It’s just one step, of course, to increase adoption rates, but it’s an important step. “If you really want to do it, you can become a wonderful photographer, and you can save lives. All it takes is one picture,” he says.
Casteel’s recent underwater success won’t shift his focus from Second Chance, he says. “My goal is to do this more. The underwater thing has been great because it’s going to help me pay my bills so I have time to do more things like Second Chance. This is a top priority for me.”
When photographing animals, Casteel plays games to coax the pets into shots that reveal their personalities. With dogs, he recommends playing hide and seek. “You’re hiding, the dog is seeking,” he says. Go around the corner in your house and find a good, but not impossible, hiding spot, like behind a couch, then call out to the dog. “When the dog finds you, you’ll get a very surprised reaction. So have your camera ready. As soon as that happens, snap! The moment they find you is the moment you take the picture.”
“There’s an element of emotion happening, rather than, here’s your dog sitting on the couch—that’s predictable. Doing this kind of thing is unpredictable and that’s when you get really exciting photos.”
Photos: Courtesy of Seth Casteel