Photographer Sandra Boyd helps Nevada County rescue dogs get adopted |

Photographer Sandra Boyd helps Nevada County rescue dogs get adopted

Candy the terrier looks like she was born to model, posed with her head resting on a pile of red velvet with a hint of holly in the background for the perfect Christmas portrait of a pup in need of adoption.

In reality, though, getting the shot of Candy that could melt the heartstrings of a potential adopter required a lot of hard work to get the extremely timid pup to make eye contact.

But it’s all worth it, said photographer Sandra Boyd.

Boyd volunteers untold hours of her time photographing rescue dogs at adoptathons for Rescue for Pet Sake, Scooter’s Pals and Ruff Pack Rescue, as well as for individual foster parents. Her goal is to make the photos resonate with potential adopters, so that they look at the photo and say, “That’s my dog,” she said.

Boyd’s portraits absolutely make a difference, said Scooter’s Pals founder Susan Wallace.

“It really is a big deal,” Wallace said. “I have seen an increase in our dogs being adopted — we’re so grateful to her.”

It’s not easy, photographing dogs, Boyd said with a laugh, adding that she has been learning the tricks of the trade, carrying treats and getting the fosters to stand directly behind her.

“A lot of times the images of dogs in shelters show sadness,” she said. “I want their personality, their identity to come out … They’re rescues; they’ve already been through enough trauma, they’ve got issues. Having another stranger handle them is hard, they’re scared — you have to work to soothe them, to bring out their happy face.”

An Army veteran, Boyd had not been particularly interested in photography until she participated in Image Nation in 2015. That project, a collaboration between the Nevada County Arts Council and Welcome Home Vets, was run by award-winning photographer Michael Llewellyn, who taught local veterans photography skills.

In a letter to The Union last year, Boyd commented, “I was always proud of my service, but unfortunately during that time it was not considered a positive choice, especially for women. As such I did not speak of my service or even include it on my resume, as I was often shamed if it was brought up. Thanks to Image Nation, I have felt empowered and was able to present, in an open forum, my military background.”

Image Nation was an amazing opportunity to become immersed in photography, Boyd said.

During the project, she said, Llewellyn steered her toward landscapes, which provided a sense of calmness.

Photographing dogs is anything but calm, Boyd said, adding that during an adoption event she could be photographing as many as 16 dogs in one day.

“The closet at Petco is my studio,” she laughed. “You should see it — it’s a circus. It’s very fast-moving.”

Boyd began this work after a friend who is involved in animal rescue asked her to take photos of a rescue dog she could not get adopted.

Within a couple of days of Boyd’s photo being posted, the dog found a new family.

“It became a thing,” Boyd said, bemused.

But, she added, she feels really good about it.

“I’ve learned enough techniques to get the best pup portrait I can so they’re not just shivering in their kennels,” she said. “They’ve been through really rough stuff. I try to bring out who they are. They shouldn’t be defined by their past negative environment.”

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at

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