ANIMAL shelters often post photographs of sad-looking waifs and strays on the internet, or in the local newspaper, in their efforts to tug the heartstrings and find their incumbents a new forever home.

And when North-East charity Stray Aid asked 31-year-old Darlington photographer Claire to help, she was was glad to step in. Based in County Durham, the charity’s primary aim is to prevent rehomeable stray dogs and cats from being put down.

The result is a gallery of paw-traits that’s hard to resist, puppies and adult dogs with quizzical looks and sad eyes that say: “Please, give me a home.”

“It’s not my usual thing, but winter is a quieter time for weddings and when a friend told me what a great job Stray Aid does, I was happy to help,” says Claire. “The idea was to try to portray their personalities on camera and hopefully get them new homes. I think all, or nearly all, of them did get rehoused.”

Claire doesn’t have a dog of her own – just a horse – but says she has perfected a cat impression over the years. “It’s usually enough just to get the head tilt and glare right,” she laughs. “I had plenty of treats on hand, but most of them just wanted to play.”

The majority of Claire’s work is much more glamorous - wedding and special event shoots – although she’s not one to shrink from a challenge: one shoot included two adults, six children, two hens, two rabbits and a couple of guinea pigs. She’s been a professional photographer for ten years and used to work on the Disney Magic Cruise Ship, travelling the world photographing children with the characters and any weddings onboard.

“I love shooting couples, especially when they tell me they hate having their photos taken. I see it as a challenge and by the end of it I have usually completely changed their opinion,” she says.

She does around ten weddings a year, which can be stressful at times. “You have to be very vocal and explain clearly what you want,” she says. “Guests are looking to you for guidance all the time.”

There are lighter moments, too. “At one wedding last year, I asked the bride and groom to have a kiss and the mother-in-law and father-in-law thought I meant them. I have a very funny set of images as a result!”

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