Making a difference for hundreds of shelter cats

In spite of the fact that I spent most of last winter in Florida, I still managed to photograph over 300 cats and kittens at Centre County PAWS! The best part of all of this is hearing how my photos attract folks to come in and adopt their new best friend. Making a difference for one animal makes my heart full. But helping hundreds, well, I only hope I can make as much a difference for them as they do for me. While I hope and believe that good photos help homeless animals find homes faster, honestly the most important work is done by the dozens of volunteers that work at the shelter day after day, week after week, month after month. From the foster families, to the dog walkers, adoption counselors, the kennel staff, the medical team, the committee members and on and on and on. It really does take a village to help those who cannot speak for themselves.  

2017 PAWS collage

Briggs | State College pet photography

The first time I met Briggs's family was when they replied to a model call I was advertising. They had a pit bull mix they thought would be perfect for this. Milo was an older, very sweet fellow who indeed just what I was looking for. A patient dog, he allowed me to experiment with new techniques I had recently learned, thus giving me the opportunity to create a wide variety of images. Sadly, Milo’s family informed me that he had passed away last year. With heavy hearts and an empty home, they decided to bring home a puppy. And so the search for Briggs began. 

This little bully mix immediately cheered the family up. Knowing he’d grow up fast, and remembering Milo’s session with me, they decided they needed photos of this puppy...now. We scheduled the session as early as we were all available, on a beautiful summer day. Knowing the flowers were in full bloom on the Penn State campus, that’s where we decided to hold the session.

Briggs had only been with his new family for two weeks, but it was apparent he was developing a strong bond with them. Kona, their other bully mix, took a little longer to adapt to the little sptifire, he was quite the change from her older brother Milo. But it was good for her to have a playmate again, and soon they tumbled, rolled and chased one another. 

Now, you can probably guess that photographing and playing with Briggs was the highlight of my week that week. After all, who doesn’t love a puppy? Briggs was a pretty calm fellow considering he was only 11 weeks old. Usually I have all these noise makers I use to get the dog’s attention, but Briggs was so fascinated with all the sights and smells of this new location, he was too busy checking things out to pay any mind to me and my sounds. We had toys for him to chase and captured some truly hilarious action shots!

Later in the session, Briggs’ people jumped in the photos for some family shots. I’m always delighted when my clients opt to do this as I believe not enough people get photos of themselves with their furry family members. Our fur-kids come into our lives for such a short period of time, we should honor this with updated family photos often. It may feel funny or weird at the time since many of us are not used to being photographed, but it’s something you’ll look back and cherish forever.

Here are a few images from this fun session!

pitbull.puppy.running.summer.flowers
pitbullmix.dog.puppy.Penn.State campus
pitbull.mix.puppy.goofy.tennis.ball
bully.puppy.sitting.Penn.State
Nittany.Lion.shrine.family.photo.dogs

A look back at 2017

Januarys mean new beginnings. But it's also a great time to reflect on the past year and take note of all my accomplishments and failures. The year began with a bang when I took an extended trip to Florida. It was good for my soul (all that sun!) and my business as I was able to focus on tasks that needed to get done, but could never find the time. This included overhauling my website, getting back into blogging and shooting more that winter than ever before. 

Southwest.Florida.dog.beach.blue.sky

My return to Happy Valley brought in more clients than in 2016. And stretching myself out of my comfort zone I shot studio portraits in my clients home. Something I had shied away from for so many reasons, but ended up being more doable than I ever imagined. 

bully.mix.puppy.running.summer.flowers

I met and photographed several puppies (and had way too much fun!), consistently blogged twice a week and posted on social media on a regular basis, something that previously I had only done sporadically and with little intention behind what content I was sharing. 

yellow.lab.retriever.running.tennis.ball

I made decisions that in 2018 I hope will move me toward focusing even more on my photography. Letting go of some things took time (years actually), but I'm excited to make some changes in my life and get closer to making my dreams come true.

chocolate.lab.puppy.

While I achieved many of my goals for 2017, I fell short on some of them too. I only published one newsletter edition all year, didn't book as many clients as I had set in my goals and completely failed at some marketing plans I had started to put together, but never acted on. Some goals I achieved, like entering Professional Photographer's of America (PPA) International Print Competition, attending a PPA Certified Professional Photographer class and expanding on my photoshop skills, which were not part of my plan when the year began. So I'm proud of myself of taking advantage of opportunities I hadn't expected. 

yorkie.beach.Sanibel.Island

One thing is clear though, how much I've been enjoying my journey as a photographer. Reflecting on all of this has been part of the process as I work on setting goals for 2018. And let me tell you, I've got some pretty ambitious ones this year! It's always fun to look back and see how far I've come in just 12 months. And a great reminder that this journey isn't about getting there, where ever "there" is, but the experiences along the way. So whether something was an accomplishment or a failure, I'm grateful for all of it!

Florida.girl.red.dress.dogs

Now that the holidays are officially over, I'm ready to jump in and get 2018 started! 

Spanish.moss.tree.golden.retriever.backlight
mini.australian.shepherd.florida.beach
Italian.greyhound.portrait
Man.west.highland.terrier.laugh

Happy holidays!

It's hard to believe another year is almost over and a new one about to begin. I've learned a lot about myself this year as a person and as an artist. In some ways I grew more than I dreamed I would and could a year ago, in other ways there is so much more I want to learn and do. I'm looking forward to a new beginning and the promise of new dreams come true! From my family to yours - I wish you a most merriest of holiday seasons! May 2018 be all that you dream of - and more! 

Izzy.golden.retriever.holiday.photo

Looking forward - 2018 goals

If you've been following me for a while, then you know I'm really big on writing down goals. When I started my pet sitting business many moons ago, I jotted down numbers (how many new clients, how many visits, how much income and so on) that I hoped to make happen. The goals were small but achievable as long as I pushed myself. And when I reached those goals, I set new ones. Sometimes they were ambitious, but I didn't realize until later, how doing this helped me accomplish everything I wanted - and so much more! 

It's been years since I was in that business start-up frame of mind. These last couple of years with my photography business has been more about something that I do on the side. But about 1/3 of the way into this year, I decided to kick things up a notch. I started blogging twice a year, sharing on Instagram 4 - 5 days a week, and posting on Facebook at least twice a week. I booked more paying clients, donated sessions to local charities, and photographed more creating little challenges to improve my skills as a photographer and artist. I entered print competition and did far better than I dreamed I would for a first time entry. I met a lot of my goals for this year, and some not at all. By the end of the year, I realized that while I achieved more this year than last, I could have done even more. 

So as 2017 winds down, I've been busy planning out my goals for 2018. And let me tell you - they are ambitious ones! The more I got in touch with what my dreams for myself and my business are, the bigger my dreams became. And I'm not talking about dreams I should have. But dreams I really want to make come true. Like I must be crazy, but I'm not, dreams. I've been so focused on what this is and realized just how much my fears are keeping me from living the life I want. Not anymore. 

I've had some ideas that I want to implement in my photography, but so far have been too afraid to try. Things that I can't stop thinking about, so you're going to see some new and exciting work from me next year. Perhaps a little outside the box too (for me), but I'm super excited! I'm also working on making a huge transition in my life that will allow me to focus more time on my photography. It's been several years in the making and I'm finally ready to let go of some things and embrace a new lifestyle. I've got marketing ideas that I've been sitting on for a couple of years that I'm going to stop being afraid of pursuing. One thing hasn't changed though and that is my love for our furry best friends. So while I may move in a different and exciting direction, there will be plenty of fur kids involved in many of my projects!

So before bidding aidos to 2017, I'm going to savor these last few moments and all that I have accomplished. Here's to an amazing 2018 and making dreams come true!

The Big Picture Planner