I spend a lot of time on Instagram. These days I scroll through my IG feed more than I look at my Facebook page. If you want to cast a wider audience or draw attention to your post, then using hashtags is the way to go. Some hashtags are used to organize posts by subject such as #dogsofinstagram, or cities like #oceancitymaryland or it's shortened but well known hashtag #OCMD. Some hashtags are used to encourage users to share photos that fit that subject. Such as #tongueouttuesday. I'm guessing I don't need to explain what this is. 

In nearly every photoshoot, there are funny out takes. Pets make comical expressions, wind blows hair all over the place, perhaps a funny moment between family members happens right as I push the shutter button. One thing that is nearly impossible to time, but happens often, is pets with their tongues hanging out. Either because they are licking their chops, panting on a hot day, or running wild with a tongue flapping much like ears flap in the wind. So today I thought I'd share some of these tongue moments. Maybe you'll get a kick out of them like I did!


Lessons from the Dog - Play Daily

It’s the middle of summer and I’m in the thick of peak season of pet sitting. When folks are traveling, that’s when I’m busiest taking care of pets who can’t travel with their families. The busier I get, the less free time I have. Which means that my dogs spend more time home alone and get walked less often. I always say the best part of my day is coming home to them. Not only do I get to take my shoes off and put my feet up for a break, but I get to spend time with them.

Izzy and Kita on the other hand are full of energy and ready to play. Often, I push them away and say later. I’ve got emails to check, phone calls to make, laundry to finish and so on. Kita being the younger of the two, is usually more excited for some playtime. If she’s especially bored, she’ll get the toys from her toy box out and spread them all over the living room. To get my attention or to entice me to play, she’ll grab a toy and bounce over to me, wiggling her butt and then running away when I make a move toward her. Time for a game of chase, I can hear her thinking! It’s hard not to engage her, no matter what. And when I do, I’m always grateful I did.

Yes, phone calls are important, and I do need some clean socks to wear tomorrow, but seeing how happy they are after a game of tug of war, or chase makes me feel better than any amount of clean laundry! So I try my best to make time daily to play with my girls. Just like going for a walk, breaks from work, chores and the computer are good for my mind. Kita is so goofy when she plays she often makes me laugh. And laughter is good for the soul.

When I’m having an especially stressful day, Izzy and Kita are always there to remind me it’s the little things in life that matter most. Spending time together, having fun and most of all playing, even just for 10 minutes a day, can put the things I stress about in perspective. At the end of the day, what I remember most is how I spent my time with my girls simply living and enjoying life.


Before & After

When I tell people that I am a pet photographer, most folks respond that they could never have their dog photographed. Usually for one of two reasons - their pooch would never sit still long enough to get a good shot, and/or he could never be off leash otherwise he would run away. They are surprised to learn that most dogs I photograph are leashed. I just do a little photoshop magic afterwards in post processing so you would never know!

It's been a couple of years since I shared a before and after. Since this has come up in several conversations I've had recently, I thought I would share a recent edit I did. I featured Daisy's Penn State session just last week. If you missed it, you can see it HERE. Anytime I have a session at the Hintz alumni center, I usually insist dogs stay on a leash since the duck pond is right there and it's too tempting for them to cause havoc with these winged creatures. Often, I will also have the dog's owners help me wrangle their pooches so they are placed right where I want them to be. You didn't think dogs listened to directions like "a little more to the left please" did you? 

With a few other edits like cleaning up eye boogers, slobber, stray hairs as well as boosting contrast, adjusting highlights and shadows, fixing white balance,  you have the final retouched image! Easy peasy! Who knew? Maybe now you'll reconsider if your pet could be a rock model for a photo session one day! 




Why I Entered Print Competition

One of my goals this year was to enter a print competition. You can find photography competitions at all kinds of levels…from local camera clubs, to magazines such as Smithsonian Magazine and organizations like National Geographic and The Sierra Club. But the competition I wanted to enter was one offered by the Professional Photographers of America or PPA for short which I am a member of.

With over 29,000 members worldwide, and like most trade associations, PPA offers many benefits for photographers. From education, to resources, a community of like minded individuals and of course, print competition. Photographers can enter print comp, as it more commonly called, in local chapter competitions, state competitions, districts and international. All but the last level of competition are considered warm ups for the biggest one of all - International Print Competition or IPC for short. Most of us refer to it as the super bowl of print competitions!

All photographers, whether they are amateur or long time professionals, know that the art of a great image consists of a multitude of elements. These include composition, impact, story telling, and technical skills such as proper exposure and lighting. In IPC competitions, photographers can earn a merit based on the score that image received by the judges. To earn a merit, the artist (or maker) must successfully meet the criteria of 12 elements, some of which I've already mentioned. Merits earned during this competition are also applied toward a degree offered by PPA. 

I began my journey entering the Northeast district competition, which took place back in April. I had no expectations other than just to enter and get my feet wet. One of my images did very well and would earn a merit if I entered it at IPC. While I had no intention of entering IPC this year, I wasn’t going to pass this opportunity up! So I re-worked a second image I submitted at Districts and choose two new photos to round out my case of four (the maximum number of entries allowed in each category) and hit the send button. Judging took place earlier this week. 

Images are given a score anywhere from 67 – 100, with 100 being perfect. Any image scoring 80 or higher is awarded a merit. Images that score 85 and above move on to a second round of judging where they can earn a second merit, otherwise referred to as a loan image by PPA. If an image scores a 95 or higher, it is automatically awarded a loan - the best of the best. In 2016, almost 5700 photos were entered. Just under 2500 earned a merit and 1000 of these were awarded the loan distinction. That’s a lot of judging, don’t you think?

I’m proud to share that 3 of my 4 images merited. One of them was up for judging in the loan category, but did not make it. For my first time entering, I am beyond thrilled! I had no expectations and only entered because of how well I did at districts. But if I hadn't tried, I wouldn't have had this experience. 

While the merits are the icing on the cake, print competition for me was about pushing myself to grow as an artist. Photographers who enter competitions can choose to get a critique for an additional fee. This is an invaluable service especially for newbies like myself. It's an opportunity to learn what I did well, what mistakes I made and how I could have created a better image. Watching the judging take place is also a wonderful opportunity to learn from other photographers who entered. As judges challenge scores, there is always a discussion amongst them as they reach an agreement on what the final score should be. So not only do I learn from my own entries, I learn from my peers. Many photographers who have been competing in print comp will share that the fastest way to grow is by entering print comp. 

Already, I've learned so much and more than I ever imagined I would. I'm looking forward to getting my critiques and applying what I advice the judges have for me to my future work. Much like agility, once you go down this rabbit hole, there’s no turning back! I am now addicted and am looking forward to next year’s competitions. 

Here are the images I submitted for 2017's International Print Competition...


Terra Firma

This is the image that did well in Districts and is the reason I entered IPC. Scoring an 86, it was my highest score of the competition.


Sweeter Than A Hershey's Kiss - scored an 81


The Timeout Chair - scored a 79


My Hunting Buddy - scored an 81

My dream photo session

Anyone notice lately that back to school products are now on the shelves at stores? I feel like we’re barely ½ way through summer and already we’re thinking ahead to fall. I found myself looking at planners since I’m still in search of the perfect one. While I have a book for 2017, I realized one of the things that is important for me in any planner is a place to record goals and dreams. Not just yearly, but to break them down into quarterly, monthly and weekly tasks so I can achieve these goals.  Which then got me thinking about my goals and dreams for the rest of 2017. After all, we still have five more months to go!

I’ve written about this before, but I write out business goals every year. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make changes and update my list. So the other day I asked myself what would my dream photo session consist of? Who do I want to photograph that I haven’t? I challenged myself to think big and reach high.

I have sketches of photo ideas I want to execute. Some of them require skills that I don’t yet have, but want to work toward. Some of them I need to write up a plan to make happen which includes shopping for props, planning the lighting and finding the right models.

I also have a list of animals I want to photograph including specific dog breeds. At the top of my list is a French bulldog. I am so in love with this breed and about drool whenever I see one around town! I’d also love to photograph a pot bellied pig, a rabbit, a savannah cat, and a sugar glider.. While I love all dogs, the following breeds are on my wish list to photograph - a Dalmatian, boxer, bernese mountain dog (especially puppies!), Australian shepherd, a corgi, an afghan hound, and an Alaskan Malamute. This list changes constantly, but this is the list that matches my current state of mind.

I also have a fantasy that Barack and Michelle Obama one day will call me to photograph their Portuguese water dogs! Hey, if I make a wish, it could happen, right? Another celebrity high on my list is Bradley Cooper and his chow retriever mix Charlotte. People's sexiest man alive refers to his pup as one of his "kids." As if I needed another reason to love this guy! And who can forget HGTV’s Property Brothers Jonathan Scott and his two dogs. I'm not going to lie, I might be more excited about meeting Jonathan than his two furry friends! Can you blame me??

There, I’ve put that out there! If you know of any animals on my list, have them call me! And if you’ve got connections with someone who has connections to someone else who has connections and can get me in touch with one of my celebrity idols, let me know!!!