Enzo | State College pet photography session

Shy, nervous, scared, stressed. These aren’t exactly traits I would describe as my ideal pet client. Yet, Enzo was definitely one of the best dogs I’ve ever photographed. When his mom contacted me, she inquired about setting up a studio pet portrait session for him. Knowing I shoot outdoors on-location, she was hoping I’d have a recommendation for a studio photographer. I suggested I come over and meet them at their home to determine if there was enough space for me to bring my studio equipment. 

Enzo is a sweet, eight year old rescue Italian greyhound. As soon as I met him, I knew why his mom was concerned. He definitely needed some time to warm up to me and no doubt any sudden noises or other dogs would having him feel worried and unable to relax during a photo session. So we went ahead and set up a date for his session, for sometime after he recovered from dental surgery. He’s already lost several teeth and had to have 2 more extracted. Which leaves him with just 3 teeth left! This just goes to show how important good nutrition and diet are early in life.

I was a little nervous about how Enzo would do when I brought all my gear in and set up, but he was fine. Happy to see me, as though he understood this afternoon was about to be all about him! He rocked his session allowing me to capture all kinds of poses and facial expressions. We finished after about an hour when he was clearly tired from the hard work of posing, listening to all my crazy noises, and eating treats for rewards. 

Enzo’s mom wanted a portrait to add to her wall collection of portraits of her canine family. She had worked with a photographer where she lived previously who had photographed two of her other dogs. It was important to her to have something different yet that captured Enzo’s true personality. A large part of our discussion when choosing the final portrait was Enzo’s ears. As with many sighthounds, their ears sit in a variety of positions depending on their emotions. In the end, she picked the pose with one ear up and one down - the way his ears are most of the time!

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Waiting for Perfect

I’ve been thinking about the word perfect a lot lately. And how striving to be perfect can be more of a hindrance than a badge of honor. Almost everything I do, I want it to be perfect. And that may be keeping me from living the best life I can.

I can agonize over a decision for days, weeks or months. It takes me what seems like forever to muster the courage to pursue something I want to do. What if I fail? What if I make the wrong choice?  What if I embarrass myself? I often find myself waiting until everything is “perfect” before I take the plunge and try something. Like opening a photography business. But the truth is, nothing is ever going be perfect. So either I’m going to wait a very long time or I’m going to have to accept this and give it my best shot.

My husband is my biggest cheerleader. He encouraged me to open my photography business long before I felt ready to do so. I made one excuse after another (some were valid), but his reply was always the same. You’re waiting for perfect and it’s never going to happen. Do it. Now. With what you have. With what you know. You’ll figure it out. And it’ll be ok.

Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Plenty of them. I’ve forgotten to change a setting on my camera and had to delete files that were not savable. Or spent too much time “chimping” by looking at the back of my camera to make sure I got a good exposure, missing a super sweet moment between a dog and his owner. Or ended a session because it appeared as though the clouds have rolled in and we’re not going to get that awesome golden light that I love. Only to see the clouds part and the sky awash in color on my way home. If only I had stuck around and waited. I’m sure you relate, maybe you’ve made the same errors.

While I'm not proud of my mistakes, I’ve learned more from them than when I accidently did something right. I find these can be some of my best teaching moments. I make note of it and vow to do better next time. It’s amazing how much you can grow when you pay attention to these lessons. And while I may have questioned my skills, or felt stupid at the time, looking back, I’m always grateful for these experiences. They helped make me better than I was before.

I love this quote, “Be real, not perfect.” I bet all of us know or have met someone who seemingly is perfect. Honestly, I find that I avoid those people. They always make me feel less than worthy, not good enough or simply inadequate. I’d rather hang out with someone who shares her true self, the person who falls every once in a while but picks herself up and tries again. I relate to her. Not to the one who hides all her mistakes or exaggerates to make herself appear flawless. Because there isn’t a single perfect person on this planet.

Sure, I strive to be perfect…to never make a mistake, to have all my projects go smoothly, to create stunning images every single time. Sometimes I even get lucky. But no matter what, I've always been true to myself. Flaws and all. I guess you could say I'm perfectly imperfect doing the best I can. And that's as real as it gets.

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State College magazine feature

For years, State College magazine has devoted a summer issue exclusively to pets. When I got serious about my pet photography, I made it a goal to have one or more of my photos printed in their publication. A couple of months ago I reached out to them and suggested their readers might be interested in an feature story about my pet photography and pet sitting business. I never expected a response, but figured I would never make this dream happen if I didn’t at least try. When I got a reply a couple of weeks later wanting to set up an interview, I couldn't stop jumping up and down with excitement!!!

The issue just hit newsstands this week. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to pick up a copy. Or if you prefer, you can see it online HERE. Thank you State College magazine!!! Next goal…to have one of my photos grace the cover of a future issue! 

Unleashed! | State College pet photographer

When I show people my pet photos, the most common remark I hear is “you could never do that with my dog, he would run away if I took the leash off him”. Or “my dog would never sit still long enough for you to get a photo of her that isn’t blurry.” Safety is my #1 priority during all of my custom photography sessions. It’s up to you to decide if your dog can be off-leash, but unless we’re shooting in a fenced in yard, it’s almost always best to keep dogs on a leash. While my own fur-baby Izzy is pretty good off leash (of course I’ve been training her to be a good model for me since she was a puppy), there are many times when there are simply too many distractions for her to not be tempted to run off. So in those situations I do leave her leash on, or I have someone come with me and hold onto her.

So, now you’re wondering how come you never see the leashes in my images, right? I’m so glad you asked! In today’s blog I’m going to show you how I work a little photo shop magic to make those leashes “disappear!”

Here’s a before and after of Bono from a session I did this spring. Bono turned 1 and like most puppies, he can’t be trusted to not run off if he is off-leash. So during the session I asked his mom to hold the leash and helped guide her to stand where it would be easiest for me to remove it in post-processing. Hard to believe there was a leash at all, isn’t it?

 

Here’s another before and after, this time from Buddy’s session in Valley Forge. Buddy is a handsome schnauzer mix who is well trained, he competes in agility, but for safety reasons we kept his leash on the entire session. Since we were at a park with lots of people, cars and wildlife, there were too many distractions and temptations for Buddy. Once again, if I didn’t show you the before, could you ever tell there was a leash in the image?

 

Here’s a before and after of Izzy. Since most of the time it’s just her and I when I’m photographing her, I have no one to hold onto her leash. But I will wrap it behind her so if she does take off, at least I have something I can grab before she gets away. Having treats in my hand helps a lot as Izzy isn’t one to turn down something yummy!

 

And finally, here's a before and after of Kita. Since she is still so young and learning her recall, I keep her on a leash whenever I photograph her. 


So now that you know my tricks, let me share some tips that you can do to help for your fur-baby’s photo session. First, if you have a skinny black leash that’s long enough for you to stand about 5 feet or more away from your fur-baby, bring that to your session. Check your dog’s collar. Is it dirty, old or worn out? Perhaps this would be the time to buy a new colorful collar. Also, county license, rabies and microchip tags aren’t very pretty in your images. Plan to take them off your dog’s collar before the session, but carry them with you so you have them.

Sometimes leashes add a unique quality to your images, if that’s the case, then we’ll incorporate it into your photo session. On the other hand, I know some people like to use a harness for their dogs. Harnesses are very tough to edit out, so if you plan to have your dog wear it during your session, I may not be able to remove it in post-processing. 

So now that you’ve seen the before and after photos, I hope you can see how it is possible to photograph your fur-baby and get beautiful images even when on a leash. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know. And if you’re ready to book your session, give me a call and let’s get the process started!