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Photo Session, Photography, Uncategorized

I often get asked if it’s harder photographing black dogs or cats and my answer is that it can be.  It’s not impossible to get amazing images but it might take a little more work and preparation.

In animal rescue there is a belief that black animals are harder to adopt out.  There are 93.4 million results if you do a Google search for “are black animals less likely to be adopted”.  93.4 Million.  

A senior black lab with a gray face enjoys the sunshine in a grassy lawn

Some studies have shown that dark colored animals take longer to be adopted out and are more likely to be euthanized than lighter colored animals.  So what’s the story? Are animal adopters “racist”? Are black animals more likely to have issues?

I don’t think so.  I think a key reason why black animals take longer to get adopted is because it can be harder to get good photographs of them.  Especially in shelter conditions that make it difficult to get a good photo of any animal, let alone a dark one.

A smiling black chihuahua dog in green foliage wearing a purple harness

People respond to images of adoptable pets.  As a foster mom I would get applicants for my foster that would say “as soon as I saw that picture of Bailey looking up in that photo I knew she was my dog”.   Or “I loved Emmie’s sweet expression and had to apply”.  

If you can’t see an animals’ details, especially the eyes, you’re not as drawn to that image. And as a potential adopter it’s often on to the next photo until one makes you stop to look closer.

A black cat with golden eyes against a cream backdrop looking at the camera

Luckily, since I have owned (or been owned by, that’s up for debate)  three solid black cats, one black and white cat, three all black dogs, and one black and white dog I have had many years of experience photographing dark colored dogs in all kinds of conditions.  And that doesn’t count all the foster dogs and client animals that I’ve worked with.

A black lab mix in front of a colorful Japanese Maple in a Northville back yard in fall

The key to getting a great image is all in the light.  Making sure that you have enough light, but not too much light.  And managing the direction the light is coming from.  

I can address some of that issue through the time of day when I hold my portrait sessions – earlier in the morning or earlier evening and avoiding the hard midday light.

A woman wearing a long sleeve pink shirt cradles a small black kitten

I can also address the amount of light by knowing how to work with shade and shadows. Or using some supplemental light to ensure that all the details are visible.

And if natural light just won’t work there is also a studio option, where the light is completely controlled.

Having professional grade camera equipment is also going to help.  A larger sensor and being able to capture a larger range of light will make a big difference, especially when it comes to editing an image.

A black dog sitting on a rocky overlook of Bob's Cove, New Zealand

Are you tired of photos where your black or dark colored pet is just a blob? When you set up a portrait session with me you are guaranteed to love the results (and you can be in the images as well, extra bonus!). Link to contact form here.

A black dog on a sandy beach in soft natural lighting that shows of the texture of his wet fur.
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Dog, Park, Photo Session, What to expect

To leash or not to leash, that is the question.  Actually, it’s not really a question in my mind. It’s a pretty simple answer…..yes!    I have a lot of experience with dogs on leash photography, as you can see from the examples below.

A dachshund dog on the beach of Lake Michigan with a leash
A happy dachshund on the beach of Old Mission Lighthouse park in Traverse City

One of the concerns that many people have before booking a pet portrait session is that their dog needs to stay on a leash at all times.  They are afraid that all the images will have the leash in them or that they can’t get the type of images that they see on pet photography websites.

A golden doodle sitting on the path in Maybury State Park in winter
A beautiful doodle dog sitting on the path in a snowy forest

I have good news for you.  Your dog absolutely does not need to be off leash to get amazing images.  In fact, I would prefer that your pup stays on a leash unless we are in a fenced-in area.  

A sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel looks at the camera while posing on a stony landscape
A red and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy sitting on a stony landscape

I know some people are very comfortable with their dogs being off leash.  But some other considerations are other dogs or wildlife that may be in the area, even well-trained dogs are not perfect, and the fact that it is a state law to have your dog on leash.  So you can actually get a ticket/fine for not having your dog on leash.   

A black newfie puppy covered in sand on the beach with a red leash
A black newfoundland puppy covered in sand on the beach

My preference is always better safe than sorry, but especially when it comes to our pets.

Here’s how it works.  I can give you some simple instructions on how to hold the leash to minimize its appearance in an image.  I even have some special leashes that we can use. Then I do some photoshop magic to remove the leash in my editing process.  Viola, safe dog and happy pet parents 🙂

A golden doodle on leash on the beach at Fisherman's State Park in Michigan
A golden doodle on a stony beach along Lake Michigan with it's mouth open in summer

So, please don’t let the fact that your dog needs to be on a leash prevent you from having gorgeous images of you and your pet.  As part of our pre-session call we will discuss locations and behaviors so that we get exactly what you want without any risk.

Book your no-obligation call today by answering a few questions here.

An adorable Klee Kai dog on a snowy bridge in wearing a leash
A Klee Kai dog on the bridge in Lake St. Clair metropark in winter

As always, feel free to contact me at mail@PawdaciousPortraits.com if you have any questions regarding a pet portrait session.

So to conclude, yes, your dog can be on a leash during our pet photoshoot and you’ll still get gorgeous images to display in your home for years. 

A dachshund dog on a leash splashes through shallow water
A dachshund dog splashed through the shallow water of a lake
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Photo Session, Photography, Uncategorized

Why I recommend being in at least some of the images

As a professional pet photographer I have many beautiful images of my dogs.  But when my beloved Bentley was spending several days at the emergency vet last year I suddenly realized that I had no photos of me with my pets.  None. It was a sickening realization but I’m always behind the camera and I am shockingly bad at selfies even when it’s just me, let alone if I’m also trying to wrangle a dog.

A chihuahua with all four paws off the ground while running in Tory, Michigan

It literally made me sick to my stomach that I might have missed my chance for images with Bentley and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.  I was fortunate that Bentley pulled through and I was able to have a photoshoot with him and our other dogs. But I can’t forget that feeling.  

A smiling dog in front of a woman in a formal garden in Rochester Hills, Michigan

So let me help you avoid my painful situation.  Plan on being in at least a few of the images with your pet during our pet portrait session.  Even if you HATE being in photos. 

A small dog sitting inside a tire swing that her owner is sitting on

Hear me out and if nothing else, look through the images in this post to understand what we can do together.  We have lots of options and I’m sure we can find a few that you like.  

A chocolate lab sitting on stone steps in front it's owners in Georges Georges Park, Michigan

And that’s the beauty of digital images, we can try different things. And if you really don’t like them when you see the final result you don’t have to choose them.  But you may be surprised at how much you really appreciate the images that include you.

A tattooed woman snuggles a tabby kitten

I do understand where you’re coming from. And my style definitely leans towards the more relaxed images that focus on the connection you have with your pet over the formally posed traditional family portrait. Of course I’ll include the formal “everyone facing-forward” images if they are requested, and many people love to buy that kind of image as a desk display. But I really prefer to take the more candid shots of your natural interactions between you and your pet.  That’s where we capture the real magic of your relationship.

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel looking up at it's owner

There are a few ways we can achieve this goal.

How to be in your pet portraits even if you don’t like your photo taken

– Showing just your hands

A small tabby kitting cradled in her moms arm looks up at the camera

– Showing just your feet – feel free to bring some fun shoes if you want to try this option

A white bulldog sitting on it's owners feet on a green lawn

– Looking over your shoulder down at them

A small chihuahua mix dog sitting between it's owners and looking over their shoulders at the pet photographer

– Having you in the background and out of focus

A senior black mixed breed dog with his owners in the background

– Taking the photo from a distance

A woman sitting with a dachshund dog on the steps leading to the Old Mission Peninsula Lighthouse in Traverse City, Michigan

– Creating a silhouette – this one takes the right lighting and attention to shape but it can be amazing.

A man in an adirondack chair petting his dog at sunset along Lake Michigan

– Them looking over your shoulder

A happy terrier puppy looking over a man's shoulder

– Both of you from behind

A woman sitting with a small dog looking at the Charlevoix light house at sunset, seen from behind

Let me know if any of these appeal to you in particular. We can talk them over during our consultation call so I can help you be prepared.  That might include bringing a few different pairs of shoes to wear, having your nails done, wearing your hair down, and other wardrobe recommendations.  Otherwise I’ll make sure to take at least a few variations during the photoshoot.

A young Klee Kai dog looks over his mom's arm during a custom pet portrait session in winter at Lake St. Clair Metropark in Michigan

See? Lots of fun ideas that we can try during your pet portrait session. So let’s get started! Tell me more about your pet here and I’ll follow up with a quick phone call.

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Dog, Photo Session, Travel

Impromptu dog photoshoot on the highest peak in Germany

I’m standing on the observation deck of the Zugsptize, over 9,700 feet up in Germany, looking out over the snow covered peaks.  It took a nerve-wracking ride on the record breaking Seilbahn Zugspitze cable car (currently closed as of 2018 due to a maintenance accident, yikes!) to get here, but the views are worth it.  You can see the alps across three countries from this vantage point, or you can walk over to the Austrian platform to check out the view from that perspective. No matter country you choose to stand in, you will not be disappointed.  If you’re crazy enough you can even climb the last little bit to the summit (I am not that crazy). And as always, there is a restaurant (best pretzels of our trip and I tasted many just to be sure) with the prerequisite beer while you’re enjoying those views.

I gaze around at the scenery in all directions and suddenly catch my breath.  I turn to my husband and whisper, “Oh my god!” He twists around toward where I am staring, trying to see what has me so excited.  “There’s a dog up here”, I say with glee. He sees the dog, then looks back at me. He grabs his backpack, pulls out his book, and says, “I’ll go get a beer and read, have fun”.  This is one of the many reasons why I love him, he just gets me. No matter where I go, I’ll always be a dog photographer first!

An Australian Shepherd looking in the distance on top of Zugspitze in Germany

I approach the woman with the dog, a gorgeous Australian Shepherd, and hope that she speaks english.  She does and only looks somewhat confused when I explain that I’m a professional pet photographer and would she like me to take some images of her dog. But she agrees.  I lead them over to the best spot on the observation deck near the stairs. It’s the only part where there isn’t any fencing to obstruct the view of the mountains in the background and I start posing her dog, Danny. He’s very well trained, which is not normal in most of my experience (is it me or are dogs in Europe generally better trained?).  People are walking up and down the stairs and I’m working the background to make them as unobtrusive as possible but it’s a busy day on Zugspitze. Luckily I have my dog squeaker in my camera bag (always), so I’m able to keep Danny’s attention despite all of the distractions.

Australian Shepherd on platform on top of Zugspitze mountain in Germany

Pretty soon I am laying on my stomach to get the shot, and other tourists are taking photos of me taking photos of the dog.  Another tourist wants his photo with the pup. I hardly notice them or the puddles of melted snow that I’m laying in. I’m working fast, the platform is filling up with more people and I don’t want to disrupt this woman’s whole day, but I am in heaven.  Seriously, I’m in a gorgeous location halfway around the world from Michigan, taking photos of a dog. It doesn’t get much better than this. I exchange email addresses with Anne and promise to send her gallery when I get back from our trip.

Eventually I join my husband for a beer and pretzel in front of the view.  But now he’s into it, pointing out other dogs and encouraging me to take more photos.  What was supposed to be an hour long adventure to see the tallest point in Germany has turned into half a day but we’re both having a fabulous time.  

A beautiful husky dog with the alps of Germany and Austria in the background

We were having so much fun that after our descent back down to Eibsee we decide to walk around the lake one more time.  I had met some huskies along the edge of the alpine lake on our hike the day before and had managed to grab a few papparazzi images of them. And we ran into them on top of Zugspitze, too, it’s such a small world!  I hoped to see more dogs in the same location and I was not disappointed. We were entertained by a happy little Jack Russell terrier named Henry (you might recognize him from my top 2018 derpy dog moments). Eventually though, we had to move on.

A happy husky dog at the edge of Lake Eibsee in Germany
Husky dog almost camouflaged at the edge of an alpine lake in Germany

Not long after I sent Danny’s images to Anne I learn that he tragically passed away in an accident.  I’m incredibly sorry for her loss, I know all too well how difficult that is. But I’m so glad that I approached a woman halfway around the world about an impromptu dog photo shoot on top of the tallest mountain in Germany.  At least she has the images of her boy, on top of the mountain in the sunshine. We’ll both have those happy memories.

A small Jack Russell terrier catching a tennis ball next to Lake Eibsee in Germany

I hope you enjoyed the images from our trip to Germany.  It was a fun challenge to make the best possible results within a limited time frame in a new area, sometimes with a language barrier.  Imagine the kind of images I could take of your pet, with more time and your input for pre-planning. While I am based in southeastern Michigan I do love to travel. So don’t let location stop you from setting up a portrait session for your pet.  Destination weddings are a thing, why not destination pet portraits? Because pets are family, too!

A Jack Russell terrier on the shore of Lake Eibsee in Germany
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Park, Photo Session

Yep, you read that right, Pawdacious Portraits has officially gone international!  Earlier this year I had the chance to work with the cutest dachshund in Verona, Italy.  Little P and his family are stationed on an American base in Italy so this adorable dog is exploring Europe for a few years, lucky pup!  And lucky pet photographer to get to work with him on location in the historic center of Verona!

I explored the town before the session, looking for areas that would make good backdrops and showcase some of the Italian history and culture, in addition to Little P.  It was important that the images didn’t look like they could have been taken in Michigan, I really wanted some of that Italian flair. I also wanted Little P’s pawrents to have amazing memories of their European adventures when they finally head back to the states.  This wasn’t just a portrait session, I wanted to document a slice of their lifestyle while they were living in Italy.  Luckily the city is filled with great locations. The hardest part of the day was trying to find a parking spot but once that was secured we were off!


Brown dachshund dog in Italian fountain

Little P posed like a champ….except when he spotted the ducks in the Madonna fountain, then it was time to work!  And he did an excellent job of chasing those ducks away and entertaining the crowd at the same time. We spent two hours wandering around a small city park, the Piazza delle Erbe, some of the small streets surrounding the piazza, and our rental apartment (with balcony).  I love the variety of images that we were able to take- from action shots to portraits. 



We topped off Little P’s photoshoot with a new squeaky toy, brought all the way from the US, and gelato (at least for his mom). A great day for everyone!  



See more images from Little P’s international dog portrait session on the Pawdacious Portraits IG account.  And follow him on his European adventures via the Outside This Small Town IG account and travel blog.

A brown dachshund dog on a vintage couch in an elegant home

 

The Pawdacious Portraits 2019 travel schedule is still being set but feel free to contact me if you’re interested in an on location dog portrait session.

 



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Dog, Photo Session, Rescued
I have a confession to make and it might surprise you. While I adore puppies I think that they’re cute for a reason, otherwise people would never put up with the puppy stage. I’m also a bit selfish – I like my sleep and given all my activities and obligations I just don’t have the time to invest in raising a puppy properly. This is an ongoing friction point in my marriage as my husband dreams of getting a Bernese Mountain dog or Newfoundland puppy in the future and I am happy to rescue a mature dog that needs a good home. In fact I like to tell the story of the time my husband mentioned getting a new puppy while we still had our newf Sadie, so that she could train the new puppy. My response was that it isn’t Sadie’s job to train a puppy, it would be his job. And at that time Sadie was slowing down, I felt that she had earned the right to enjoy her senior years without a puppy driving her crazy. Not five minutes later my husband also joked that he was getting older, almost 50 and was practically dead (yes, we both have a quirky sense of humor). I quickly shot back that “maybe I should get a hot young boyfriend now, so you can train him for me”. We both laughed and so far we don’t have a puppy (or boyfriend just to be clear!).


A senior golden retriever lays on a rug in the doorway of the Silver Muzzle Cottage in Michigan

The reason why I bring this up is November is officially adopt a senior pet month, woo hoo! And I also had the absolute pleasure of visiting Silver Muzzle Cottage a few weeks ago to photograph some of their adoptable dogs. Whenever I travel I love to set up dog photoshoots.  Not only do I like exploring new areas from a pet photographer’s perspective, but I also like meeting new dog people.  On our recent trip “Up North” in Michigan I decided to do something a little different. Instead of booking a traditional pet portrait session I reached out to Silver Muzzle Cottage to see if I could offer my dog photography services.


I could have stayed all day hanging out with the dogs there, it took an effort to stop petting them all and actually take photos (you can see the Facebook photo album here).  It was also hard not to take them all home with me.


A senior basset hound walks through the grass at a Michigan senior dog hospice
Silver Muzzle Cottage is an amazing rescue organization based in a Rapid City, Michigan.  About 40 minutes east of Traverse City, this organization specializes in senior dogs that need a new home.  


SMC is run by Kim Skarritt. You know how people always write in rescue posts that “I wish I could help these animals”, or “somebody needs to do something to help”?  Well, Kim is the person who is doing something.  She has been written about in People magazine, the Detroit Free Press, and many other local Michigan news outlets. She not only takes in and cares for the senior dogs, but she gives back to the community by offering a program called Seniors for Seniors.  Silver Muzzle Cottage volunteers can take a resident dog to nursing care facilities where everyone benefits from hanging out with the dogs for a while.


A senior beagle wearing a red harness plays in a plastic playground at a dog rescue

There are a lot of reasons why senior dogs end up needing homes.  Sometimes owners are also seniors and can no longer take care of their pets, or have sadly passed away and don’t have family members that can take their pets.  Some get lost and wander away. Others are discarded when the cute new puppy comes along (don’t get me started!). Whatever the reason, there are a lot of senior pets that need homes.  So here are some reasons why you should consider rescuing one.

A close up of a senior dogs' face as he gets ear rubs from a man at the Silver Muzzle Cottage in MI

7 reasons why senior dogs are the best:



1.  No crazy puppy chewing phase -puppies learn about the world by putting it in their mouths.  And it can take some time for them to figure out what is chewable and what is not. Your shoes, furniture, and fingers will thank you.  

2.  Housetraining will probably be done for you.  While every new pet needs some time to adapt to the new routines, the learning curve should be shorter for older dogs who are just making minor tweaks vs. puppies learning first hand…on your carpeting.


3.  Sleep!  All those jokes about having “mommy brain”?  Sleep deprivation is a thing. Older dogs are usually pretty good snoozers.  This includes through the night, most of the day, and bingeing on Netflix with you.  If I haven’t started walking towards the bedroom by 9 pm my dogs will go without me
.

A smiling black and white collie mix enjoys the sunny day in the grass


4.  Socialization and training – puppies need to be exposed to other dogs and new situations to learn how to deal with them in positive ways.  Do you have the time to invest in this? Remember that you’ll also be spending time cleaning up and will already be tired from lack of sleep.


5.  What you see is what you get.  You know how big the dog is going to get, it’s already full grown!  And personality will be on display, making it easier for you to match your own family needs to those of the dog.  This is especially important with energy levels.

A senior mixed breed dog scratches it's back on the grass


6.  Companionship – older dogs just get it.  Instead of chasing around a puppy and trying to stay one step ahead of what might possibly get chewed up, you can relax and enjoy the company of your new pet.  Especially if that involves napping on the couch.



7.  Adopting a senior dog is saving it’s life, literally!  I know, adopting any dog is technically saving it’s life but puppies tend to get adopted more quickly than older dogs.  Shelters are always over crowded so they’ll make the difficult decision of euthanizing “less adoptable” dogs first. And don’t think a senior dog doesn’t know that, I completely believe that they understand and are incredibly grateful for it…just look into those eyes.



A man kneels down to get kisses from two senior dogs

So there you have it, some things to keep in mind when you considering adding a dog (or any pet) to your household.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all dogs. I just know myself and senior dogs definitely suit my lifestyle. Yes, they leave us all too soon.  But I’ll still take whatever time I have with them and enjoy it to the fullest.

 A senior shepherd dog mix suns himself on the deck at Silver Muzzle Cottage in MI

If you think that a senior dog would be the right fit for your household you can check out these resources:

 

Silver Muzzle Cottage   follow them on Facebook 

Butch Cassidy’s Hang Out on Facebook – featuring senior dogs from various animal shelters and rescues, focusing on southeastern Michigan.

 

Petfindersearch rescues and shelters for pets that are up for adoption.  Just select “Senior” from the Age drop down menu option and find senior dogs needing homes near you.

 

An old black lab mix dog looks happy next to a fence at the Silver Muzzle Cottage rescue in Michigan
Want to help senior dogs but can’t adopt or foster one yourself?  Here are a few ideas:

 

Volunteer – If you’re near the Rapid City, MI, area you can volunteer with Silver Muzzle Cottage.  Help feed, walk, and love on the dogs. Or join the Senior for Seniors program and share the joy of the dogs with seniors.

 

Spread the word – comment, like and forward messages on Facebook and Instagram that will help senior dogs.  Those social media algorithms are based on engagement. Engage with the posts and more people will see them, maybe you’ll help spark a connection that helps save a dog.

 

Donate – most animal shelters have a wishlist, many are on Amazon to make it easy to order and ship (don’t forget to use Smile.Amazon to also donate a percentage of all your purchases to the charity of your choice).

A happy senior golden retriever gets a butt scratch outdoors

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Photo Session

You might want to grab the tissues for this one, though I promise it has a story book ending. Athena is your typical pibble – affectionate, playful, a little bit silly and, ahem, not the most graceful dog. Okay, she’s a bit of an exuberant klutz. But I only say that because I feel like she’s a bit of my spirit animal in that sense, and her mom described her as being like Phoebe from “Friends”.

If you could see Athena running in her yard or watching over the neighborhood from her perch on the couch, you would never guess that this poor girl spent an entire year at a Michigan animal shelter. A whole year in a cage. And she almost didn’t get out. Due to shelter restrictions Athena was only going to be released to an animal rescue group, the general public could not go into the shelter and adopt her. But she was one of the lucky ones in the end, she stole the heart of a dog rescue volunteer and now she is living happily ever after. And her mom is making up for all of that lost time with trips to the dog park, lots of squeaky toys, treats, and affection.

Since Athena loves to hang out on the couch that’s where we spent the most time. It took her a little while to warm up to the camera and start showing off her toy chewing skills, but I expect that and gave her time to relax.   My goal with this session was to capture Athena being her silly self. It’s hard to believe that this sweet pup has gone through so much, and I wanted to create images that showcase how happy she is now, without a shadow of the past. I love knowing that anyone who sees these images of Athena are only going to see the joy that she has found in her new home.  This is her story and I’m thrilled to share it.

Does your dog have a Cinderella story?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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