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Dog, Photography

It’s that time of year again, a review of some the most “award-worthy” images from last year.  And I think we can all agree that last year was quite the doozy.  All the more reason for some photos to make you smile, right?  

As you might have guessed, these awards are created for images that stood out to me for various reasons, though they may not be the traditional portraits.  But I’m not overly traditional so that’s okay 🙂  Regardless, make sure you read through to the bottom of this post where I announce the 2020 Pet of the Year contest – that’s where you get to vote (and possibly win a prize).

So let’s jump right in to the awards with “The Funniest Silhouette” because I think this one sums up how most people felt about 2020:


You know I like to swear and I love to laugh so I had several different award names for this image but I’ll keep it clean with “funniest silhouette”.  


Next up is the award for “Best Shake”:


Taken just outside Queenstown, New Zealand, last January…before the pandemic restricted everyone’s travels.  It was a dream come true to photograph pups in the glorious New Zealand countryside.  I think Layla enjoyed it, too :). Now to get the Taylor Swift sound out of my head….on to the next award.


The 2020 “Best Peek-a-boo”:


Buddy is just a tiny bit, well actually, completely 100% ball-obsessed.    You know the kind.  So I thought it was appropriate to include an unusual perspective.  Don’t worry, of course I threw the ball for him immediately after.  And another 50 times after that 🙂


Fun fact – Spinone Italianos are so cool they can defy gravity.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s proof with 2020’s “Best Levitation”


A glorious sunny morning capturing the antics of these two mud puppies = heaven.  The amount of mud on my clothes and camera bag = insane.  This is why my camera bag always has lens wipes!  But totally worth it to see these guys in their element.

And the reason why I have insurance on all my gear….the 2020 “Most Exuberant” award goes to Angel:


Actually Angel is so light on her feet that she didn’t actually run into me.  But I love her enthusiasm!  I consider myself more exuberant than graceful so I feel like Angel and I are a good pair.

Sticking with the action theme – here’s the “Best Pounce” of 2020:


Part cat, part fox?  Definitely 100% adorable.  Alaskan Klee Kai are generally beautiful dogs, but I think Cash has got that extra spark.  

Is that Taylor Swift song still stuck in your head?  Well good, because you’ll need it for this next award, “Best interpretive dance”:


Do you miss going out and dancing?  I have the solution!  Adopt Lizzy and you have a dance party in your own home!  Lizzy is available for adoption through Waggin’ Tails Dog Rescue and I can vouch for what an absolute sweetheart she is!  This dance is easy to interpret, it means adopt me!!  Learn more about Lizzy here.  

From the dance floor to the runway, these ladies make a striking team.  Here is the “Best Runway”:


I was almost going to call this best “cat walk” but my cats were not impressed so I left it as best runway.  Make way for this duo!


Speaking of models….this is definitely 2020’s “Best Accessories”:


Vinnie and Sarah nailed the buffalo plaid look, don’t you agree?  Totally adorable, and this pair are as sweet as they seem.

Cuteness overload with the 2020 “Best boop”:


I don’t think this one needs any explanation.  Except that I love how humans are usually doing the “boop” and in this case Leo is giving his best “boop” to his mom.

In case you couldn’t tell, I am also obsessed with flowers and gardening.  In fact I’ve signed up for the Master Gardener program this spring.  Margaux also enjoys flowers, I give you the 2020 Best Stop and Smell the Flowers:


I think we could all learn something from Margaux! 

For the last two awards I have two ties!  I know, but since I get to make the rules I decided that was okay!  It was hard enough to narrow it down to these two, but I give you “Best Sugar Face”:






I don’t know how I missed hearing the term “sugar face” before this year, but now it’s one of my favorite phrases.  Senior dogs have a special place in my heart.  I have two senior dogs of my own and at this point every day is a gift.  I love their soulful expression and how dignified their white faces make them look.  So congrats to Sanford and Murphy.  


Last, one of my favorite awards……the 2020 “Derpy Dog”(s)!  Again, I just couldn’t choose between two contenders so you get double derp this year!



Please understand that I say derpy dog from the heart.  As a Newfoundland (and former St. Bernard) dog mom I LOVE the derpy dogs.  And big dogs tend to offer more derp, even pound for pound.  I’d say that I’m not laughing at them but we all know that’s not true, I just can’t help it.  Enjoy the derp 🙂

I hope you’ve been entertained with the 2020 Pawdacious awards, but now I need your help!  It’s time to crown the Pet of the Year for 2020 and you get to vote. 


Not only that, but by voting you’ll be entered to win your own pet portrait session and be up for the 2021 Pet of the Year contest!  The winner also gets a cool prize – $700 to spend on new artwork from their previous session or a brand new photoshoot.  Giddy up!!

So vote for your favorite entry here and spread the word!  Click here to vote



Shelter in Home 
 
A hard-copy fundraising coffee table style book featuring photos and stories of rescue pets during the pandemic. 
 
Available for pre-sale now!  Order a copy for yourself….and they make great gifts for those animal lovers in your life.
 
New!  A memorial section has been added for the beloved pets that are no longer with us.   Pay tribute to them with a photo and a story in the book.  Also available as a memorial & book combination.

Click here to buy now!



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Dog, Photography, Uncategorized

Does anyone else see a tree or shrub in bloom while driving around and think “a dog would look so good in those flowers I want to take photos there”?  No?  Just me then.  Well, I do this all the time.  Sometimes I turn around and see if the tree is on public property and if it would be possible to get a dog there safely.  I’m obsessed with cute dogs in flowers photos!

A black and white newfoundland dog in front of white crabapple flowers

Spring is my second favorite season behind the fall.  But the spring flowers tend to fade more quickly than fall leaves drop so I feel like the season is so fleeting.  As an avid gardener I’ve tried to fill my yard with plants that will bloom in waves so I always have something to photograph.

A black newfoundland puppy sitting in purple flowers

I know what you’re thinking, “but Jennifer, I have a suburban backyard and the garden isn’t perfect”.  Don’t worry, that will still work and in the checklist below I’ll give you lots of tips!   You just need to see the possibilities with whatever is on hand.  Even a small garden can offer beautiful backdrops.

Black lab dog in front of yellow forsythia flowers in spring

Take this image above, for instance.  This was on a scouting adventure at a local tree farm (Sloan Tree Farm, Howell, MI).  The owner and I have talked about having dog portrait sessions there (it’s an option if you’re interested).  They have 40 acres through the woods and with all of the nursery plants there is always something of interest.  I spotted this yellow forsythia shrub and knew I wanted to use it as a backdrop.

A pet photographer taking pictures of a black lab

My friend was kind enough to take a photo of me working so you can see a bit of the set up.  As you can see, the glowing forsythia bush was right next to a pile of dirt/mulch. And on the other side was a hole where another forsythia bush had been (sold the day before).  So I had one good-sized shrub to work with and it was all we needed.

A small yorkie dog wearing a harness in front of green garden foliage in Troy, Michigan

Here are a few tips if you have a beautiful shrub, tree, or plant in your yard and you want to use it to get cute dogs in flowers photos.  

  1. Clean around it if you can and remove any distractions.
  2. Shrubs/trees with lower branches work best.
  3. Have a helper.
  4. Make sure your dog is ready for photos – slightly tired and hungry for treats.
  5. Place your dog a few feet away from the shrub at first and take some photos.  Zoom in if you can.  This will compress the background and give you a bit of blur.
  6. Get your dog to sit closer to or even within the branches of the shrub and take some additional images. Blurred flowers in front of your dog can look really cool.
  7. Get down low, especially if you want to feature the flowers of a tree that are higher up.
  8. Try from a few different angles. One step to the right and our cars in the driveway were too visible and ruined the image below.
  9. If the background is way too busy you may be able to hold up or clamp a black sheet in the background to hide the distractions.
  10. As always, make this fun for your pet.  Keep it short and filled with yummy treats.  

You may need to try over a few days to get exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. Just be patient and have lots of treats on hand!

A tri-colored shepherd dog in front of pink apple blossoms in spring

Want to print these tips out and try them?  Download them here and then post your results in the Pawdacious Pet Parents of Michigan Facebook group (free).

If you want more tips like these to help you create drool-worthy  images of your pets (no matter what kind of camera you have) sign up for the free 5 day to better photos of your pets challenge.   Sign up here to be notified when the challenge starts on July 13th.

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Photography, Travel, What to expect

Style.  What exactly is it?  And why would I care when it comes to pet photography style is probably what you’re asking yourself right now.  Stay with me, I think I’ll be able to answer both of those questions.

As a photographer I am always learning.  Whether it’s a new editing skill, experimenting with studio lights, or even different genres of photography.  I love taking courses and workshops, meeting up with other people who share the same passions.  And the pet photography niche is no different, though it may be the friendliest group of photographers that I’ve ever met. 

A dark brown shepherd dog laying on a mossy forest floor

It’s also no secret that I’m obsessed with traveling.  My dream job is to work with amazing pets and their people around the world.  So when I found a pet photography specific workshop called StyleLab in Tasmania, Australia, that was accepting a limited number of photographers I knew I had to apply.  (Full disclosure, I was a little nervous about going to Tasmania because have you seen how big the spiders are there?  But I decided to apply anyway, that is how dedicated I am!)

A happy Australian Shepherd dog in front of a bright blue lake in Tasmania, Australia

What really appealed to me about this particular workshop was that it focused on the style aspect of photography.  So what is style?  It’s a representation of your unique vision of the world, a consistent feeling.  When it’s done correctly someone might see an image and instantly know who the photographer was. 

And the reason it’s important to have a pet photography style is so that a client knows exactly what they’re going to get.  If you want images that are natural and light and bright but your photographer loves a dark and moody edit someone is not going to be happy!

Close up portrait of a backlit multicolored Australian Shepherd with blue eyes

So my husband and I flew halfway around the world to meet up with an amazing group of pet photographers (instructors Charlotte Reeves, Craig Bullock, and Alicja Zmyslowska) and I had four intense days of classroom, photoshoots, experimentation, and feedback.  I was in heaven!!!  And did I mention that it was in Tasmania???  

Looking at the portfolio of images I had submitted the style descriptions the group came up with were whimsical, clean, natural, photojournalistic, and happy

Close up of a small shetland sheepdog sitting next to a row of lavender flowers

Breaking these down- to me whimsical is playful and fun but I think it’s also about capturing those personality quirks that make our pets so unique.  That tongue hanging out of the side of the mouth?  The crossed paws?  The play bow before your dog launches into a game?  A bright bowtie?  I love capturing those details.

The rear end of a labradoodle mid jump in a field of lavender

Clean and natural definitely speak to the lighting and clear backgrounds that I love.  Spending so many years in landscape and travel photography helped hone my ability to see how the light hits a subject.  And I’m obsessed with making sure the background plays a supporting role to your pet (yes, that means that I may ask you to move some furniture at a home session).   I also spend a lot of time editing final images to make sure any little distractions are removed. 

A woman plays tug of war with two australian shepherds in a forest

I think photojournalistic is another way to say unposed and relaxed.  Again, it’s letting your pet set the flow of the session so they can be themselves.  Don’t be surprised if I follow your pet around for at least the first part of our portrait session.  I’ll throw in some guidance and use all my tricks to get their attention, but it’s all about them.  Authentic would probably be another word that would apply, even though it’s completely overused these days.

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standing in reeds next to a lake

Happy goes hand in hand with photojournalism in this case.  Because we’ve done our homework and understand what situation your pet is going to do best in, and because I have lots of both patience and treats the goal is to make sure that everyone is having a good time. And that includes you, no stress!  That happiness is going to come through in your images.  

A labradoodle with flopping ears runs toward the camera through a row of lavender plants at sunset

This is why you come to me as a specialized pet photographer.  Subtle body, ear, tail, and eye position indicates when a pet is uncomfortable.  If you don’t understand the body language your images might feel off, because that’s what the pet was telling you in various ways.

A sheltie dog peers between lavender plants in a field of lavender in Tasmania, Australia

During the workshop we also had the chance to explore our style a little bit and challenge ourselves.  I was a little surprised at the results.  I definitely found a few new themes that I want to explore further, like silhouettes and more dramatic lighting including some off camera flash.  I don’t think my style will change significantly but it’s always evolving and being refined.

So what kind of pet photography style appeals to you?  If you like the more formal, everything must be perfect and your pet must be at attention the whole time then  I’m probably not the right photographer for you.  Actually I’m sure I’m not the right person for you.  But if you like whimsy, fun, and want to celebrate what makes your pet unique then let’s chat!

Silhouette of a dog jumping in the air at sunset

In the end was flying halfway around the world to experiment and define my pet photography style worth it?  Hell yes.  Just getting to know the other photographers alone made it worth the trip.  And thankfully I didn’t see any of the monster spiders or venomous snakes.

But I think I’m also much more aware of my style and how to communicate that to my future clients as well.  My portfolio is a representation of that style.  There should be no surprises, you should know exactly the kind of images you’ll get with me.  

And if for any reason there is a disconnect or you aren’t happy with your images my portrait sessions come with a full money back guarantee.  So don’t wait, get on the schedule now.

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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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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, Photography

My favorite outtakes and derpy dogs

Over the course of the year I took a lot of photographs of pets.  Expressions can change in an instant – from facial expressions to body language (if you’ve got a dog with big ears you know exactly what I mean!) so I take a ton of images to make sure that I get those perfect moments that you want framed and hanging above your fireplace.  And sometimes I get pure gold in the form of funny shots. These aren’t the images that will be blown up on a huge canvas print. That would be too embarrassing for our pets, otherwise I would totally do it. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy them! I don’t always show these kinds of images to my clients, but these made me laugh and I thought you might appreciate them, too.  We’re all friends here, right? So for your viewing pleasure here are my 2018 pet portrait outtakes, aka the derpy dog awards….

Craziest running face:

Newfie parents everywhere will appreciate this face.  I’ve never seen a Newfoundland that loves to run so much, to my delight.  There were several images to choose from and since I couldn’t narrow it down myself I put it to a poll on my Instagram page (thanks to everyone who voted!) and this was the clear “winner”:

A black and white newfoundland dog running through the snow with a crazy look on his face

Best bad hair day:

This award goes to a little cutie called Mello.  Freshly groomed, her hair was no match for the wind.  Thank goodness for photoshop and luckily Mello looks good no matter what!

A small cream dog having a bad hair day

Best pout:

How can anyone resist this face?  Nestled between his parents, Piper did his best to convince me that he has a rough life.  I know better, but I’ll give him full marks and appreciate his efforts and flair for drama!  

Small mixed breed looks sad while sitting between it's parents

Best kangaroo impression:

Earl loves his tennis balls so much that he actually falls asleep with them in his mouth.  But the action shots are where the derpy moments are at the highest. Something about this one just makes me think of a kangaroo.  Do you see it?

Dog leaping into the air to catch a tennis ball

Best Future meme:

Someone help me caption this!  Leave your suggestions in the comments below.  Jax was pretty excited to see that he received a new squeaky toy for his modeling efforts, or horrified to learn that he does not also get his brother’s new toy.  Either way, this one cracks me up!

A boston terrier dog with a funny surprised look on his face

Best shake it off:

Usually my dogs wait until they’re standing right next to me to shake off all the water, but this guy was busy chasing his tennis ball in a gorgeous alpine lake in Germany.  It’s always a challenge to keep the dog’s eye in focus while they’re twisting around but when it works you can get some great results.

A small terrier mix dog shakes off water next to a lake

Best looks fake but is totally real:

Nothing to see here folks, just a T Rex taking it’s Newfoundland dog for a walk around Michigan.  No photoshop magic applied, this actually happened.

A newfoundland dog being walked by a TRex dinosaur in a neighborhood

Most regal slurp:

Little P was a perfect model all day (read about our dog portrait session in Italy here), but I managed to snap right when he was licking his lips from getting a treat.  My models are well paid. I think I also make that face when I’m tasting a delicious red wine, especially if I’m in Italy.

A brown dachshund dog licking his lips while seated on a stone staircase in Italy

Best “Phoebe” moment:

Before our photoshoot Athena’s mom told me that Athena most resembles Phoebe from the TV show, Friends.  Exuberant, sweet as can be, but a bit klutzy (don’t worry Athena, I can totally relate!). Athena lived up to her character assessment with a slight slip on the couch, which she immediately played off, cool as can be….but I caught it on film….well video.  And turned it into my first gif. You can see more poised images from her portrait session here.

A gif loop of a happy grey pitbull slipping on the back of the couch

Drumroll please…..the title of Derpiest Dog of 2018 goes to…….

Klark!!  With a name like Klark you know this is going to be good.  Klark is a darling doberman who more than slightly resembles Dobby from Harry Potter.  Klark wins the official title for both dog portrait image and action shot video. I think you’ll understand why Klark takes the prize when you view these masterpieces.

Derpiest Dog of 2018 Image: What now Klark

A goofy doberman dog surrounded by yellow coneflowers

Derpiest Dog of 2018 Video:  The ultimate doggy paddle

That sums it up!

I hope you enjoyed my review of my favorite cutting room floor images, I’m looking forward to creating more this year.  

Don’t forget to give me some caption ideas for Jax’s surprised look.  

And if you’re a pet parent join the pack and get a monthly newsletter filled with photo tips and upcoming pet related activities in southeastern Michigan. As a vegetarian I can guarantee no Spam!

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