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Picking apples and stocking up on apple cider at a local farm has been our family tradition for over 20 years. Even when I wasn’t living in Michigan I would schedule a trip home each fall so we wouldn’t miss a year.

Back then it was all about my nephews and getting photos of them in the orchards every year. But my dogs are part of my family and I want to include them in any activities that I can. Visiting apple orchards is the perfect fall outing (and photoshoot, of course) for everyone.

dog running through an apple orchard in fall

A few tips for any apple orchard/cider mill outings:

  • Keep your pup on a 6′ leash. Many locations won’t allow retractable leashes and I personally wouldn’t mind if they were banned every where.
  • Don’t forget bags to pick up after your pup, be considerate of all the other families that will be walking through the orchards. And many orchards only have trash cans at their buildings so you may need to carry it for a bit. Check out a doo loop if you don’t already have one (made in the USA).
  • Bring water and a bowl for your pup to drink from. Picking apples is thirsty work and you won’t want to share your cider with them.
  • Have Benadryl on hand in case your pup gets too close to a spicy sky raisin (bee).
  • Although dogs should be able to eat an apple or two with no issues you may want to bring your own high value treats to get their attention for the obligatory orchard photo!
  • Make sure that you and your pup are protected from bugs and bring some sunscreen.
  • A wagon is handy for carrying your pup if there’s a long walk to the orchards, and it’s handy for the apples/pumpkins as well!
A dog lying down in an apple orchard

I also recommend going early in the day when it’s cooler and not as busy.

I’ve reached out to many of the southeastern Michigan apple orchards to confirm their dog-friendly status. I’ve compiled a list, including hours/location and my check list of everything that you should plan to bring with you for the perfect dog-friendly outing. If your favorite spot isn’t on this list let me know at mail@PawdaciousPortraits.com and I’ll update it (they may not have responded to my request for info or I may have missed them).

Orchards that are service dog only: Alber Orchard and Cider Mill, Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, Spicer Orchards, and Wiard’s Orchard.

Another great family tradition is to visit a Christmas tree farm for your holiday photo opp. Let me take your family photo at a stunning tree farm near Dexter, MI. Space is limited, click here to learn more about the holiday artisan sessions.

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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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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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