Goodbye Summer!

Even though we still have a few weeks before the official start of Autumn, Labor Day weekend is typically a time to celebrate (or mourn) the end of summer. Here in Florida, I’m definitely celebrating! As much as I enjoy the idea of summer, I am *so* ready for some cooler temperatures. The weather this past week has been almost pleasant, so it definitely has me thinking about fall.

First, my dates for my annual trip back to Indiana have been finalized! I will be in the Indianapolis area from September 22-27. While I’m still working on my exact schedule, it looks like I’ll have time for one or two more photography sessions. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me, and we’ll work out the details!

Next on my “things to think about” list is…are you ready…Christmas! I know, I know – it’s only September – BUT since I’ve already had a few inquiries, I thought it would be a good time to mention that if you’ve been thinking about the possibility of giving the gift of photography this year, now is the perfect time to schedule a session. This is especially the case if you are interested in custom designed holiday cards or other speciality items that may require a little more production time. I always try to be as accommodating as possible, but November and December are usually very crazy (in a good way!) months around here so it’s good to get an early start.

Speaking of great gift ideas – I’ll admit that I’m *very* behind on sharing some of my latest and greatest specialty products, but hope to have some new samples up very soon.

I thought I’d share our 2009 holiday card – while it makes me sad to think that my cards this year will be missing Pongo, this makes me smile and is a reminder of just how special our last Christmas was together.

Peyton, Indy, and I hope that you all have a wonderful (and safe) Labor Day weekend!

Pet Photography Tips – Part Two

As I shared a few weeks ago, my number one tip when it comes to photographing pets is just to get out there and take LOTS of pictures. Even I have to remind myself to *make* time for photographing my own dogs! With that said, once you have your camera out (and possibly dusted off) here are a few tips that will hopefully be somewhat helpful. Please keep in mind that these are intended for the average user with a basic camera – hey mom, are you reading?

1. Lighting: Whenever possible, try to use natural light. Outdoor lighting is particularly lovely early in the morning or late in the evening, and it’s usually best to avoid strong direct sunlight that you’ll find in the middle of the day (especially here in sunny Florida). However, overcast skies can make for some really nice lighting, so don’t be afraid to bring your camera out on a cloudy day. “Even” light is generally best – if you are working in an area with both sun and shade, or strong backlighting, your camera will likely have a hard time finding the correct exposure.

If you are indoors (and if your camera will let you) try turning off your flash and find a nice well-lit area near a window. If you have ISO control on your camera (remember the “film” days?), you can try using a higher ISO (400+), but keep in mind the higher the ISO, the more likely you’ll have issues with camera noise and grain. If you’re in a pinch and must use your flash, you can avoid or lessen the effects of red eye (or more often green eye with pets), by not having them look directly into the camera.

2. The camera user manual is your friend: Ah, I can hear the groans now! Seriously though, know your camera. I understand that sitting down to read the manual is about as much fun as watching paint dry, but you might be surprised at what your little camera can really do! At the very least, make sure that you have your camera set to the highest quality file setting. RAW files are best, but you’ll need to make sure you download (and use) the software that comes with your camera. Otherwise a JPG set to the highest setting (usually super-fine or fine) is the way to go. If needed, you can always reduce the file size later.

There are a number of good photo editing software options out there, but more than likely the software that came with your camera will be be sufficient. Here you can make basic color corrections and adjustments to the exposure, brightness, and contrast of the image. While it’s always best to try to get your image as technically perfect as possible to begin with, your software can certainly help.

3. Action!: Let’s face it, most pets like to *move*! Of course this is fun, but often results in blurry images. This is another case where it really helps to know your camera! In general, point in shoot cameras are not known for their ability to capture great action shots, but if you are able to adjust your camera settings, you should see an improvement. For action, you’ll want a high shutter speed and a good amount of light. Some cameras have a “sports mode” which can be helpful and others may have a shutter priority mode where you can manually enter your desired shutter speed. You also might be able to manually adjust your ISO to a higher number, as mentioned above. Regardless of your camera’s abilities, I generally recommend following your subject with the camera (panning) and snapping the picture while both the subject and camera are in motion. This can take some practice, but is especially helpful when using cameras that have a bit of a delay from shutter lag – the time time between when you press the button and when the images is actually captured.

4. Location: Probably the most common concern that I hear is “but my backyard is not pretty!”…and while I can most definitely relate, a “pretty” location is generally not a big concern for me. Since my primary focus is always going to be the pet, the background is well, just the background. As a general rule, less is definitely more, and a clean, simple background will keep the focus on your pet. Look at what you have available – fencing, the side of your house, foliage, and even plain ‘ol grass works. Even if you don’t have the “perfect” setting, using your camera’s zoom lens (if you have one) relatively close to your subject, is a great way to help blur the background. And if you have an aperture priority mode on your camera, you can use a wide aperture (which is actually a smaller number) to help throw the background out of focus.

5. Smile!: So you have good light, an idea of your camera’s capabilities, and your location, so the only thing that’s left is your pet, correct? I generally tend to take a very hands-off approach when photographing pets – and yes, this applies to even my own dogs! While I’ve certainly met a number of natural “models”, most pets are not exactly thrilled about sitting perfectly still for a picture. And that’s okay…making sure they are happy is the key to capturing their personalities! Keep it casual and fun – treats, toys, funny noises – these all come in *very* handy.

Try sitting down on the ground so that you’re at eye level with your pet. Shoot from different angles. Focus on the eyes. Be silly. Have fun. And don’t be afraid to experiment. I had one of my overdue “spotty dog sessions” this past weekend and decided it was time to play! The two images taken below were at a very slow shutter speed. The result…a little different, but fun! I love the strong feel of motion in these images…

I think that’s about it for this post…now go grab your camera and have some fun photographing your pets! 🙂

The Honest Kitchen – Sharing the Love

The spotties and I are excited to announce that we are now part of Honest Kitchen Allies program! We’ve been big fans for many years, but as “Allies” we’ll now be able to share literature, samples, and coupons with our friends.

If you’re not familiar with The Honest Kitchen, here’s a quick little rundown…

The Honest Kitchen makes dehydrated pet foods, supplements, and treats for dogs and cats.
– They use 100% human grade ingredients that are produced in a human food facility in the USA!
– Their recipes use high quality ingredients including free-range chicken, cage-free turkey, organic sea kelp, and *no* genetically modified produce, artificial ingredients, colors, flavors, or by-products.
– All of their diets (with the exception of Preference) are 100% balanced.
– They dehydrate their fruits and vegetables at a low enough temperature that they are still considered raw, and meats are dehydrated enough at a temperature high enough to eliminate the risk of Salmonella and E Coli.
– They are an approved member of Green America and use re-usable, recyclable, and biodegradable materials whenever possible.

We love Honest Kitchen foods because they offer the same (or more) health benefits as a properly formulated raw or home-cooked diet, but are much more convenient. In just 5 minutes, my dogs can have a healthy, wholesome meal. Anyone who knows me can attest that I prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible. And yes, (unfortunately) my dogs do eat much, much better than I do!

While we like to rotate through the different Honest Kitchen formulas for variety, we are currently using Embark and Keen. Because Indy has some issues related to urinary incontinence, she is limited to grain-free diets (such as Embark), but has been “leak-free” since we first started using The Honest Kitchen over 5 years ago. We’re also excited about their newest grain-free fish based diet, Zeal, which is coming soon!

Now for the good stuff…
– If you’d like to learn more about The Honest Kitchen, head over to www.thehonestkitchen.com. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter and join their facebook fan page for news and special offers.
– Click here for coupons! Enjoy $2 off a 2, 3, or 4 lb. box or $5 off a 7 or 10 lb. box of dehydrated food. The coupons are valid online or at a store near you.
– If you would like to try The Honest Kitchen, please feel free to contact me for a few samples!

And finally, Peyton would like you to know that while he would love to eat *all* of the Honest Kitchen samples (and yes, he did try!), he’s going to try very hard to be a good spotty dog and share with his friends.
🙂

Please note, we do not sell The Honest Kitchen or profit from the sale of their products. We just think that they are an awesome company and want to share the love with our friends who are also interested in all natural pet foods. If you have any questions, I recommend chatting with the folks over at The Honest Kitchen. They have always been super helpful when I’ve had questions or needed advice!

SarasotaDog.com | Pet Photography Tips

Last week I chatted with my friends over at SarasotaDog.com and shared a few of my ideas regarding taking good photographs of pets. You can read the full article here, but I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few more of my thoughts when it comes to pet photography.

If you’ve read the article, you might be a little surprised that I didn’t really mention much, if anything, about cameras, exposure, lighting, composition, etc. It’s not that these things aren’t important, but I honestly believe that the most important thing is to just get out there and TAKE PICTURES of your pets!

As someone who makes their living as a professional photographer, I tend to often fall victim to the mindset that every image must be *perfect*. The lighting must be perfect. The conditions must be perfect. The exposure must be perfect. I could go on, but I think you probably get the idea. And while this quest for perfection is great for my clients, it means a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to capturing my own dogs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself for not pulling my camera out when my guys were just hanging out being their normal, everyday, goofy, entertaining selves. Would those images make for a nice, great big canvas print on my wall? Probably not, but at least I would have them as a reminder of all those little moments that mean so much.

If you’ve ever lost a pet, then I’m sure you understand just how important all of the “everyday” images become. When Pongo passed away in April, suddenly *every* single photo of him became a special one. I didn’t care if it was a little out of focus, or the lighting was bad, or the background wasn’t pretty. Aside from the wonderful memories I have of him, those less-than-perfect images are the only physical reminders I have left. And while I’m certain I have thousands of pictures, I now wish I had several thousands more. Sure, the big, beautiful prints hanging on my wall are awesome, and I’m so glad that I have them, but those horribly bad quality cell phone pictures are pretty special too.

So I guess my number one “tip” when it comes to pet photography is just to take as many pictures of your pets as you can. I’m always a little surprised, and saddened, when I talk to people who don’t have many, if any, pictures of their pets. And usually this is the case because they feel like they aren’t a “good” photographer, or don’t have the right equipment to take nice pictures. So not true!

For those of you who might be interested in the more “technical” and composition-related tips when it comes to photographing your pets, I promise to share some more of those here very soon!

Sarasota Dog

Thank you SarasotaDog.com for chatting with me about my favorite subject – pet photography! For my local friends, I invite you to join the “Sarasota Dog Lovers” Meetup group. This is a new group for area dog lovers who want to get together at local dog friendly areas for some good conversation and fun with their dogs! To learn more, visit SarasotaDog’s Meetup page here. Their next event is coming up Monday, August 23  at Polo Bar and Grill in Lakewood Ranch. I’m hoping that Indy and I can make it, so hopefully we’ll see you there!

Giving Thanks

The Holidays are very sneaky…one day it’s the middle of summer and the next thing you know, it’s Thanksgiving! I don’t know about you, but it’s seems as though I have misplaced the months of September and October. It just doesn’t seem possible that December is almost here and pretty soon, we’ll be welcoming in the New Year.

A few nights ago I was dwelling on this realization and found myself feeling very overwhelmed – I’m not ready for the Holidays! I started thinking about my “to-do” list that is miles long, the events I have coming up, and all of the other little things that come along this time of year. It’s not that I don’t love the Holidays – it’s just that well, every year they seem to come a little faster than the previous.

Just as the panic was starting to set in, I checked my voicemail and listened to one of the nicest, most complementary, and sincere messages I have ever received from one of my clients. And although it made me a little teary, it absolutely made my day. It was a nice little reminder of just how fortunate I am to be able to do something that I love and through my work, I can hopefully bring some joy to others.

And since today is Thanksgiving (I’m really not in denial), I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my clients – past, present, and future – for allowing me the opportunity to meet and photograph your pets. I truly do understand how special they all are and I’m sincerely grateful for the time I get to spend with each and every one of them. I have the best job ever – and it’s because of you.

I’m also thankful for my wonderful family, my friends, and my three crazy (but awesome) spotty dogs who manage to inspire me every single day. This Thanksgiving I’m especially thankful that Pongo (my senior Dalmatian) is still here with us. He had a few rough weeks back in the summer and I wasn’t sure that he was going to make it to his 15th birthday. And while thankfully he seems to be feeling pretty good these days, it’s certainly been a reminder that every day is a gift – and not just with our senior dogs, but with *all* of our loved ones.

So here’s to not dwelling on the “to-do” lists and instead taking the time to enjoy the Holidays with those you love – Happy Thanksgiving!

Pongo - Dalmatian Photography