What Brings Your Dog Joy?
This seems like a simple question. But, the more I focused on this question, the deeper I felt a rumble in my soul. It's not just about those activities that bring your dog joy, it's about the way in which YOU, the human, create a life in order to have more of those moments that bring your dog joy.... and in turn, bring you DogJoy. I feel that this is more of a movement, than a question. Do you create time and space for your dog to experience joy?
For me, DogJoy is about granting a dog the time and space to experience joy. It's removing all of the things that are vying for my attention and just being in the moment with a dog.
I've had a lot of time to think on this topic, because I've been working with dogs on a professional level since I was in my 20s. While pet sitting, some days I would be the only person a dog would see during the day, so I always made sure to give the dog my best. They deserve that.
Now, as a photographer, I find that I am drawn to those people who give their dogs the time and space to experience joy. My role in the dog's life has changed, but that doesn't keep me from creating a space for their joy. That space is different for every dog, of course, and it's my job to find out what brings that particular dog their joy and then provide that for them; even if it means getting in the water!
If you make time and space for your dog to experience joy, I want to work with you!
Tell me, what brings your dog joy?
Sitka, or Alaska's New Archangel, is a chocolate Labrador retriever who loves the water. She is very athletic, competing in dock diving and flyball events.
Recently, Sitka participated in the dock diving competition at the Spring Fair in Puyallup, and she took first place in her division! She also competed in the K9 Frisbee Toss & Fetch and finished in the top 40 worldwide! She came in fourth in her division and was promoted to “expert.” Not bad for a nine-year-old lab!
For fun, Sitka enjoys swimming and playing frisbee (of course!). She is an avid hiker as well, and has even summited Mailbox Peak with her humans.
This high-energy girl is a delight and is known for her exuberance. She has enthusiasm for everything that she does, and I wonder if she ever naps.
Sitka has an extensive collection of collars, from sporting collars to collars adorned with Swarovski crystals. She is ready for any occasion.
Sitka will be featured in a new book called Tails of the Pacific Northwest, which highlights dogs from all over the region. The book helped raise funds for Rogue Detection Teams in Rice, Washington, and will be available by late fall.
If the Pacific Northwest were a dog, it would be Sitka!
You can follow Sitka on Instagram @sitkaroo.
When I was 17 years old, my family experienced a devastating house fire. We were in the process of moving when the fire broke out so we didn't lose everything, but we did lose some very important things.
Now, years later, what do I miss the most?
My pictures. I don't have any pictures left from my life before that fire.
My school pictures were lost, all of my photo albums and all of my yearbooks were destroyed. Those things can't be replaced.
I don't think we, as humans, give this much thought, unless you have been through a tragedy and have lost your family photos. Then, you know exactly what I am talking about.
Recently, my Dad has been working on a project to get the old reel-to-reel home movies that he saved from the fire transferred to digital files. It's a pain staking process but I appreciate the time and effort he is putting in because I can watch them and remember parts of my child hood I had long forgotten.
This got me thinking, though. I don't really encourage my clients to purchase prints and/or artwork because I don't want to be pushy. I usually share low resolution digital files so they can share on social media. But, I am missing the opportunity to explain WHY creating prints and/or artwork is important.
So, I've created a list of my favorite art pieces that I will encourage clients to create.
And, if for any reason a client loses their artwork, I will make sure it is replaced!
You really don't know how important these things are until you don't have them any more.
Let's create some prints and/or artwork of your dog this summer.
Hugs to your dog!
I'm Holly, AKA Seattle Dog Photographer on Instagram, and I am bonkers about dogs! I hail from Michigan (and if you're a UofM fan, you'll get the pun!) where I thrived as a professional dog walker, dog trainer and award winning pet sitter for nearly 25 years. I also am a certified dog psychologist. (Yes, it's a thing!) I have spent my entire adult life building a business that centers around dogs.
When we moved to the PNW in 2015, I was recovering from compassion fatigue. As I traversed the emotional path to recovery, I found that writing about my experience was cathartic for me. I ended up creating a book about my experience, in the hopes it will help other pet professionals who are suffering from compassion fatigue.
This was not the end of my journey with dogs, however.
I knew I still wanted to work with dogs, and, once I had recovered and felt healthy again, I picked up my camera. I attended photography classes at New York Institute of Photography for 18 months. By May of 2018, I was ready to get to work.
I hung out my shingle and my journey into the world of dog photography began. I continued to study and become a member of Hair of the Dog Academy, studied commercial art and became a contributing artist for Animal Haus Media (a pet stock photography company) while doing volunteer photography for Seattle Humane. In 2019, I became a member of Unleashed Education and took part in a series of pet photography challenges. In 2020, I self published a book called "Send Me; Working Dogs of the Pacific Northwest" which features over 70 working dogs. (Creating this book was photography boot camp for me!) I created the book as a fundraiser for Project Canine, in Seattle. Then, in 2020, when the world stopped due to the pandemic, I realized that the therapy dogs for Project Canine couldn't do their therapy visits. With the help of Project Canine, I created a book called "The Dogs of Project Canine" that featured images of the therapy dogs and their messages to the humans who couldn't see them. The books were donated to local hospitals, nursing and rehabilitation facilities, children's hospitals and the local VA. Over 2000 books were distributed.
Also in 2019, I became a founder of The Limelight Pet Project. The mission of Limelight is to feature harder to adopt dogs with professional photography, videography and interviews of the people who know the animal the best. We are partnered with Fox13 Seattle who feature these pets on their Sunday Morning News Show. Every Tuesday is Limelight Day for me.
My passion is for all dogs, but I have a special affinity for working dogs. When I say working dogs, I mean any dog that has a job. From hunting dogs to therapy dogs to scent detection dogs, I love them all. Probably because I identify with them. They need a job and without one, they will create one. I'm kind of the same way. A border collie in human form, if you will. I will go out of my way to work with a working dog team and they are my top priority. I feel the need to not only photograph them and tell their story, but, also, to educate the public about working dogs and the many, many, many jobs they are capable of.
My hands on experience training dogs includes: working dogs, bird dogs, scent detection dogs, leader dogs for the blind, dock diving & obedience. I could go on and on about this, but I will leave it here.
If you have read this far, I will reward your patience with 5 things that are uniquely me:
If you've read all of this, you will now understand why I work with dogs. I strive to create images that highlight a dog's character & showcase her magic. I choose epic locations so that your dog will feel like the superhero she truly is.
Dogs are amazing creatures and, as their stewards, we must give them the very best we have to offer.
If reading this has inspired you to book a session with me, the process is super simple!
Check out my home page for the current photography experience and then send me an email.
It's really that simple. If we decide to move forward, I'll send you a questionnaire about your dog, so I can get to know her a bit and we will set the date. I hold dates with a $199 booking fee, unless you are an active working dog handler. If so, your booking fee is waived and you will be extended a 25% discount on all printed products. (Just my way of saying thank you for the work that you do!)
When I'm shooting, there are moments when I just put my camera down and watch. She may be interacting with her humans or sniffing the grass or running to fetch a ball... the fact that dogs bond with us and accept us as we are is the definition of dog magic!
2022 did not work out the way I had hoped it would. I had plans for some pretty big projects leading into 2023. Imagine my surprise when, while watching holidays movies one afternoon, I realized I did not want to work on these projects! I gave myself some time to ponder this realization and figure out what it was that I DID want to do. It all boiled down to me wanting to spend more time with dogs and less time on my computer, less time on social media & less time inside.
When I let my imagination run wild with this thought of spending more time with dogs, I realized that my life was cluttered with too much "stuff" and not enough play time with dogs. If I let this idea become fully realized, I would meet every dog in Seattle and I let this drive my plans for 2023.
I went so far as to create a list of "Seattle Dogs I Want To Meet" that I follow on Instagram. And...I've met some of them!
DogJoy! is a made up word (I do that sometimes) that encompasses all of the joyful things about being with a dog. It will mean different things to different people, of course.
But, for me DogJoy! is:
I could go on and on about this, but I know you're a busy person with things to do and your dog would probably appreciate some play time right now or a walk.
So go! Go spend time with your dog with these thoughts fresh in your mind and see if you can find DogJoy! If you do, let me know! Reach out on social media or send me an email.
Hugs to your dog!
Pop Ups for 2023
I am so excited about this new kind of portrait session, that my buttons are bursting!
They are called Pop Up Portrait Sessions!
What's a Pop Up Portrait Session?
A Pop Up Portrait Session is designed to create social media content for you and your dog!
Why is it Pop Up?
It's Pop Up because I'll be a different location for each Pop Up Session and there will only be a few days notice. There will be time and space for 3 sessions, and then, POOF!, I'm gone.
What is the result?
You will receive 5 fully edited, social media sized, watermarked digital files - artist's choice - uploaded to a private, online gallery. You can download your digital files directly on to your favorite device.
What if I want more files?
You will have the opportunity to up-size your gallery at any time. You will also have the opportunity to create artwork, if you desire.
There is no obligation to up-size your gallery OR purchase artwork.
I get the opportunity to meet new people & their dogs, create some amazing imagery and have some fun!
I'm convinced. How do I sign up?
Sign up for the newsletter, because the Pop Ups are announced there FIRST! If you miss the announcement in the newsletter, you can follow me on Facebook and Instagram. The announcement will be made days after the newsletter and only if there are sessions available. Pop Up Portrait Sessions will be announced on Social Media just days before the event!
You never know where I will pop up next!
It pays to stay in the know! Just keep your eyes peeled for The Pop Up Portrait Session logo in the newsletter and on social media.
These Pop Up Portrait Sessions are $99. (Yes, that includes the 5 social media sized, watermarked, digital files!)
As a newsletter subscriber, you have the first opportunity to book a Pop Up Sessions. There are only 3 sessions per Pop Up!
My hope is to be all over Seattle this year, meeting new people and their dogs. Oh, and having tons of fun!
Hugs to Your Dog,
Tails of the Pacific Northwest
Registration is now closed. The book is full!
Tails of the Pacific Northwest will feature over 40 dogs who live and work in the PNW (& a few who live a little outside of the PNW).
The book will be available for the Holiday Season 2023.
Keep you eye on social media for updates about how the photo shoots are going and some behind the scenes fun!
Thank you to all who have registered and to all who are supporting the dogs and their humans. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new friends.
Tails of the Pacific Northwest Limited Edition Coffee Table Book
Down & Dirty
One of the best ways for a dog photographer to create unique imagery is to get on the dog's eye level. It's a basic lesson that we, as dog photographers, are taught from the very beginning. This means, getting on the ground and having your camera at the same level as the dog's eyes.
It's the same in portrait photography, except those photographers are working with a human instead of a dog.
The eyes make or break an image, so getting on "eye level" with your subject is very important.
Whether you are a professional photographer or you just love taking photos of your dog, my number 1 tip is to get level with the dog's eyes. It produces imagery that is more engaging. However, there are a few of us who have taken this lesson one step further and heeded the advice of Unleashed Education's instructor Craig Turner Bullock and have gotten even lower. Craig is passionate about dog photography and his enthusiasm bubbles over when he teaches. While shooting on the beach, he's been known to dig holes in the sand so he and his camera can get as low as possible to create the perfect image. (Sand is a sworn enemy to all DLSR cameras, just so you understand the risk he takes putting his camera in a sand hole). Along with participating in Unleashed Education's photo challenges, I'm also fortunate enough to have Craig as my photography coach and business mentor. When Craig says "Get Lower!" he means it!
I have taken his advice to heart! On every single photo session that I do, I create at least 80% of my images from the "low as I can go" perspective. If I'm lucky, I can position my subject on a perch of some sort, and I can shoot up, such as the image above of Tank, in front of the mirrored wall at MoPop. with the Space Needle reflected in the glass. This shot is "So Seattle" that I've been asked to re-create it for several clients.
After creating many images from the "low as I can go" perspective, I decided to get creative. I bought a pair of neoprene waders and got in the waters of the Puget Sound to see how low I could get in the water, without dunking my camera. This led to the image above that I created. While it's not an astonishing image, it represents the moment in time when I knew I had to get UNDER the water as well. I mean, you can't get any lower than that, right?
The image above is my first attempt at shooting at the water line. It's NOT easy! I have spent the last 18 months perfecting shots like this and have learned so much! But, that's a blog post for another time.
After creating this image, I was hooked on the "get as low as you can" process.
I will utilize picnic tables, park benches, down trees, or large rocks to get the dog positioned above me. Then, I just shoot upwards. These images are usually very engaging and brings all of the focus (AH! A pun!) right to the dog's eyes. Also, This vantage point always lends itself to amazing silhouette images!
Dear reader, I don't know if you know this about me, but I'm an over-achiever. A border collie in human form. My unofficial motto is "If it's worth doing, it's worth over doing". It's not on purpose, mind you. It's just how I roll. I'm a short little person with a bit of a squeaky voice, and rarely get taken seriously, so I've learned if I over achieve, I get taken a little more seriously.
Anyway, this personality trait has spilled over into my photography, so when I get "as low as I can go", that means, I'm laying on my stomach during most photo sessions. Doesn't matter if the grass is wet, or if there is mud or even if I've laid in something....let's say...organic. (Yes, this has happened on more than one occasion.)
Knowing that I'm going to get down and dirty during a photo session, my wardrobe has changed considerably! No longer do I wear my favorite pair of jeans and my cutest tennis shoes because they will get ruined.
I now have a pair of briar pants, several pair of Hunter rain boots, a pair of water resistant overalls and even a pair of fishing waders for shooting on the beach.
I do have to admit to thinking to myself before a session "I'm not going to get wet (or dirty, or muddy), so I'm just going to wear my jeans". Oh, dear reader, I kid myself!
The way I look at it now is if haven't walked away from a photo session covered in dirt and/or mud, or soaking wet, than I haven't done my job.
So, if you ever witness one of my photo session, I will most likely be laying on the ground. This is especially challenging in the snow, because I have a hard time getting up. Rolling over seems to help, but it is the most ridiculous thing you've ever seen and 99% of the time the dog thinks I'm inviting him/her to play and I end up back in the snow on my butt. Honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way. Down and dirty is the way to go, in my opinion.
Hugs to your dog!
Good Boy Ghost
Earlier this week, as part of my duties with Seattle Pup Magazine, I had a photo session with a 9-month-old Samoyed pup named Ghost.
This marshmallow on legs was chosen as April's SPOTlight feature.
Along with my editor Wendi, my family and I met Ghost and his parents at Discovery Park. A vast park, with many beautiful settings in which to shoot, Discovery Park is one of my favorite places for a photo session in Seattle. In the summer, there is a patch of sweet peas where I love to create images of dogs among the purple and pink flowers. Just a short hike away, is an amazing bluff from which we can watch the sunset. It's an amazing location.
We met Ghost and his people in the parking lot and then headed to a wide, open field to begin the session. I was hoping that the clouds would move in so I wouldn't have to shoot in full sun, but the sun was stubborn and stayed shining the entire time. I will say that it felt really good to feel the warm sun on my face. I just had to get creative with the way that I shoot. (Full sun is not ideal. I prefer a cloudy day, with maybe just a bit of drizzle).
We walked the path through a large, mowed field where dogs were playing off leash with other dogs as their humans chatted and threw tennis balls. It felt like something out of a feel good movie. Everyone was getting along and the dogs were all playing together. Ghost gave them a glance, but I think he knew he had important work to do, so we walked on.
I stopped in the shade of a large evergreen tree and immediately saw potential. I explained to Ghost's human what I was looking for and how I'd like Ghost to be positioned and she went to work. Ghost's mom is a professional dog trainer, and she knew how to ask Ghost to get into position. He happily obliged. I created a series of images, and then re-positioned Ghost on the other side of the path, next to a spooky tree. I mean, it would have been spooky if it was twilight and there was a full moon. I created another series of images, and we moved on. I repeated this process in several locations as we made our way to the bluff.
As we traversed the path, I made sure to give Ghost lots of breaks and plenty of water. The smile never left his face. (Samoyed are known for their smile). He was patient and focused as we walked the path and stopped to shoot. I was really impressed with is patience and his mom's commitment to his training. I could tell that she works with him often.
As soon as we got to the bluff, I noticed a slight shift in Ghost's behavior. Ever so slight. He was reaching his threshold and I knew it. He gave me one opportunity to create an image. One. Then, he could no longer resist and he started to blissfully dig in the sand! I knew we were done and I told our little group of humans that the session was over and that we were done. For me, the dogs ALWAYS call the shots in their photo session. Always. I will never push a dog beyond their limits or ask them to do something they clearly don't want to do.
With that, we began the walk back to the cars. I realized I was starving and ready for dinner. I imagine all the humans felt that way. I bid farewell to Ghost in the parking lot and watched him bounce away.
As we drove to dinner, my family and I began to reminisce about the Sammies that have been in our lives. They are a special breed and will always have a special place in my heart.
You can follow Ghost's Adventures on Instagram. good_boy_ghost
Hugs to your dog!
A New Year
2022 was not the year I was hoping it would be. The best laid plans, huh? Part of it was I wasn't following my heart, and part of it was an injury to my neck that left me side lined for over 12 weeks. Surgery is in my future, but it's nothing to get worked up about.
Anyway, over the past few weeks, I have been working on several new things. Big things! You can imagine my surprise when, in the middle of watching a Christmas movie, it hit me. Most of the things I have been working on are NOT things I want to be working on. They just don't feel....authentic. What do you do when it's time to dig deep, find your passion again, and put the rest on the back burner?
For me, it's kind of like re-arranging my bedroom. I put everything in a big pile, in the middle of the floor. I vacuum the corners of the room, wipe down the base boards, take a Swiffer to the light fixtures, and, once everything is clean, I begin putting things away. I leave out the things that are important, and put the rest where they belong. I might throw away some things, and/or donate some things, but generally, everything has a place to live. When the room is put back together, I will put fresh linens on the bed, fluff up my down filled comforter, and the FLOP, face first into the comforter. I work my butt off for the specific moment when I can flop on the bed. With everything clean and put in it's place, I can start again.
So, that's what I've done with my business. I've cleaned up the corners, moved some things around, threw away some things and let go of others. My business is now clean, sparkly and fresh again. I'm ready to flop into the comforter.
What does 2023 look like for me? More "DogJoy!". More adventures with dogs and friends. Less time behind the key board. More time outside. More time being inspired by the things that I love and have been ignoring because...well, they didn't feel professional. Phooey on being professional! (I mean, there is a time and a place for that.)
To begin with, I want to meet as many PNW dogs as I can. I have a three-pronged approach for this and the prongs are a bit unorthodox. Let me share them with you.
The immense relief of letting things go and finding my "DogJoy" has re-ignited my passion for dogs. I'm looking forward to 2023 instead of dreading it. I will be running through the fields, exploring the woods, and playing in the water with as many dogs as I can. DogJoy
I recognize what a leap of faith this is. But, when I follow my intuition, it's always right. Also, not being able to shoot for all of those weeks really made me sit down and think about what I'm doing and why.
My neck will get fixed eventually, but in the mean time, I will do what I can do find DogJoy in 2023. It probably wont look like I had imagined just a few weeks ago. I wont make six figures this year. I wont be attending big, fancy functions. I wont be producing educational material or podcasts, like I had planned.
However, I will be on my true path and, if you ask me, that's the most important thing.
Hugs to your dog!
Seattle Dog Photographer