Me with my muse, Bailey!

About Allison Shamrell Photography:

Thanks for visiting my blog! My name is Allison, and I work in San Diego, CA, capturing the personalities of dogs and cats of all sizes & temperaments. I do photo sessions on location and in-studio, wherever my clients prefer! My photography style is natural, playful & soulful.

Here on my blog, I tell the stories of recent sessions and events. You might even find an insight or two into the behind-the-scenes side of my business! I hope you have fun looking around!

If you would like to receive a quick little email to let you know when I publish a new post, see the button at the bottom left of this page! Thanks! :)

619-357-6624  ~  ~  3251 Adams Avenue, Suite C, San Diego, CA 92116

Officially Voted the Best Pet Photographer in San Diego, 2014-2017, by the San Diego A-List.

Archive: May, 2017

Best Pet Photography Session Locations in San Diego, CA

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

bet pet photo locations san diego


I’m excited to share some of my favorite local spots around town with you! If you’re considering booking a pet photography session for you & your family, this will (hopefully) be a super-helpful source of ideas – or maybe the perfect memory jogger for that great spot you already know about! In any case, they’re the best pet photography session locations I know, so I think you’ll like them too!


For Any Pet: Your House!

best photo session location home

Your pets are most comfortable in their home, so why not cozy up on the couch for your photo session? I’d love to photograph your dog in his “natural habitat” as he runs around in the backyard, relaxes in the living room, and even snuggles into your bed (if he’s allowed!).

If your dog is uncertain of new places, or especially shy around new people, or elderly – or if you have a cat – this is probably the best place to be! And don’t worry about your hone not being photo-ready: I’ll be focusing on your dog, not the bits of clutter & dust in the corners of the room. But if your dog is highly territorial, or not allowed on any of the furniture, or you don’t have any backyard to speak of, or if you’re a contender for a future episode of Hoarders, keep reading…


For Active Dogs: the Beach!

beach for best pet photography session

We live in San Diego, for goodness’ sake! Let’s go to the BEACH! Whether you live near Coronado, Ocean Beach, Fiesta Island, La Jolla, Del Mar, or Encinitas – the beach is most likely a part of your lifestyle here in Southern California – so let’s GO! I looooove the beach! :)

If you have a retriever of any kind, or simply a pup that loves to run, swim & fetch, I’d be happy to meet you on the shores of San Diego. And since dog beaches are typically not ideal locations (because there are always a million of other dogs & distractions there), I know a bunch of dog-friendly beaches around town that aren’t packed with pups! Although if you have a dog that doesn’t like water, or can’t swim (coughbulldogscough), or simply doesn’t have the energy to run through the sand, this may not be the ideal location for your photo session. Keep scrolling…


For Any Dogs: the Park!

best pet photo session parks

We’re so lucky to have an incredible selection of gorgeous public parks around San Diego, and they’re all so diverse! Our parks have green grass, flowers, architecture, and plenty of room to run, depending on where you go… or maybe there’s a new park in your neighborhood that I’ve never visited with its own hidden treasures?

Every dog looks great on a backdrop of green grass. Seriously, all of them. The park is literally always a win (unless your dog can’t handle being outdoors for some reason). Just like the beach, I stay away from dog parks, and prefer parks that just happen to be dog-friendly instead. We’ll keep your dog safe whether we can trust him off-leash or not, and end up with a great variety of images that have a natural, classic feel. Bonus points if your dog has already been to the park we pick, and feels comfortable there from the get-go. You can’t go wrong!


For Outdoorsy Dogs: Hiking Trails!

best pet photography hiking session locations

My dog, Bailey, is an explorer. She’s happiest when she’s out in nature, sniffing everything, and discovering all the secrets of a new place. (And stumbling upon a wild rabbit is the icing on the cake, haha!) If your dog is anything like Bailey and loves to be out in the wilderness, let’s go hiking in one of San Diego’s many canyons & trails!

If the words “hiking buddy” describe your dog, this can be the perfect location! And there are plenty of trails around San Diego to choose from. But if your dog isn’t the “active” type, could run the risk of overheating in the sun, or has an obsessively-high prey drive, a trail might not be ideal after all. Read on…




For the Modern Dog: the Studio!

best pet photo session studio

Last but certainly not least, the studio is a fabulous location for a modern, fun photo session! The uncluttered, solid-color backdrops let your dog’s natural beauty shine through; there are no distracting visual elements. It’s all about your pet. Simple, classic & timeless.

The studio is perfect for dogs of all energy levels (yes, really!) that are comfortable in new environments. It’s the safest environment possible, since it’s totally private, 100% secure, and free of any major distractions. If your dog can’t stand the sight of other dogs, this might be the perfect place! But if your dog stresses out in new places, is scared of lightning (not thunder, but lightning, since I have two strobe lights in the studio) or simply comes alive when they’re outdoors & free – this place might not be ideal for them.



For the Discriminating Dog: another unique place!

pet photography session locations

I know several places in San Diego’s neighborhoods that don’t fit in the above categories. Sunset Cliffs, Old Poway Park, East Village (downtown), Cedros Avenue (Solana Beach), local marinas, military bases, luxury hotels, the Sweetwater Bridge… the possibilities are endless. Let’s get creative!


And remember: all this being said, I LOVE to discover new places. If you have a different location in mind – even if it’s far away – don’t hesitate to ask!


One more thing to consider:

At the end of the day, the best pet photography session locations for you are the ones that’ll complement the decor you already have in your house! If your house is decked out in beachy, pastel colors and you use seashells as design elements, we should definitely head to the beach. But if you prefer to decorate in a rustic style, with organic tones like browns and khakis, the natural environments of the park or the hiking trail would probably fit your look best. Take your current design strategy into consideration when you make this choice, and you’ll thank yourself later. On the other hand, if you don’t have much of a “design strategy” to speak of, the choices are wide open! Where would your dog like to go? 

How to Prepare for a Pet Photography Session

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Let me take a wild guess: this is NOT something you do every day!

Booking a photographer for custom portraits of your pet (and hopefully your family too) is an incredibly special occasion, and I know it’s not something you do every day, week, month… or maybe even every year. I totally get that. Because of that fact, I’m also betting you want to plan ahead & know how to prepare for a pet photography session as best as possible. Because if it’s not happening again tomorrow, you want to do it right today, right?

So let me offer a few helpful tips… because I do do this every day! ;)


Best of San Diego pet photo

Prepping Your Pet

~ Grooming: I typically suggest scheduling any grooming appointments for 2-4 days before your photo session. Not the same day – too much excitement! – and not weeks in advance, UNLESS you love the grown-out, shaggy look.

~ Camera familiarity: If you have a big camera (ideally a DSLR) around your home, bring it out & take a few photos of your pets! (Just “test shots”, don’t worry about putting in any effort to the quality of the images.) It will get them used to the idea of looking into the lens and being comfortable with such a unique-looking piece of equipment. Remember to provide plenty of treats if/when you do this, so they develop a positive association with the camera!

~ Obedience: Now is the ideal time to brush up on a few handy commands! The most important one is “stay”, but it’s also a good idea to learn a reliable “sit”, “lay down” and “come”. Those are the most useful commands for photo sessions, and I think you’ll be glad that your pets know them! (They’re not necessary, but trust me, they make the whole session go smoother!)

~ Earlier that day: if you have a high-energy dog, it’s a good idea to go for a walk before your session, to get the extra energy & wiggles out. But on the other hand, if you have an especially low-energy dog, please don’t do any physical activity beforehand! We want to squeeze every bit of energy & excitement out of your laid-back pooch! :)


rancho santa fe photography


Prepping Yourself

~ Grooming: What, you thought this topic was limited to dogs? I encourage you to schedule nail & hair appointments for yourself right before our session! I know it can be a bit nerve-wracking to be in front of a camera, so it’s a good idea to fit in some extra pampering if it helps you feel even better about how you look. An extra dose of confidence, and photo-ready hair & nails? Yes please!

~ Mental prep: I know for a fact that your pet is not going to behave perfectly on the day of the session. Sorry, but it’s true! Even if your dog is impeccably-trained, he’s still a dog with free will and his own desires and mood swings… and guess what? That’s okay! In fact, I actually want him to do whatever will make him happy! That’s how I’ll get the most genuine expressions on film. So prepare yourself for a fun, silly, unexpected, spontaneous, and maybe-even-a-little-chaotic time together. Don’t stress about your pet behaving – because I already know he/she won’t, haha!

~ Pose ideas: this is actually something you don’t have to worry about. Posing, lighting, angles, ideas, inspiration – that’s my job! I’ve seen clients bring their photographers a list of images pulled straight from Pinterest, and while I’m sure they’re adorable photos, you don’t want your photographer to feel like a copycat, going down a checklist. I hope you chose your photographer (whether it’s me or someone else) because you love their style – and in that case, feel free to have an idea or two in mind if you want something specific. But for 95% of the session you should let your photographer have the creative freedom to play!

 prepping for your pet photo session


Potential Obstacles

My dog can’t be trusted off-leash, but I don’t want the leash to appear in all the photos. That’s not a problem! My digital retouching skills make it possible to actually remove leashes from practically any image in post-processing! I don’t like seeing leashes in photos any more than you do – I prefer to make them disappear. :)  But it’s a great (and really important) question; I’d never ask you to take your pet off-leash if you’re not 100% comfortable doing so. Safety comes first!

I don’t want to have the session at my house. Where can we go instead? Anywhere! Does your dog have a favorite park, beach or hiking trail? Even if not, I know a bunch of pretty & dog-friendly locations around San Diego! Just ask if you’re stumped; I probably know the perfect location. (Extra tip: you’re likely to find a location you love by sorting through a few “older posts” on this very blog!)

I want to be in a few photos, but I hate how I look on film. Don’t worry! That’s what many of my clients say. Your friend’s iPhone snapshots are very different from a trained professional (like me!) with knowledge of posing & lighting. So don’t stress – it’s my job to make you and your pets look great! You’ll most likely be surprised at how much you like the photos of yourself…


yellow lab san diego


What If?s

What if it rains? Don’t worry, I’ll happily reschedule with you to find an alternate date. I want your photos to look as perfect as possible, and storm clouds simply don’t make pretty pictures! If you’re concerned about the weather, feel free to reach out to me to get a rain date on our calendars in advance. (Of course, this is just my policy; if you’re working with another photographer please reach out to them and make sure they can give you an answer to this question as well.)

What if my dog gets sick? Oh no! You can’t smile for the camera when you’re feeling poorly, and neither can your dog. If a medical emergency occurs, we can reschedule for a later date, so everyone looks & feels their best for the big day. No extra charges or fees, either.

~ What if I have no idea which products I want? That’s perfectly fine – and in fact, totally normal! It’s much easier to make those decisions when you see the final images. For now, just think about whether you prefer to experience photos on your walls or in stories (like an album), and we’ll tackle this question later!



how to prepare


What to Wear

~ My best advice: pick your favorite, most comfortable, dressy-casual clothes! There’s no need for formal tuxedos or ball gowns, haha!

~ Try to choose: colors that stand out from your pets’ fur, solid colors, and simple, uncluttered designs/patterns. (And if you want to have the session on a white studio backdrop, don’t wear white!)

~ If your whole family will be participating in the photo session, choose a color palette with 2-3 colors – such as blues, tans and maroons – and everyone can wear clothing that works together! You don’t have to wear identical outfits to coordinate perfectly… the days of jeans & white t-shirts have passed, and you’re allowed to get much more creative than that! #saygoodbyetothe90s

~ More help if you’re still stuck:


And last but certainly not least, please, don’t stress. Your photo session is supposed to be a ridiculously fun experience, and your pets will pick up on your stress level and behave accordingly. I hope these tips on how to prepare for a pet photography session have covered all your bases, but life is full of surprises, isn’t it? So even if you’re running late, having a bad hair day, and your dog chewed on the couch this morning, take a deep breath, relax, and let your photographer work their magic!


A Career in Pet Photography – My Advice for Aspiring Pet Photographers

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

I often receive emails from students asking about making a career out of pet photography. Some of them are in business school, others are in photography classes, and others are simply curious! I can’t blame them: it’s a great question, and I admire their forethought, especially since I certainly didn’t plan on becoming a pet photographer when I was a student. So I’d like to answer a few of the most common questions that I’m asked here in this blog post – so that aspiring pet photographers can learn about this spectacular career that I feel so lucky to have!

two dogs in a flower field
1. How long have you been a professional pet photographer?

As of today (May 2017), I’ve been a full-time pet photographer for 6 and a half years! I began in October of 2010, in Pensacola, Florida, and we moved to San Diego in 2013, which is where I’ve built my business ever since.

2. Why did you choose pet photography?

Because I love pets! Haha! Why else would you become a pet photographer?!

Seriously though, I fell in love with photography in college. I mostly shot sports back then, thanks to a field press pass via the student newspaper, but I also tried weddings/events/families/babies, etc. soon after graduating. Pet photography turned out be the perfect niche for me, since I love working with animals more than anything else.

advice for students

3. What kind of education/training did you get/need?

Photography is one of those interesting careers that doesn’t require any professional certifications. I don’t have to pass a bar exam like a lawyer, there’s nothing that says today I’m a photographer but yesterday I wasn’t. (On a side note, I think that’s why this industry is filled with so many part-timers, “weekend warriors” and shoot-and-burners. But that’s a discussion for another time!) So I didn’t “need” any education in the formal sense of the word. But I needed education in every other sense! I’m kind of an education junkie, to be honest with you. I’m constantly studying, and it’s not always about photography: marketing, workflow systems, lighting, posing… the list goes on! I took Photography 101 in high school to learn the basics of how a camera functions, and then worked for the student newspaper in college and learned shooting & editing techniques from my fellow photographers, so that’s about as “official” as my education ever was. Since then it’s been in-person workshops, online videos, conferences and the generous help of people who have gone before me. So to be perfectly honest I needed a LOT of training, but not in the traditional sense of the word. And practice – simply practicing my craft has been the best training possible. When I first started out, I shot as much as I possibly could, and no Photoshop tutorial could ever be more valuable than that.

aspiring pet photographers

4. What do you think is the most rewarding part of your job?

Oh my gosh – the families. The people I work with. Giving them something they wouldn’t have been able to create on their own is an AMAZING thing. I get to create artwork of the most difficult-to-photograph member of the family, someone’s best friend. That’s awesome! You see, before I started my business, I mostly shot sports (at that student newspaper I mentioned). And I went to a big sports school (Notre Dame!) so we LOVE our sports. But at the end of the day, I don’t think landing the front page of the sports section even comes close to capturing the spirit of a member of someone’s family. Dogs have an amazing zest for life, and powerful lessons to teach us humans – to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy life in the moment, to play more – and I think those lessons are worth so much more than an awesome touchdown shot. And when I present a finished album or canvas gallery wrap to my clients, and they start to cry and thank me for a portrait that captures the essence of a family member that won’t be here forever… it sometimes brings me to tears too. Don’t get me wrong – I love the adrenaline of capturing a touchdown or a slam dunk, and I always will – but it simply doesn’t compare to working with pets & families every day. This is an incredibly fulfilling job, more than I ever imagined before I started.

advice for pet photographers

5. Do you ever hire interns or assistants?

I have, absolutely! Running a business is a huge endeavor and I can often use a little help – but I have to be careful not to hire anyone at the detriment of a client’s experience. For example, I don’t use an assistant during my photo sessions, because I want to keep the experience intimate and minimize the distractions. But not all photographers feel that way; many successful pet photographers love to have assistants during shoots. At the moment I don’t use an assistant for anything, but that might change in the future!

6. Is this a full time job?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Yes.

advice for aspiring pet photographers

7. What is your favorite pet to photograph?

Dogs. :)

8. How much does this job pay?

That depends. (But if you’re doing it just for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.) When I first started out, I made less than minimum wage, since I didn’t know how to value my time or how to charge for my products & services. But that was acceptable to me at that point, since I loved starting this business and I relished the idea of working for myself. These days I make well more than minimum wage, which reflects the improvement I’ve made in my craft & my clients’ experience. Your photography business can make plenty of money, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that doing a shoot for $100 (for example) is $100 in raw profit. You haven’t accounted for your expenses, most notably the large percentage that the government claims in taxes. (Don’t get me started on that.) Sorry I can’t give you a straight answer on this one – it’s really up to you!

9. What do you do on a daily basis?

Oh man… so much. Every day is truly different. I might be shooting, editing photos, culling photos, ordering products, quality-checking products that have just been delivered, calling my lab to fix products that have any flaws on them, blogging (!), answering emails, making phone calls, planning events, prepping for events, making posts on social media, learning about effective social media strategies, keeping up with local businesses that I partner with, brainstorming new marketing avenues, checking the ROI of my current marketing, purchasing new supplies or backdrops for the studio, categorizing transactions for my accountant, making sure my bank accounts are in order, analyzing my spending, doing inventory, cleaning/organizing my studio, putting together a surprise or two for my clients, corresponding with those clients and planning their sessions, answering clients’ (and prospective clients’) questions, following up with new inquiries, developing my commercial photography portfolio, enhancing my website, making sure I’m on top of any industry trends/news… the list goes on!

pet photography advice

10. Do you have any advice for aspiring pet photographers?

Study business. I thought owning a photography business would be 90% photography and 10% business. Turns out, it’s the other way around. And you should really genuinely passionately LOVE animals! And also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I just opened a pet photography education resource, with one of my best friends (and local “competition”!) that might prove useful if you’re actually in the beginning stages of starting your own pet photography business. It’s called Professional Pooch and we designed it to help other people turn their hobby/interest of pet photography into a full-time job, like we have!

11. What’s your greatest challenge in this field?

Oooh, that’s a good one. I’m an optimist and I don’t like to dwell on my struggles, and I don’t recommend that you do either – but I’ll answer the question for me personally. I’m challenged by the fact that there are only 24 hours in the day. I’n challenged by wanting to constantly outdo myself and produce better & better work. I’m challenged by the fact that I love my clients but I also value work-life balance. I’m challenged by the aspects of business I never thought I’d have to be an expert in – SEO, accounting, finding & sourcing the best products on the market (and sometimes creating those products myself when they don’t already exist). But I also consider myself very lucky to have a supportive family, a killer work ethic, and awesome clients that I really connect with. You have to take the challenges along with the helpful aspects, since they go hand-in-hand. And besides, what fun would this be if there weren’t a few obstacles along the way?


I hope this has been helpful for aspiring pet photographers, no matter where you live or where you’re at in your journey! Good luck! :)

A Pet Photography Proposal! Featuring Baby, the Cocker Spaniel

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

When I first spoke with Alma, she told me all about her 15-year-old cocker spaniel, Baby, and as we planned our session date and chatted about details I simply thought this would be a typical photo session. We’d have a great time, end up with some adorable photos, and it would be another successful session! No hiccups, no worries, everything would go smooth as always.

Then I got a call from Jony, her boyfriend, that changed everything.

He told me he was planning on proposing during our photo session! I have to admit, some guys have it all figured out – and I completely admire Jony for planning ahead and making sure the moment would be captured on film! We came up with a strategy, planned our “signal” for when he would get down on one knee, and he even gave me the ring hours before our photo session took place so that it could be safely hidden in my camera bag (where Alma wouldn’t have a chance of seeing it). And you know what? The whole photo session leading up to the big moment, I had a huge smile on my face. I can’t remember the last time I had so much joy photographing a couple – because I knew they were about to spend the rest of their lives together. I can’t help but smile at the “family” photos we took before the proposal, because Alma – the sweetest person – had no idea that Jony was going to ask her to become his wife that day. That Jony was willing to stand by her side for the rest of time, and he was ready to ask if she’d do the same for him. It was an incredibly special day, one they’ll both remember for the rest of their lives – and honestly, I will too. Gah! I’m so completely thrilled for them!!

But enough talk – I know you want to see this amazing pet photography proposal already!! :)


First, an introduction: this is Baby! She’s been Alma’s constant companion for the past 15 years, and she did a great job in the studio (despite feeling a bit unsure of what exactly we were doing)!

pet photography proposal dog


I can’t believe this sweet little family is about to make it official!!

pet photography proposal shoot


After a bit of studio time, we headed to Balboa Park and wandered amongst the flowers & gardens.

pet photography proposal session


No words.

pet photography proposal


I think Baby approves.

pet photography proposal photo


Alma & Jony, thank you so much for including me as you start the rest of your lives together! I could not be happier for you two!!!



All Images Copyright Allison Shamrell Photography: | Blog Theme Created by LJP & SLR Lounge