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, 2014-2016, by the San Diego A-List.

Archive: ‘housekeeping/fyi’

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? 

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! :)

2016 Holiday Cards for my Wonderful Clients!

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

This blog post is addressed to a slightly different audience than usual: it’s for my lovely, fabulous, amazing past clients! If you’ve had a session with me in the last few years, I think you’ll be excited about today’s announcement!

Here’s the thing: I know it can be hard (and frustrating) to get organized for sending holiday cards. It feels like a chore for so many people. Even if you have the perfect photos for your cards (ahem), it’s still time-consuming to pick a place to print them, choose a design, stick a ton of return-address labels on the envelopes (or – gasp – write your address out each time!) and get all this done during the chaos of the holiday season. Am I right?

So here’s your solution! Gorgeous holiday cards, fully-designed and printed on luxurious linen paper for you, and delivered to your door in plenty of time to send them out to friends & family! This is the first-ever time I’ve offered anything like this, and I’m SO EXCITED about it! Check it out!


holiday cards for pet owners


Take a closer look at your 4 unique options:

holiday card designs

These are beautiful flat cards, printed on gorgeous linen paper from one of the nation’s best professional printing labs, and customized with your family’s names. I’ve included complimentary overnight shipping and pre-printed envelopes – so it truly couldn’t be any easier for you!


So, my lovely clients, all you have to do is pick your favorite design and choose a couple of photos! You can order as few as 20 cards or as many as 2000 – in increments of 10, you have total flexibility. Each set of 10 cards is $25, and you’re welcome to use the photos from our session, of course – but if you have another special photo, I’m happy to include it as well! (As long as you own the copyright, of course!)


Just remember: the deadline to order your cards is Friday, December 16!


Email ( or call me (619.357.6624) to get started! And I hope I can save you some time this holiday season!

How to Choose a Pet Photographer

Monday, August 15th, 2016

So you’re looking for a pet photographer! That’s fantastic! I’m so glad you’ve chosen to document the relationship you have with your 4-legged best friend(s)… and I hope you choose the PERFECT photographer to make that happen!


choose best pet photographer


I know, I know, you probably think I’m biased. After all, I must want to work with everybody, right? I’m a professional pet photographer, so I probably want everyone with a pet to choose me as their photographer, no matter what their situation/needs/preferences/vision/personality, right?





I love my clients. I adore them! And I think I get along with them so well because I was truly the right photographer for them, and that’s the reason they were drawn to working with me. I don’t think I’m the right pet photographer for everyone. I really don’t. That may seem weird, and maybe a bit counterintuitive, but the fact is, I have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses as a photographer and a business owner. Other photographers have other strengths & weaknesses – and the trick is finding the photographer who’s especially strong at what’s important to you! I’d love to give you a few tips on how to choose a pet photographer – and whether this leads you to me or someone else, I think you’ll be much happier in the end!

So let’s look at a few aspects of any photographer’s business, and hopefully it gives you clarity on what truly matters to you!


1. Photographic Style

There are soooooo many different styles out there – and you get to choose what really resonates with YOU! Do you like a posed, formal look? Something totally casual & candid? How about editorial, like it came right off the page of a fashion magazine? Okay, what about colors? Do you prefer natural, vibrant colors? Or a super-saturated, surreal world of fantasy colors? What about an entirely black-and-white photo session? And you should also consider light: do you like bright, blown-out whites, or moody grays and blacks? And how about the feel of the images? The tone can range anywhere from melancholy & poignant, to natural and even-keeled, to zestful and cheery!

pet photographer cat picture

The best advice I can give you is to look through multiple photographers’ portfolios. There will probably be 1 or 2 photographers whose work you connect with on an emotional level… and it’s okay if you can’t put the reason why into words. It likely has a lot to do with their style. And that’s different for EVERY photographer – each of us includes our own unique perspective in our images – so whose point of view do you resonate with?


2. Personality

The personality of your photographer is more important than you think! This is a person you’re trusting to bring out the best in you & your family, the person who needs to connect with you and your pets in a way that evokes true happiness. That’s actually why I love working with pets: they’re honest! They’re not going to put on a fake smile for the camera; any joy you see is always 100% genuine. So your photographer has to A) get along with you & your pet(s), B) be someone you feel comfortable smiling and laughing with, and C) be someone who can put you at ease if everything else that day has gone wrong and you’re not exactly feeling camera-ready when you arrive at your photo session. (Because although we definitely try to avoid that situation, trust me, it can happen.)

choose a pet photographer

Think about it: are you more willing to smile and be natural with your best friend, or with someone you don’t like? I really believe that the more your photographer feels like a friend, to both you & your pets, the better your images will be.


3. Products & Offerings

So you’d like to work with a pet photographer! Great! What are your plans for the images he/she will create?

pet photography product   pet photography products

It’s okay if you don’t start this process with a vision… after all, the photos haven’t even been captured yet! But your pet photographer should offer the products that are important to you, and this is definitely something you’ll thank yourself for double-checking before making a commitment. Envisioning a canvas over the couch? Make sure you haven’t chosen a digital-images-only photographer! Hoping to add a few pages to your handmade scrapbook, or contribute a family photo to Grandma’s yearly Christmas card? Make sure you can purchase the digital copies of your photos! What about photos of your dog to advertise your business? Make sure your photographer is able to accommodate that, too!


4. Prices

What, you thought pricing should have been criteria #1? I disagree. Investing in pet portraiture is not something you do every day, so I personally don’t think it makes sense to look for coupons and penny-pinching deals. I use coupons for groceries and milk at Vons, but that’s because they’re everyday items, and I’ll need more groceries again next week. Plus, using a coupon doesn’t affect the quality or freshness of the milk, either. On the other hand, pet photography is probably a once-yearly or even a once-in-a-lifetime event, so wouldn’t you want to invest an amount of money that reflects the rarity & special-ness of the moment?

cute dog picture

I’m a big believer in understanding that “you get what you pay for” – so if all your budget can accommodate is a quickie shoot with a newbie photographer for a hundred bucks or so, then go for it! But you should expect a vastly different result (and price point) if you work with an established business that values customer service, runs a real business & takes your satisfaction seriously. Either way, pick what’s right for you – whether it’s the Tesla or the Toyota – the quarter pounder or the Kobe beef burger – the Louis Vuitton handbag or the purse from H&M – I can keep going with these analogies!! – and be excited about the results!

This also applies to products, by the way – not just the session fee! I hope you never do a photo session without seeing the prices for everything you could possibly buy. You probably won’t purchase everything on the price list, but knowing those prices – and working with a photographer that’s completely transparent – is incredibly important.


5. Capabilities & Limitations

There are certain things I cannot do. For example, I can’t bring my studio to your house. So if you want a studio photo session for your dog that doesn’t travel, then you’ll need the photographer with a mobile studio! And that’s simply not me.

best pet photo session

I know some pet photographers who don’t work with people – and some people photographers who don’t work with pets! Some photographers don’t have their own studio, and others don’t ever leave their studio. Some photographers work at any time of day, and bring equipment/lights to create great results, whereas I’m a stickler for the best light of the day (around sunset) and only schedule my sessions then. Does your work schedule only allow for a weekend photo session? Then you need a photographer who’s willing to work on the weekends! Do you have more dogs than the average family? I hope your photographer has experience working with that many animals at the same time! If you’re limited by your situation in any way – or if you simply know exactly what you want – it’s definitely worth asking if your photographer can accommodate it! 

That being said, your photographer might surprise you: my clients have often told me that they can’t visit any public parks or beaches because their dog isn’t trustworthy off-leash, and they don’t want the leash in their images. That’s when I get to laugh and say that I can actually use Photoshop to remove leashes from images! (So their dog stays safe during the session, and still ends up looking like the best-behaved pup ever!) So ask what your photographer can & cannot do; you might be surprised.


6. Willingness to Work With Your Vision (if necessary)

Sometimes, my potential clients present unique ideas to me: “I have an idea for a Disney-themed shoot, and we’ll go into a forest so my dog can be the Beast and I’ll be Belle, and then in another location I’d like to dress up as Cruella and my dogs can be the 101 Dalmatians, and then…”  Honestly, I have to applaud people with such a specific vision for their photo session. I’ve heard great ideas (and some interesting ones!) and I’m sure it would have turned out nicely… but I’m not the photographer for them.

Whereas my clients – my fantastic, amazing, trusting clients – often end up giving me total freedom to direct how the photo session goes. I find that I create the best results – and the best images – when I feel comfortable to take creative risks, when my client is open to ideas they might not have come up with themselves, and when we can just let their pets be happy & comfortable. So I suppose this is one area in which I fall short – unless your specific vision is simply to have natural, playful & soulful images of your 4-legged best friend.

choose a pet photographer

My clients often say things like “I have no idea what to do or how to pose”, “I figure you can just do your thing”, “you’re the professional so I’ll leave everything up to you” and they let me worry about choreographing the photo session. And that’s my job! So I’m happy to take input, ideas & inspiration from my clients, but I also deeply appreciate their trust. But that’s just me – so I hope you’ll ask your photographer how they prefer to do things!



There you have it! Those are my top tips for how to choose a pet photographer that’s right for you. I hope this has been helpful, and you feel more confident in making your choice, knowing that you’re in the right hands (whoever’s hands they may be!). Answering these questions takes a bit more work up-front, but I think you’ll love coasting through the rest of the session experience with your photographer, because you know they’re the best fit for your family. Once you’ve made your choice, there’s only one thing left to do: have a great photo session! :)


Encinitas Westies picture


Premium Albums for Pet Photography

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

Today’s blog post is a bit different – I’d like to show you one of my favorite products! It’s my premium album!

Listen, I don’t kid myself: I know that my clients can make their own photo books and get them printed at a bunch of online labs. And really, that’s fine with me, if they enjoy the process of making it themselves and they expect & acknowledge that a book of that caliber (anything you pay $20-40 for) isn’t going to last terribly long. I know that option exists – heck, in college, I made those kinds of books myself! – and so that’s why I set out to provide my clients with something so entirely different, there couldn’t possibly be any way to describe it in the same category. And thus, my premium albums were born! You’ve never seen books like these – let alone such high-quality albums for pet photography!


Here are a few qualities my clients have come to expect in their premium album:

~ 100% custom design. I create the entire photographic story & handle all the design work, from start to finish. I welcome my clients’ input & preferences, of course, but don’t worry: I do all the work.

~ Heirloom-quality construction. An amazing company called Madera creates my albums entirely by hand – you can see their process here in this awesome one-minute video if you’re curious.

~ Gorgeous leather finish with custom embossing. The kind that makes you say “wow” when you runs your hands over it.

~ Pages so thick, you’d never accidentally tear them. Reinforced backing gives the pages (which are real photographic prints!) substantial weight.


So take a look at the most recent premium album to arrive at my studio – Yuma‘s!

san diego pet photo album




San Diego pet photo albums



Yuma’s name is embossed on the front cover, a subtle yet unmistakable custom touch.

dog photo album



My logo is foil-printed on the inside front cover! Yay!

pet photography albums



Lay-flat binding & page construction. You don’t see this every day.

dog photography albums



Here are close-up images of a few pages in Yuma’s book…

pet photo album




premium albums for pet photography




dog photo album



I adore quotes alongside images. I have my favorites, and I include my clients’ faves too… they help tell the story even more beautifully.

dog photography album




And just for fun, here’s a screenshot of my album design software! I love it because it gives me total freedom to arrange images & quotes however I want… and I’ll be honest, designing a whole album is an intensive process, but I find it quite fun!

san diego pet photo album


Of course, if you’re interested in a custom premium album with your pets, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes blog post! :)



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