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  ~  Allison@AllisonShamrell.com  ~  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: ‘just for fun’



Yahoo! The votes are in… Allison Shamrell Pet Photography is officially #1!

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

I’m thrilled to announce that my incredible clients & friends have made their voices heard – and as a result, we won!!! (And yes, I say “we” – because even though I’m a solopreneur, this is a team victory that validates all the great experiences my clients have had!)

 

best pet photographer certificate

 

That’s right – the official 2017 results are in, and my business ranked #1 for the “best pet photographer” category on the San Diego A-List!

This is such incredible news. Most importantly, it proves that all the hard work I do every day means a lot to the awesome people I get to call clients. And that’s really rewarding for me. However, it also signifies that I have a lot to live up to – because the title of “BEST” certainly doesn’t mean I get to relax! It means I’m obligated to go on being the best – which (to me) means innovation, meticulousness, and constantly hustling.

Plus – if I’m really being honest – it just feels great to win! No one ever said I should stop being competitive just because I’m not playing basketball anymore! :)

So thank you to everyone who voted for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It may have felt like a two-second click of the mouse (or tap of the finger) to you, but to me it was a tremendous show of your support.

And since I’ve won this award every year since 2014 (double yay!!) you can bet that I’m thinking about alllllll kinds of ways to outdo myself again! This year, it was adding a “Pack Portraits” event for my past clients & networking colleagues, a free (!) quickie photo session at one of San Diego’s most iconic locations. Next year? I wonder what it’ll be…

Here’s to crushing the rest of 2017 as San Diego’s best pet photographer! :)

The Best Pet Photography Products

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

how much should a pet photo session cost

I absolutely love creating gorgeous images of pets & families around San Diego… but you know what’s just as much fun? Doing something with those photos! It’s a tragedy, in my opinion, to let high-quality imagery languish on a forgotten hard drive… and products are often an afterthought of people seeking photography. Which is totally understandable, to be honest with you; it’s hard to envision what you’ll do with photos that haven’t even been taken yet. But I’d love to provide you with some inspiration today! I’ve been photographing 4-leggers and their families for over 6 years, and over that time I’ve seen firsthand which types of products have a lasting impact & can truly stand the test of time. I’ve also curated my product line throughout those years to include the best & most popular products that my clients & I have consistently loved. These are some of the best pet photography products that I’ve ever seen – so I’m excited to share them with you!

 

1. Wall Art

best products and prints

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best canvas products

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best product collage

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pet photography canvases

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pet photography canvas

 

Wall art is a classic way to enjoy your portraits every day. This is hands-down my favorite type of product; decorating the space you spend your life in with images you truly love.

I offer fine art prints, canvas gallery wraps, and metal prints – and as you can see, they all have a very different look! I typically recommend choosing the medium that best suits your design style; if modern & contemporary is your thing, go with metal! It’s stunningly gorgeous and makes an impact wherever you display it. But if rustic & organic is your look, then canvas gallery wraps are a perfect fit – they have subtle texture and a vibe that evokes the natural side of life. On the other hand, traditional and classic style lends itself well to fine art prints. Whichever medium you choose, you want it to fit in with the rest of your home’s decor, and a variety of wall art products allows me to work with any client’s design style.

 

2. Albums

best products for pet photography

 

Okay, I know I said that I love wall art the most – but my albums take a very close second place! Books & albums are the best way to display ALL the photos from your pet photography session. You probably won’t choose to hang up 40 photos on your walls (do you have that many walls?), but you can enjoy them all in the pages of a premium album! Plus, albums are a great place for the detail images, the silly moments, and the funny outtakes that simply aren’t suited to be hung on the wall.

I also like to include quotes from various authors & historical figures in my albums; there are SO many great sayings out there about pets, love and family, and they help tell the story of your session and what your pets mean to you as you’re flipping through the pages.

 

 

3.Digital Images

best pet photography products

 

It’s 2017, so this post simply wouldn’t be complete without a mention of my digital products. But can I share something with you that not many people know about digital photos? The resolution is key. Purchasing a photo with high-resolution is like pulling out all the stops; you can print it at many sizes and it won’t look grainy or pixellated. It can, however, be overkill for digital use; super-high resolution is why photos on websites take a long time to load. Whereas photos with low-resolution are the perfect quick digital option! They load quickly, take up less hard drive space, and are generally more nimble & versatile online. But their weakness is printing; a physical copy of a low-resolution photo will often appear pixellated. (It’s not the printer’s fault – it’s the photo!) So make your choice carefully, based on what you want to do with the images from your photo session! My clients often choose the high-resolution option, so they can make Christmas cards and fun stuff in the future (like mugs & mouse pads!) and in that case I give them a complimentary low-resolution version of each image too, just in case they want to share them online without a headache. But many of my clients also choose to have a custom mobile app with their images, which is a great low-resolution option! It’s so much fun to have a quick-access app on your phone, so you can always bring up the photos from your session!

 

4. Desktop Prints

pet photo desktop print

Okay, I admit, this is not a high-quality photo – it’s an iPhone snapshot of my desk! But what better example can I give you of why I love desktop prints? This is a photo of my girl Bailey, and I absolutely love keeping it so close by. Because as much as I love to pull out all the stops with archival wall art & custom-designed albums, I also know that there’s a beautiful simplicity to an old-fashioned framed print on your desktop. (Or your shelf, or entry table, or dresser…) So why argue with tradition? My fine art prints are UV-coated, too, so even if your desk sits in the sunlight, your prints will never fade. That happy face will always be as vibrant as the day of our photo session.

 

Conclusion

So there you have it! These are some of my favorite options, and I think they’re the best pet photography products on the market today. If you’re working with a photographer, keep this in mind: I hope you’ll choose products that fit your lifestyle & how you prefer to experience photography. There are tons of options out there (I offer a few more products, too!) and I think you’ll love picking out your favorites!

In the meantime, let me leave you with a couple of my creative wall art collages (in metal and canvas) for inspiration…

 

metal collage pet photography  canvas collage pet photo

 

Dog DNA Tests: Our Experience! (What kind of dog is Bailey?)

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

I think everyone who has a mutt is… curious.

Maybe it’s a fleeting curiosity for a moment, maybe it’s a burning desire that never fades. But I think everyone with a mixed-breed dog would really like to know what breeds their dog comes from, the clues to their heritage that may explain their dog’s silly behavior quirks or a rogue white fur spot. For whatever reason, I think that curiosity is definitely there.

Me? I fit more closely into the latter description. I’ve always wanted to know Bailey’s genetic makeup. And I knew about dog DNA tests for years, and had wanted to do one, but no event or reason ever spurred me to make the decision and purchase one… until my husband did it as a surprise for my birthday! That’s right, Mr. Shamrell came up with the best gift idea for me, and sent our dog’s DNA in without me ever knowing. (He’s a clever one!)

He chose the Wisdom Panel DNA test, a major name in the industry that’s available in most big box pet stores like Petco & Petsmart. It cost around $80 and is probably the most commonly-used test on the market. He then (somehow, on his own, miraculously) wrestled our dog into submission so that he could take the saliva sample! Haha – I’m kidding (mostly) – but I have to say that this is the hardest part of any dog DNA test. Instructions to obtain a good sample include swabbing a q-tip on the inside of her cheek for about 20 seconds, and that’s not in most dogs’ plans for the day. So with lots of treats and a firm grip on her collar, Mr. Shamrell was able to wrangle the q-tip into Bailey’s mouth for enough time to take a decent sample. (Hey, other tests are blood tests – saliva is the easy way out!)

Before you see the results, take a look: what breeds do you think are in Bailey?

mixed breed dog dna

Full disclosure: I’ve always guessed Rhodesian ridgeback was her primary heritage. Her face, her body structure, her generally lazy demeanor… and when she gets agitated, a dramatic ridge of fur appears on her back, from her shoulders allllll the way down to her tail. So of course the test would come back with ridgeback somewhere on it… right?

 

The results were delivered on my birthday, so it was a surprise for both of us, and that evening I unwrapped a very exciting envelope to see this:

dog dna test results

 

My initial reaction was: Staffordshire, sure – WHIPPET??? What?! There must be a mistake, that’s ridic- oh, wait a minute. Hold on. That may actually be why she’s only 50 lbs and has such tiny feet. And a tiny waist. And why she can run faster than almost every dog she’s ever met.

Whoa.

That’s exactly what a dog DNA test is supposed to do! They were characteristics that I’d always seen in her, but had always written off as quirks & happenstance. Suddenly, I saw whippet in my dog when I’d never imagined it before.

If there was a cartoon light bulb hanging over my head, it would have turned on. Poof!

 

Whew! It was an exhilarating start to reading her results. But things were about to take a downward turn:

my dog's dna test

What was with all this “mixed breed” nonsense? I know she’s a mixed breed, that’s why I wanted to do a DNA test. And now I was seeing that the test couldn’t figure it out beyond halfway? Last I heard, 50% is a failing grade. I thought to myself, do we get 50% of our money back? (Unsurprisingly, we didn’t.)

 

Wisdom Panel gives their best guess at the “mixed breed ancestry” result, which is good, but they don’t exactly sound confident in these results:

dog dna tests results

 

 

So there you have it. Bailey’s results, according to Wisdom Panel, are 25% Staffy, 25% whippet, and 50% unknown.

Fast forward a few years: we meet a vendor at the Hillcrest farmer’s market with all kinds of doggie goodies at his table. He asks if we’ve ever done one of the major brand dog DNA tests, and when we say that we have, he introduces us to a different brand of test. It’s called Accu-Metrics Viaguard (I know, their website is awful, don’t laugh) and it’s totally unrelated to Wisdom Panel. He shows us the research that says Wisdom Panel has 66.7% reliability, whereas this new test has 99.9% reliability. That was enough to pique our interest – and after hearing that they do all kids of DNA/forensics/paternity tests, etc, and they have a money-back guarantee, we happily purchased the new test kit and trotted off to try again! Nothing had changed in the last few years, of course – and I was coming around to the idea that she may not be Rhodesian after all – but why not get a second opinion?

Bailey didn’t enjoy the swabbing any more the second time around… but this time there were two of us so it went much quicker. And Bailey got a bully stick immediately afterwards, so don’t think for a second that she isn’t benefitting from this little experiment, haha!

 

Well, the results just came in. And they shocked me!

 

viaguard dog dna tests

Take a look at what the different “levels” mean:

doggy dna test results

 

How fascinating. There were Staffy & whippet, consistently making a second appearance – but Catahoula Leopard Dog?? Labrador!? I’ve been in the pet industry for over 6 years and I’d never even heard of a Carolina Dog! Truthfully, the Belgian Malinois wasn’t a huge surprise; I’d always figured she was part shepherd due to her coloring & body structure, I just didn’t know what kind specifically. Jeez – what a surprising combination of breeds!

 

They also sent us this certificate, which will definitely come in handy if we ever move into a rental home/apartment with breed restrictions:

dna test breed exemption

(Sigh. It’s so sad that this has to be a thing.)

Overall, the Accu-Metrics Viaguard test gave us a lot more information, so I appreciated that. Both tests gave us a few pages of medical information about the breeds that were identified in each one – here’s a page from Accu-Metrics Viaguard, for example:

dog dna tests breeds

 

If you have health concerns for your dog as he/she gets older, a DNA test could be exactly what you & your vet need to keep giving your dog the best possible care. I definitely plan on sharing all this info with our vet – so although it wasn’t the primary reason we did these tests, it’s definitely an added benefit.

So there you have it! I highly recommend dog DNA tests, at least for the fun of discovering something new! I certainly can’t speak to their accuracy, but it was a really fun surprise both times. And while Bailey may not be Rhodesian like I thought – or boxer, or German shepherd like so many people tell me – I really don’t mind having a Catahoula/Staffordshire/Carolina/Malinois/labrador/whippet mix, either! :)

 

Taking Your Dog to Mexico – Our Story

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

I love Mexico. The beaches, the food, the language, the marketplaces, the margaritas…  pretty much everything south of the border calls my name. (We even went to Cabo for our honeymoon!) And living in San Diego means that I don’t have to step on a plane to visit Mexico, which is pretty awesome – and as a result, my husband and I have driven there once or twice a year since moving to SD 4 years ago. Our favorite town to visit is Rosarito, a small village south of Tijuana that (with its next-door neighbor Puerto Nuevo) serves the region as a lobster fishing hub. We’ve never gone with our dog, though – until last weekend. And I know I’m not the only one who has considered taking my pup south of the border – so I wanted to share my experience, and hopefully this blog post contains the info (and reassurance) you need to feel confident about taking your dog to Mexico!  :)

 

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This was a real vacation – which means I didn’t bring my DSLR! (Gasp!) So you’re going to have to put up with iPhone photos in this post, even though I’m a professional photographer. Because after all, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

 

I had all the normal fears that a pet parent has when doing something for the first time, compounded with the fact that we’re dealing with international borders. Bailey is a good girl but her obedience isn’t perfect, and although she loves people she doesn’t always get along with certain kinds of dogs in certain situations… I knew that there was plenty that could potentially go wrong. But there was also the potential for so much to go right! So after chatting with a few people who said it was “no big deal” to bring their dogs to Mexico, we decided to get past our concerns and take the leap! I suppose we figured that I speak enough Spanish to deal with pretty much any crisis, and we would obviously stand up for our dog and her safety in any situation, so as long as she was with us, she’d be fine. It also really reassured us when we picked a resort that actually had a dedicated dog run; going to a place that’s unabashedly dog-friendly is a huge plus and I highly recommend it!

 

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How we prepared: we scheduled a vet appointment for a month before our trip. During that appointment, we asked the vet how she felt about us taking Bailey to Mexico, and what concerns (if any) she would share with us. Our vet was very unconcerned; Bailey has always been a very healthy dog (knock on wood) and there was nothing that our vet specifically warned us about. So we simply made sure she was updated on all her shots, especially rabies, and got a hard copy of her shot records to bring with us.

One quick note about the International Certificate of Good Health Form, # 77-043. We heard various reports about this – my husband thinks it’s for flying with your dog, not driving, and our vet clinic thinks it’s only for interstate travel, not international. We didn’t learn about it until after our appointment, otherwise we would have asked for a copy to take with us, just in case. (Spoiler alert: we wouldn’t have needed it anyway. But if it’s readily available from your vet, go for it!)

 

(Side note: apparently dogs can get passports, too. I haven’t looked into this for Bailey yet, and I’m not seriously considering getting her one at the moment, since A) it seems to be more important in the EU, which we don’t plan on taking her to anytime soon, and B) all the information I can find online comes from companies looking to make a profit from the idea, so I’m skeptical about how beneficial/necessary it would actually be.)

 

What we packed: her bed, toys, food, treats, bowls, 2 leashes of different length, and extra poop bags. (Don’t you love how low-maintenance dogs are?!) We didn’t bring a kennel, primarily because Bailey isn’t kennel-trained (so bad, I know!) and also because we weren’t flying, we were driving. So her seatbelt and our backseat cover were the only transportation-related items we brought, and they’re always in our car anyway!

 

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We booked a pet-friendly AirBNB in Rosarito, and about 45 minutes after crossing the border into Mexico (which is so easy it’s laughable) we arrived at the resort and found our room! It was a penthouse suite (#penthouselife) in a resort with a mix of towers and linked single-story houses. I’m pretty sure Bailey would have preferred once of the houses, since she has a deep mistrust of elevators, but she braved her fear and actually loved the penthouse that we stayed in. I could tell she was comfortable there when she started playing with her toys only about half an hour after we arrived! (Although we had 2 loads of stuff to bring up from the car, so she whined and cried when we left to get that second load and she was suddenly alone in a strange new place.Which I can understand. But Bailey is often over-dramatic so I knew she wasn’t actually freaking out, haha!)

Right after getting settled, Mr. Shamrell & I went to lunch at a nearby (walking-distance) hotel. We didn’t bring Bailey because we wanted to scope out the dog-friendly factor first – and to our delight we saw another dog lounging on the outdoor patio! No problemo!

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This is Bailey at that same restaurant, for dinner the next night. Oceanfront dining = relaxing and gorgeous for humans, more seagulls for dogs to watch.

 

At lunch, we asked our friendly waiter if he knew of a dog beach nearby, or at least a beach where we could bring our dog without getting hassled. He said that he brings his pit bull to a beach that was so close, he pointed it out down the coastline! So we ran back to our resort, grabbed Bailey, and off we went!

The beach that we visited in particular was a little tricky to get down to. A lot of Mexican beaches (especially public, unsupervised beaches) can include a hike down rocky, unstable terrain. But we saw a few families already on the beach, so we knew it was doable – and we carefully made our way down the steep “path” and set foot safely on the sand. We also walked past a chained-up pit bull that came out of his sheet metal den and barked at us as we went past, maybe 20-30 feet away. (Which didn’t bother Bailey, but bothered me for multiple reasons.) If your dog is especially nervous about uncertain situations, or can’t handle a quick but steep hike, I certainly wouldn’t recommend the beach we visited. And it might make it difficult to find a truly ideal public Mexican beach, honestly – but I can’t be sure, since we only ended up taking Bailey to this spot for beach time. But she was a total champ and didn’t let any of that faze her! And once we got to the sand, it was a little slice of heaven; plenty of room to run around & seaweed to sniff, while Mr. Shamrell & I relaxed in our beach chairs and took in the view! I can’t even begin to tell you what a great time we had once we got down there! Here are a few maps to our beach:

Rosarito dog beach Rosarito beach for dogs satellite dog beach map

 

And here’s what playtime looked like:

 

On our way back up the rocky path, we encountered a stray dog. He had no collar or leash, and seemed awfully sweet, but we kept him away from Bailey just in case. I would have loved to pack him up into our car and give him some love and a healthy meal, at the very least – he clearly needed both – but it simply wouldn’t have been safe. The poor thing clearly wanted to come with us… but once we waved him off the last time, he trotted toward a few nearby houses, so I’m guessing that’s where he lives. That moment was probably the saddest of our trip.

 

The next day, we decided to hang out by the pool at our resort. There weren’t many other people around, and we found a small grassy area next to two lounge chairs – so naturally Bailey came with us! We put her on a 20-foot leash and secured it to one of our chairs, so she wandered & sniffed everywhere as we read our books. Plus, it was an oceanfront pool, so Bailey had the chance to monitor the seagulls too. We probably wouldn’t have brought her if it was crowded with people, but it was a relatively secluded spot and not a big deal.

taking your dog to Mexico

 

dog in Mexico

Can you believe she never jumped in the pool? Bailey doesn’t really like swimming, so she was content to enjoy the view instead.

 

Because of our success in taking Bailey to the nearby restaurant, and our optimism, we drove to one of our favorite restaurants in Puerto Nuevo the next night with her. It’s called Poco Cielo, and since they also have an outdoor patio we figured she’d be allowed there – and she was! We had another great dinner together (and might have given her a few tortilla chips as well).

 

Last but certainly not least, I know you’re curious about the actual border crossing! I made this video so you could hear the play-by-play with all the details:

 

 

A few questions you might have:

  • How did we get our medical “fast pass”? Okay, don’t be miffed if you didn’t know this before, but guess what… you can get a medical pass at some Mexican spas after getting a massage! True story! There are several spas that have clearance to do this, and certain types of massages that will earn you a “fast pass” to get back across the border in the quicker line, as long as you use it in the following 48 hours after your massage. So we suffered through a massage to get that pass, haha! ;)
  • Why can’t we stop for a doggy potty break while we wait to get across the border? Because you’re constantly slowing moving forward. The line isn’t usually “stopped” for very long at a time, it’s just a long, painfully-slow crawl. So you certainly could leave your car to take your dog to a nearby patch of grass (if your lane happens to pass near one, which is not guaranteed) but someone else would have to keep driving, and then you could catch up with them again pretty easily by walking.
  • How do I find the medical lane? Tijuana is confusing. AGREED. We used directions from Baja Bound – a total godsend! We still ran into a roadblock that threw us off course, but with our T-Mobile plan we get free data in Mexico, and so Google Maps was essential to finding our way back on course.
  • Anything else I should know about driving around Mexico? Get Mexican car insurance. Most American companies will NOT cover theft or break-ins if they happen across the border. We usually go through Sanborn’s but you have several options out there. We paid $95 for 4 days of coverage, and the peace of mind is SO worth it.

 

Mexican dog park

My dog’s crazy-face as she runs around at the dog park at our resort. Pretty sure this is the best view from any dog park in the world!

 

Those are all the stories I have to share with you for now! I hope you found value in this blog post, and if you were considering taking your dog to Mexico, that you feel much more confident about doing it successfully! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below if there’s anything else you’re curious about. We had soooo much fun in Mexico, and I think Bailey had a great time as a perro. ;)

 

Bailey the Spider! (Howl-o-ween 2015)

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

It’s that time of year again… Halloween! And as many of my blog readers know, I love to dress up my Bailey! She’s been a lion, a German beer maiden… and I already have her costume for next year planned out too, haha! But this year she wanted to be something creepy-crawly… because after all, it’s hard to be so gosh-darn good-looking all the time. Why not mix it up? :)

 

Bailey is dressing up in a spider costume this year! Ready to scare all the kids in our neighborhood! ;)

spider dog halloween

 

 

In preparation for Howl-o-ween, she spun a big web with her spider friends…

dog spider halloween costume

 

…while always on the lookout for a fly to catch. (or a cat.)

dog spider halloween

 

So watch out for this terrifying spider around San Diego this year!

dog dressed as spider

 

And just because it’s hilarious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29jycngxIZQ

 

Happy Howl-o-ween, everyone! :)

 

 

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