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.

How to Prepare for a Pet Photography Session

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!


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Allison Shamrell Pet Photography
Call: 619.357.6624 // Email: // Visit: 3251 Adams Avenue, Suite C, San Diego, CA 92116
San Diego's Best Pet Photographer, voted by the San Diego A-List 2014-2016
© Allison Shamrell Photography, 2016

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