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.

My Pet Photography Journey in 2013: Looking Back

I know, I know, another “reflections on 2013” post. I bet you’ve heard friends, family members & businesses you keep up with say things like “thank you for your support” and “I’m so grateful for everything in 2013” and “I’m SO ready for 2014” until you can hardly handle all the gratitude, haha. I’m in the same boat… so I have a very different “year in review” post for you today – but it’s not because I don’t agree with those statements in quotes. I do, I really do – but I’d prefer to explain why to you in a real, honest story rather than a pithy, abstract promise. So here we go.


pet photography 2013


In May of 2013, Mr. Shamrell & I packed up our house in Pace, Florida. In June we jumped in the car & drove 1,643 miles on the I-10 W freeway, and then another 354 on the I-8. We arrived in San Diego. And there, completely isolated from my past clients, partnership businesses, and literally everything I knew about pet photography, I was expected to start over and re-build a successful business.

Okay – the pity party’s over.


pet photography reflections


Re-establishing Allison Shamrell Photography (and my personal self-confidence) has been tough in ways I didn’t expect, but I’ve become a better business owner with smarter business policies because of it. I’m happy in San Diego – so are Bailey & Mr. Shamrell – and business-wise, moving has turned out to be an obstacle but definitely not a roadblock. I’ve done what I can to keep my reputation strong, even though I started here without one, really. And since June, pretty much everything has been going great… until (and I hate to get dramatic here, but really) every photographer’s worst nightmare happened to me.

After a lovely session in Ocean Beach in mid-December, with a super-nice client and beautiful dogs, I experienced memory card failure. All of a sudden, a card which had worked perfectly for the entire session – indeed, for the entire year – could not be accessed. To say “my heart sunk” or “my stomach dropped” or any other organ-descending metaphor would be a vast understatement… I was terror-stricken. In fact, I immediately started crying. And after taking it to a local data recovery specialist company, who worked on the card for 48 hours straight and answered my 8th “just checking in” call in 2 days to say they couldn’t recover the photos either, I cried again. And I made the phone call that photographers have nightmares – literally, nightmares – about making, through my tears, explaining to my client’s unsympathetic voicemail box that the photos of her & her dogs were gone. And while it wasn’t an emergency session, or a session for which people traveled from across the country specifically to be there for, or a session for which we didn’t know if the dog would be able to hold on to life long enough for a second chance… it was still full of happy memories. Happy memories that had evaporated into technological no-man’s land, never to be gotten back. And my tears flowed.


pet photography reflections


I’m telling you this story not because I want you to think I’m an emotional basket-case, haha. (Normally, I’m actually very even-keeled, and it’s hard to get me worked up emotionally over most things.) Technological failure is inevitable, on any/every device, including digital memory cards. Any photographer who says your photos are 100% safe is lying to you. (sorry to break it to you.) All the odds were on my side, I was using the best brand (and highest quality) memory card in the industry, and it had never happened to me before – indeed, it happens to most pros only once (if ever) in their careers. In fact, there was literally nothing I could have done to prevent or foresee what happened. The card recovery specialist agreed. So why take you through this sob story?

It’s because that’s truly what it was – a sob story. I had a good hard cry when I realized what had happened. But it wasn’t until afterwards that I realized why I was crying; it’s because I knew the gravity of what losing those photos meant. To compare, I could rewind the clock back 3 years, back to the beginning of my business, and pretend this might have happened back then instead. And I can tell you exactly how I would have felt: upset, sure, and inconvenienced. Peeved. I wouldn’t have been too terribly concerned about my reputation – God knows I didn’t hardly have one to protect way back then! So it would have been upsetting. But in the time that passed between December 2010 & December 2013, I’ve met dogs that are truly their owners’ best friends. Dogs that have passed away shortly after our session together. Dogs that fight cancer & miraculously go into remission. Dogs who help their owners through disease, divorce, and terrible times, all with a wagging tail. I’ve been told that my work is the best memory some clients have of their pets; that it lessens their grief & that it was the best money they’d ever spent. I’ve created fun, even hilarious memories, and images that represent lifelong friendships. I’ve given my clients photos that could literally never be re-created, and for which they tell me they’ll always, always be thankful. So that’s why, a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t “peeved”. I was heartbroken. Devastated. Literally inconsolable. Because I know what my job truly means.


pet photography reflections


Turns out, this story has a happy ending. My client (my incredible, generous, forgiving, grace-filled client) understood that technical difficulties can happen, and we were able to schedule a re-shoot for just a couple of days later. She loved the new photos, and we even got her Christmas cards out in time. I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: I have the best. clients. ever.  Perhaps that’s a kind of result of being in business for three years; I have the kind of clients that transcend the “business” relationship we begin from & more often than not they turn out to be friends, because we simply get along so well. When I work with people who love their dogs as much as I care about my Bailey, people that treasure moments & memories & feelings they never want to forget, people that share my values, it’s no surprise – because it’s easy to get along. And I’ve had the privilege to work with these people more in 2013 more than ever before. They make my day with little gestures (things like extra notes of thanks, and posting my photos on social media) and also with big gestures, like saying the statements in the previous paragraph. I hope those statements don’t seem braggy on my end, by the way; I copied them here because they’re actual statements that actual people have told me, and I wouldn’t have posted them unless I knew they were true. If anything, it’s the knowledge of their truth that fuels me every day, to be honest with you, because as fun as it is when someone makes my photo their profile picture on Facebook, it’s infinitely more meaningful when I’m told how valuable sessions have become to my clients years later. It’s rewarding as a photographer, because I know my work has a place in history (even if it’s just one family’s history). And more importantly, it’s rewarding as a person, because I know the happiness & warmth my clients & friends feel when they look back. So yes, I’m convinced I have the best clients I could ever ask for – including my one-and-only re-shoot client, bless her heart – and I’m incredibly proud to have a career that adds value to their lives considering all the value they add to mine.

So I suppose this is the moral of the story: I’m sharing this with you (even though it’s painfully honest & a bit embarrassing) because once the horror of the loss subsided, it made me realize how much I’ve grown as a business owner & service provider. If anything, it even gives me a little bit of extra confidence going into the new year, because this incident – shall we call it The Memory Card Fiasco of 2013? – proved beyond a shadow of a doubt the importance & significance of what I do, and how seriously I take that responsibility. I don’t just take pictures of dogs. I’m a memory-keeper; a creator & commemorator of beautiful moments in relationships. Really, what could be more meaningful?


pet photography reflections


So now, moving forward after having survived December (and the rest of the 3+ years I’ve been in business), I urge you to adopt a new New Year’s Resolution that you may not have thought of before. Get photos taken of you & your loved ones. Not iPhone snapshots, not pictures with a pocket camera wherein you’re missing from every photo, and certainly not selfies. I’m urging you to hire a professional you trust. Maybe you have a dog but I’m not the photographer for you – that’s okay! Maybe you have dogs and I am the photographer for you – great! Maybe you read this blog but don’t have pets, but you do have a husband, a friend, a partner, a child, or someone else that means the world to you. Go, look up the specialist photographers in your area (it’s way fun to do, trust me) and book a session for sometime this year. I don’t care if you have 15 more pounds to lose; if your photographer is worth his/her salt you’ll love the photos he/she takes of you anyway. I don’t care if you’re busy; schedule it for August. I don’t care if you’ve never been professionally photographed; find a photographer you can really relate to and treat it as an experience with a friend. I don’t care if you can’t make a big investment in your photos; prioritize & budget for just a few prints, or find a photographer who’s still building their portfolio. Just get out there & get in front of someone’s camera with the one(s) you love. Because – I promise you – you’ll value those photos so much more as time passes, so much more than you envision yourself valuing them right now, and one day you’ll look back & realize the happy moments in them can’t be re-created. And you’ll be deeply, deeply grateful to yourself for booking that session.


So here’s to 2014. I’m raising a glass to continuing to work with the best people & dogs out there, and continuing to grow as a business owner & person. Thanks for joining me along the way.


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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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