• Bailey
  • Tobey
  • Rio
  • Chewie
  • Mini-Sessions
  • Kin & Star
  • Charlie
  • Zara
  • Zoe
  • Toto
  • Jolie, Beau & Bella
  • Buford
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.

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

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

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!!!

 

Photography Mini-Sessions, benefitting the Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego!

April 29th, 2017

I have a special fundraising event to announce today! My “Portraits for Pooches” mini-sessions are back, and they’re perfect for a small taste of the custom pet photography experience. And I’m proud to support the Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego!

 

pet photography mini-sessions

$50 from every photo session is going straight to Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego! 

. . .

Please note, this is a one-day event – but if Saturday fills up, Sunday will be our overflow date!

. . .

A few words from past mini-session attendees:

We had the BEST experience working with Allison. We originally signed up for the mini-sessions for a fundraiser, thinking we might get a good family shot out of it. We ended up having the best time and found quite a few photos that we loved! She was so well prepared with toys and treats to keep our puppy happy, and was extremely helpful and innovative when showing us her completed work. I can’t wait to bring my dog in to do another shoot someday, it was the best experience!” – Allie S.

“She gave us more than photos, she gave us an experience that we’ll always cherish. I highly recommend her; don’t use your cell phone for those special shots, use Allison! I have 1,000’s of photos of my dog on my phone, but Allison’s were like none I could capture. She really is talented!” – Thomas N.

“My sweet puppy is also a wiggle worm so I wasn’t sure how many good photographs we would get. The photo shoot went quickly and Allison made helpful recommendations to get good results. It was a great experience. We loved every photograph and were amazed by the quality. Each photograph makes us smile so it was worth the investment. We highly recommend Allison – she is extremely talented and easy to work with. It felt like working with a friend. The whole experience was wonderful.” – Jackie S.

. . .

Included with the session fee is your favorite photo as a high-resolution digital, ready to be printed & shared to your heart’s content. But each session results in at least TEN frame-worthy portraits to choose from- so what if you end up with TWO favorite images? Or three, or four?

Here’s the info for any additional products you might pick out, which are completely optional but happily available:

pet photo mini-sessions

 

Registration opens on Monday, May 1st!

There are a limited number of time slots available, so call 619.357.6624 now to reserve yours!

. . .

Thanks, and I hope to see you there! Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego relies on volunteer fundraising & support, and mini-sessions like these are a great way to help out the awesome dogs in their care!

Taking Your Dog to Mexico – Our Story

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. ;)

 

Merlin and Gwen, Mixed Breed Dogs with Engaged Parents!

April 11th, 2017

Step 1: Adopt two adorable dogs.

Step 2: Schedule a photo session for aforementioned dogs.

Step 3: Get engaged!

Step 4: Turn your photo session into a pet/engagement photo session!

 

Don’t worry, these aren’t required instructions for anyone – except Merlin & Gwen’s parents, haha! I’m so excited for this new family of four! :)

 

As you can probably imagine, this photo session was slightly different than one of my usual, all-about-the-pets sessions. We included mom & dad in many of the photos, which was a lot of fun! And Merlin & Gwen loved sharing the spotlight – they absolutely adore their parents. These mixed breed dogs have such fun personalities; Merlin is the older brother who will do anything for a treat, and Gwen is the younger (yet bigger) sister whose favorite activity is annoying her brother! Haha! (Isn’t that what younger siblings are for?) They were a lot of fun to work with, and I think they had a great time in front of the camera.

 

We started at their home in Rancho Bernardo, snuggling on the couch and relaxing.

mixed breed dogs at home

 

Merlin is a terrier/border collie mix, and I think there might be some spaniel in his heritage too!

mixed breed terrier dog

 

Gwen is a mini-husky! (Okay, I just made that up, that’s not a real breed. She’s a husky mix, but her parents don’t know what the other breed(s) might be, and she just looks like a slightly-smaller-than-normal husky!)

mixed breed husky dog

 

We ended up with so many adorable family photos… I really agonized over which one to post here! But this image immediately jumped out at me as an early favorite, since it’s a candid, natural moment. And I personally love the calm tone of this photo – especially with how crazy this little family’s life is going to get, as they’re about to plan a wedding! Eeek!

mixed breed dogs with parents

 

 

Angela & Ricky, I’m so happy for you two!! Can’t wait to get together again soon! :)

 

 

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