Last year, I had the amazing opportunity to meet and photograph Chaser, an amazing Border Collie who resides in Spartanburg SC. The publishers at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt found me online and contacted me, asking if I would be interested in shooting the cover for their upcoming book about Chaser. To be honest, when I got that phone call, I was pretty speechless. Me? Shoot a book cover? Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d have the opportunity to do that! Of course, I was thrilled + honored to be asked and, after some research into commercial photography + how to handle all of that, we had a deal.
In January 2013, Brian + I made the trip upstate to meet Chaser + her entourage. She is better known as the world’s smartest dog – she knows over one thousand words! She was more than happy to show off her skills and she was such an awesome, well-behaved, and oh-so-photogenic model. It was such a cool experience and one I’ll never forget. Here are some of my favorites from our shoot…
The image on the right is the one they chose for the book cover. As soon as I took this shot, I knew we had a winner. Want to know our secret? To get her to look into the camera, Brian was crouched right above me, tossing her blue rubber ball up in the air as I was kneeling on the floor taking the photo. Boom! Secrets of a pet photographer.
I love love love this shot of John + Chaser together. They are such constant companions and their bond is so special. It was very touching to see them together throughout the day. You can tell there is a great mutual love between them.
My last session of 2013 was probably one of my faves. I got to spent the afternoon with not one, not two, not three… but FOUR pups! Luckily, their fabulous grandma was on hand to help us wrangle the pups as we wandered the streets of downtown Charleston – and despite pre-session nervousness + concern expressed from their mom, all four pups did a FABULOUS job with the session!
Hagrid and Myrtle, the adorable Chinese Cresteds, are both named after Harry Potter characters. Felix and Greta are both German names, since they are German Shepherds. The two shepherds train for Schutzhund, a dog sport, so they were super obedient and oh-so-regal. There’s just something about a German Shepherd… they truly are the most regal of dogs! Hagrid + Myrtle obviously serve as the comic relief for the family. They were both so much fun with such goofy personalities. I love when a pack of dogs like this really bonds together. It was magical to see.
So without further ado, here are some of my favorites from their session…
First off is Greta, a beautiful 4 year old black German Shepherd. She was so sweet and those eyes… totally mesmerized me!
Next up is hunky Felix, the baby of the bunch! He’s a 3 year old black and tan German Shepherd and OH SO HANDSOME!!
Then there is Hagrid, the gentleman of the pack. He’s a 10 year old Chinese Crested and I just ADORE him! The tufts of hair on his feet… I die!
Last but not least, there’s Myrtle – she is a 9 year old Chinese Crested and probably the most rambunctious of the pack. Love her and her crazy hair!
I just love this next series of photos of Felix. His facial expressions are amazing!
Myrtle – are you sticking your tongue out at me?!
I am smitten with the photo of Hagrid on the right. I love how the wind is blowing through his hair!
Maggie, Jack, and Tallulah were so much FUN to photograph. Talk about truly photogenic pups It’s so funny because every client tells me “my dogs aren’t very photogenic” but at the end of the day, I always manage to get some amazing expressions from them. Just call me the freakin’ dog whisperer haha!! I loved working with Maggie, Jack + Tallulah and the session itself was bittersweet because the whole family will be relocating from Charleston to the West Coast in the very near future. I knew capturing them in downtown Charleston was important – so that they could always remember their time here.
So here are some of my favorites from their session in downtown Charleston…
First off is Tallulah, a 3 year old black lab who is described as “feisty and a little bit crazy, but a Southern Belle” by her mama. She definitely lives up to that description!
And then there is her brother, Jack, a 5 year old yellow lab… a shy, but devilishly handsome dude… just look at that bowtie!
And last but not least, there’s Maggie – an 11 year old lab mix who wasn’t a huge fan of the camera. However, she was a complete rockstar and I just couldn’t help but cuddle with her. I mean, look at those eyes!
Recently, I’ve had several people email me and ask about my post-processing workflow so I figured it is time for a post! Let me preface this by saying this is what works for me and it may not be the “best” way… I’m not claiming that it is. This is just how I’ve set up my system for efficient post-processing in my eyes.
My main computer is a 27″ iMac with an internal 1 TB hard drive (a). The only files I’ve ever kept on my internal hard drive are working files, logo/branding files + any non-image business related files. I don’t know why, but even when I started my business on a Dell laptop, I just always tried to keep as many files as possible on an external hard drive in an effort to keep my hard drive relatively clear + maximize my computer’s speed. Not sure if this logic is sound, but hey… it works for me! All of my RAW files + edited photos are kept on mirrored RAID external hard drives (b) and they always have been. This set up works great for me. I personally prefer LaCie and Buffalo external hard drives. I’ve never had any issues with those brands and they are easy to use. I did have a WD hard drive fail early in my pet photography career and it wasn’t pretty, so I’ve just never gone back to them. That’s a personal thing. I have a Satechi 12-port USB hub (c) that I use to keep all of my external hard drives connected to my iMac and it’s fabulous.
Protecting my clients’ images is super important to me, so I’m careful even at the shoot. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III and use the dual card slots to save the RAW files on both a CF and SD card. Therefore, I have an automatic backup in the event that one of those cards fails – it’s great peace of mind. When I get home from the session, I transfer the RAW files from the CF card to my iMac desktop using my Lexar card reader (d) via a program called Photo Mechanic. Photo Mechanic ingests my files quickly and allows me to start culling immediately, which is especially useful for my wedding photography. You don’t have to wait for the previews to render like you do in Lightroom, so for me, it’s a great program. I’m really impatient I create a new folder on my desktop labeled “YYYY-MM-DD Pet Name” and download all of the RAW files into a sub-folder labeled “RAW Files”. As Photo Mechanic ingests the images, I am able to quickly cull the session. I pick the keepers and copy those RAW files directly into the master folder. I do this so that later, I can delete the “Raw Files” sub-folder and just have the keepers in my main folder.
This is a screenshot of one of my current external hard drives. At one point, each of these folders was on my desktop while I was working on editing the images. Once I was done editing them, they moved onto my external hard drive for safe keeping + future retrieval.
Then, I open Lightroom and upload the keeper files from the main folder. This way, I’m only editing good photos and not clogging up my Lightroom catalog with a ton of RAW files. I do 90% of my editing in Lightroom, then export as JPEG into a sub-folder labeled “JPEG Edits” and open the files in Photoshop to do my fine-detail retouching. After I’m done in Photoshop, I save-as all of the photos and I’m ready to upload the images to my clients’ online gallery + deliver their images to them.
In the meantime, I use an online backup system called Backblaze that is set up to automatically backup my desktop + external hard drives daily. Therefore, I know my working files are being backed up online while I’m working on them. I also don’t format or shoot on my original CF card until all of the images have been edited and backed up. Just in case.
After the files are all edited, I copy the working file folder onto my external hard drive, which is set up as a mirrored RAID drive. Once I know it has successfully copied to the external hard drive, I delete it from my desktop. It is now backed up on my external RAID hard drive + via Backblaze. If the client purchased their digital files, they also have a copy. Once my client has seen their online gallery and placed their order, I then go back into the master folder and delete the bulky “RAW Files” sub-folder. It frees up room on the external hard drive – I only save the “keeper” RAW files.
This is a screen shot of one of my pet photography folders. The “keeper” RAW images are inside the main folder, whereas all of the RAW files from the session are in the “RAW Files” sub-folder. Once this client’s products are delivered, I will delete the “RAW Files” sub-folder to clear up room on my hard drive.
So that is what my post-processing workflow looks like! Hope it helps someone down the road and if you have any questions, please let me know!
I am a proud member of HeARTs Speak, a wonderful organization of artists dedicated to giving a voice to rescue and shelter animals through art. To find out more about HeARTs Speak, please check out their website!