Tag Archives: pet portraits

You’re Not A Bad Person Because Your Dog Won’t Sit!

It happens nearly every time I do pet photos.  Human and canine enter the room and within a few seconds human will say “I don’t know how you’re going to do this because [insert dog name here] isn’t very well behaved.”  The statement is laden with shame and embarrassment, and is a tactical move – as if acknowledging it up front will somehow soften the harsh judgement that is certainly forthcoming from the photographer.  Here’s what I want you to know: You’re not a bad person because your dog won’t sit!  And I’m still going to make a great photograph!

Connecticut pet photographerIf it offers any comfort, you should know that MOST dogs behave the way yours does.  Consider their perspective: they are coming into a new environment that is filled with all sorts of delicious dog smells.  They are meeting people they’ve never met before.  And they are surrounded by scary electronic equipment that makes noises and flashes.  I wouldn’t sit either!  It is completely natural for dogs to want to run around and explore and sniff and evaluate.  So we allow time for that.  We know that after a little while this will allow the pup to focus on modeling.  For some dogs it takes just a few minutes, and for others it can take longer.  I’ll wait.  I’ll use some of my time-tested tricks and noises and treats and whatever it takes to help [insert dog name here] look his or her best.  And no matter how long it takes I won’t judge you!

Want to walk into your session with more confidence?   Here are a few tips to help you prepare for great pet photos:

~Do some training with [insert dog name here] before the photo session.  If [insert dog name here] wasn’t at the top of his/her obedience class, practice sit and stay a couple of times each day for a few days before the pictures.  Use treats or toys or both as rewards.  I am continually amazed at how quickly dogs can learn, and just a few training sessions will make a world of difference in front of the camera.
~Take [insert dog name here] for a walk before the photo session.  If he/she has had some exercise [insert dog name here] will be happier and more relaxed.  A walk for them is like a massage or a drink for us – it takes the edge off.  If your dog has expended some energy on a walk he/she will have less to spend on reacting to all the stimuli that the photo area can present.  Practice the sit and stay commands while you walk and you’ll really be helping!
~“OMG, there’s something attacking my head!!!”  If you want [insert dog name here] to wear a costume or clothes or a hat, let him/her wear it before the shoot.  A dog’s instincts tell him/her that something on his/her head is a threat and should be removed as soon as possible.  Help [insert dog name here] understand that this thing on his/her head is not a threat and leaving it there leads to treats.  He/she will be sporting a chapeau as often as possible!  And the photos will be great!
~Relax!  Know that we’re going to get great photos of your dog and that we’re not going to assess your intelligence, parenting skills, or character based on how [insert dog name here] behaves in the time we spend together.  Come in ready to work with us to help [insert dog name here] be as comfortable as possible, and that will make for some terrific photos.

So really, it’s going to be alright.  Your dog will not be the worst model I’ve ever met.  I promise.  Come…relax…have fun…and help us make great pictures.

For more information about booking a private photo session for your dog visit the Pricing page on my website.

caregiver canines

Caregiver Canines Project Becomes Traveling Exhibit

I learned recently that the collection of portraits I made for Caregiver Canines will be touring the Ocean County Library System in 2014 and 2015.  I’m thrilled!

Caregiver Canines is an amazing organization doing beautiful work.  Based in Toms River, New Jersey, Caregiver Canines matches volunteer therapy dogs and their humans with older adults for regular visits.  Most of the senior citizens, referred to as “receivers”, are living in their own homes but are no longer able to own a pet.  So the Caregiver visits provide the receivers with the opportunity to experience the joy that only a dog can provide.  The relationship is ongoing, with the same dog visiting the receiver every visit.

caregiver caninesBetween August 2013 and May 2014 I had the privilege of creating portraits of the receivers and their Caregiver Canines dog.  I visited the homes of the receivers, set up my portable studio, and tried to make an image that would portray the connection between the canine and the human.  When I began I expected that I would see a bond between the two, but I could not have anticipated how meaningful the relationships are to the receivers.  Often when I was setting up the dog would arrive at the home and all conversation with the senior would stop so they could devote their time and attention to their canine friend.  As I would get to know the receiver they would often tell me stories about pets they had in their younger years, and I could see how happy those memories were for them.  It was clear that the Caregiver Canines visits were one of the highlights of each week for the older adults.

The portrait project was completed in May, and on May 14 we had an exhibit at The Regency Memory Care Club in Toms River.  We printed and framed large prints and invited our human and furry “models” to come and see their pictures.  Supporters of Caregiver Canines attended, as did several local politicians and community partners.  I was gratified to hear all of the kind comments about the work, and especially when people would tell me that they could see the emotion in the photographs.  It was a beautiful evening.  The event was covered in a front page article in The Brick Times.

And now the exhibit lives on at six branches of the Ocean County Library.

Caregiver Canines 2014 – 2015 Photo Exhibit Schedule

October 2014: Lakewood Branch
November 2014: Jackson Branch
January, 2015: Lacey Branch
March 2015: Point Beach Branch
September 2015: Upper Shores (Lavallette) Branch
November 2015: Manchester Branch

Several of the branches will be hosting an opening reception when the exhibit arrives there, and I hope you will join us there (I’ll post dates and times on Facebook.)

For more information about Caregiver Canines, including how you can get your dog certified as a therapy dog and volunteer to do this great work, visit www.caregivercanines.org or call 732-505-2273.  Many thanks to Lynette Whiteman and Danielle Maley for making the project happen, and to all of the volunteers for participating in the project.  You bring joy and happiness into the homes of your receivers every time you walk in the door.

(Click on a thumbnail image below to enlarge the gallery.)

Twin Rivers Animal Hospital Commercial Shoot

Twin Rivers Animal Hospital

Doctor Shapley

In May I was hired by Twin Rivers Animal Hospital in East Windsor, New Jersey to photograph their veterinarians and staff.  The hospital had a number of new faces on their team, and they wanted to use the images we shot to re-introduce themselves into the community.

I worked with the hospital manager to set up the session, and one of the messages she indicated was important to portray through the photos was that the staff loved animals.  Seems obvious, right?  But as I look at many animal hospital websites they do a good job of showing how professional their people are, often at the cost of causing them to appear to be distant and aloof.  Twin Rivers wanted the images to show both the skilled medical professional AND the person who loves animals.  That made the shoot more fun for me, as each of the docs, techs and staff brought (or borrowed!) a dog or cat to be in their photo with them.  There was a Golden Retriever, a Bulldog, and even Bogey, the Sharpei.

The images are placed throughout the Twin Rivers website, and they are used in their printed materials and posted throughout the hospital.  Patients and their humans can get to know the team a little better when they see a smiling face next to an impressive resume.  The team at Twin Rivers were happy with the results.  And if they’re happy, I’m happy!

Pet Photos Inspired by Pinterest – The Whipped Cream Series

Like any other genre of photography, making pet photos can become routine.  Set up the lights.  Position the model.  Work to get the expression you want.  Hit the shutter release.  Oooh and aaah.  And done.  There’s nothing wrong with this formula, but I often have an itch to do something different and creative that stretches my brain a bit.

Recently I have discovered Pinterest.  While I was aware of the social medial site since its appearance on the scene, my impression was that it was only populated with recipes and home decor and wedding dresses.  I didn’t see a place for me on the site.  I have since learned that there is much more to it than that, and I have found a treasure trove of beautiful photographs.  For obvious reasons I have been drawn to great animal imagery, and most of my “Boards” reflect that interest.

Yesterday I was meandering around Pinterest and found some pet photos that included dogs and water.  They sparked an idea.  PJ loves to drink water from a bottle.  If I pour it into his bowl he will drink the stream of liquid as it falls before he puts his tongue in the bowl.  My idea was that I would use a water bottle to squirt water toward PJ, and I would light it to make the water stand out against a black backdrop.  I did the set up, took a few test shots, and when I was happy with the way things looked I summoned Himself.  But Himself wanted nothing to do with the water.  In fact, as it floated past his nose he turned his head and walked away.  DRAT!  Foiled again.

But wait!  I know a sure-fire way to keep PJ’s interest – Redi-Whip!  He goes crazy for a squirt of the stuff, and he would work all day for a taste.  So I ran upstairs, grabbed the can, and he followed me like I was the King of the World.  Yes!  This was going to work.

Because it was just the two of us it was a little tricky.  I had my camera on self-timer with a 10 second delay, which meant I would press the shutter release and then lure PJ into place and hope that my timing with the whipped cream and his positioning was what we needed for the shot.  It took a few tries, including several where he leaped out of the frame, but within short order we grabbed some fun shots.  As an added bonus, PJ was more than willing to clean up after the shoot!  How many models do that???

It was a good reminder to keep an eye out for inspirational pet photos and to use them to try new things.

Pet photos

Michael Bagley Photography Is HeARTs Speak’s Featured Artist

This week HeARTs Speak, the nonprofit I volunteer with that supports artists, animal welfare organizations, and communities using art to help homeless animals, chose to make Michael Bagley Photography their Featured Artist.  I’m excited!  You can check out the feature on the HeARTs Speak website by clicking here.

Michael Bagley Photography

She Said “Yes”!

I’ve been waiting a month to tell this story.

I’ll start with a confession: I’m a romantic.  It’s not like I am glued to the Hallmark Channel or have “P.S. I Love You” on DVD or anything like that.  But I’ve been known to tear up at a dog-human reunion on YouTube or when I’m speaking about something I am passionate about or, yes, when I hear a love story.  So you can imagine my excitement when my friend Ryan called and told me she was going to propose to her girlfriend Tori.  And you can further imagine how that excitement built when Ryan asked me to play a part in her proposal.  Yes ma’am, let’s do it!

I met Tori in early 2012 when I was looking for a pet sitter for PJ.  I learned about Endless Pawsibilities, the company Tori runs with her co-founder Megan, and was immediately impressed with how they conducted business.  Professional, friendly, organized, detail oriented…everything I could ever hope for in a group that would care for my boy.  They were so good that I knew it would behoove me to connect with them with my photography business somehow.  In the last year we have collaborated on a number of projects and had a great time, and through those collaborations I came to know Ryan.

This was the plan: Ryan would sneak their two dogs out one day and come to my studio for some portraits.  One of the pictures would include the dogs holding a sign that read “Will you marry Mommy?”.  Ryan would wrap the framed collage and give it to Tori as a gift on their 7th anniversary.  Unsuspecting Tori would unwrap the present thinking it was a nice print or something, and *BAM*, a marriage proposal would jump up and bite her!  It was a masterful plan.  But could she pull it off?

Ryan and I got together in early April and we went to work.  She had a few good ideas of how she wanted the shots to look, and I had lots of fun collaborating with her to come up with some fun ideas.  The dogs were great models and made our work easy.  And Ryan did an amazing job managing the dogs and being a terrific model herself.  It was awesome to harness her excitement, and she had a glow about her all morning.  She was amazing.  We sat together while I did the post-production edits and she left ready to make things happen.  (See the gallery below to view the photos Ryan selected.)

She said "Yes"!

She said “Yes”!

And then I had to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  C’mon already!!

Until last night.  April 27th is Ryan and Tori’s anniversary and last night they celebrated.  A little after 9:00 my phone buzzed and there was a text message from Ryan with this photo attached to it.  Underneath the picture it said three words: “She said ‘Yes’!”

I’m so happy for Tori and Ryan and wish them years of joy and wonderful times together.  I hope they will always feel as they do just now: happy to be together and happy to be in love.  I am certain that will be the case.


Why Adopt A Shelter Pet? I’ll Give You Ten Good Reasons!

Adopt a pet

Groucho with Louise and Lou

If you’re reading this is unlikely you need convincing.  You have a dog.  Or a cat.  Or two of each, plus a bird, a ferret, and a goldfish. You feed your birds with a feeder, because you are used to that routine. In case you don’t have feeders in your garden you can go to https://ballachy.com/blogs/reviews/squirrel-proof-bird-feeder and check these out. Indeed, I may be preaching to the choir.  But perhaps you’re on the sidelines.  You’re tempted.  You’re thinking about it.  Or you’ve decided.  Yup, a dog or cat needs to live in your house.  But you’re not totally sure.  It’s a commitment.  It might alter your lifestyle.  You’ve come up with all the excuses and steered clear of your local shelter so you don’t get intoxicated by a pair of sweet eyes and dive in before you’re ready.  “I’ll adopt a shelter pet one day” you tell yourself.

If that sounds familiar, you may just need a little push.  So here’s your push: Adopt a shelter pet!  Why?  It’s good for the animal, for sure.  But it’s also really good for YOU!  And if you don’t want to take my word for it, there’s actual proof and research and stuff that proves it.  Here are ten good reasons to adopt a shelter pet:

  1. You can save a life.  It’s horrifying but true – over 3 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters in the United States each year.  Adopt a shelter pet and it can’t become a victim.
  2. You help reduce the pet population problem.  The reason so many healthy animals are put down every year is because there are more dogs and cats than there are homes for them.  Each animal you bring into your home is one less that is part of that problem.
  3. You won’t support puppy mills.  Hey, I love puppies.  But the way many of those little guys and gals come into the world is via inhumane breeding practices where parent dogs endure disgraceful conditions.  Adopt a shelter pet and you don’t pay an unethical breeder to keep up the abuse.
    Adopt a pet

    Mud and Susan

  4. You teach your children the importance of compassion.  When you adopt a shelter pet you help your children learn about second chances, about caring for those who needsecond chances, and so many other important life lessons.
  5. A pre-owned pet often already has manners.  Most of the dogs and cats in shelters have already lived in a home, and they know the basic etiquette required of them.  A little training or re-training will get them up to speed in no time.
  6. When you adopt a shelter pet you have a friend for life.  I don’t know if it will ever be proven, but I am certain that rescued animals KNOW that they were saved and show their appreciation to their humans in exceptional ways.
  7. You can find your perfect match.  Almost all shelter dogs are at least a few months old, and most are fully-grown, so it’s easy to find a dog that is just the one you have been looking for.  Big, medium or small.  Black, white or brown.  Happy to run or thrilled to sit on the couch.  You decide who is best by your side.  And many shelter staffs will be very helpful with acquainting you with a pet that fits your personality and lifestyle.
  8. A shelter pet is a drug-free treatment for depression.  According to the CDC, people who live with animals are less likely to experience depression than those without one.
  9. It’s good for your heart.  And I don’t mean that in a Hallmark card kind of way.  It has been shown that people who have pets tend to have lower rates of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and live longer.  That makes an adoption fee look like a deal, doesn’t it?
  10. “Not all of us can do great things.  But we can do small things with great love.”  ~Mother Teresa  It’s unlikely you can fix all of the world’s problems, but when you adopt a shelter pet you make your world a better place and you make a difference for a dog or cat.
Adopt a pet


By the way, I write from experience.  In 2009 I adopted PJ, an American Brown Dog saved from a shelter in Virginia.  I have had a bunch of dogs in my life, and they’ve all been great companions.  But there’s something about PJ, his survival story, and the “coincidences” that brought us together that makes my relationship with him extra special.  When he sleeps next to me on the couch I often marvel that his life could have been taken from him for no reason other than a “No Vacancy” sign at the shelter.  Instead he has brought me years of entertainment, laughter, fun and companionship.  I like to think I’ve done the same for him.  Although sometimes I think I bore him.

So if you’re considering adding a pet to your family I hope you’ll adopt a shelter pet.  You’ll be glad you did!

To search for your shelter pet visit www.petfinder.com.  You can enter your criteria (e.g. species, breed, size, age, etc.) and/or search by geography to see what animals are available near you.

Dog Photos on the Beach – Schedule Yours Before It’s Too Late!

Dog photos on the beach are awesome!  Just about every dog I know is happy on the beach.  Big dogs, little dogs, water dogs, undertooth dogs…they all seem to love it.  And when dogs are happy they make terrific photo subjects.  Those of us fortunate enough to live near the beach can avail ourselves of that environment for pictures, but only for a limited time each year.  And that time is running out!  When the calendar turns to May all of LBI and most other towns prohibit dogs on their beaches, and they are not welcomed back until October.

So…if you’ve always wanted a beautiful portrait or exciting action shot of your dog by the dunes, let’s make it happen this month!  Check out the Hire Me page for session details, and then email or call me at 732-889-6769 to set up your appointment.  If you book a beach session in April I will give you a FREE 11×14 print!

Deep Thoughts Help Inspire Animal Adoptions

In June 2012 there was a dog at the local shelter who had been a resident far too long.  Duke was a handsome, sweet, fun, healthy boy, and at only 9 months old should have been scooped up by a family quickly.   But for some reason he wasn’t getting the attention he needed to help him find a home.  I brought Duke to my home and made some studio shots of him to try and help promote him via social media, Petfinder, etc.  Around that time I had an idea: What if Duke was a deep thinker and could reference a philosopher or a poet or a great leader to make his own appeal for a new family.  And thus the Deep Thought Banners were born.  Happily, Duke was adopted shortly after his banner debuted on Facebook.  And there are many more success stories that were helped along by the banners.  I thought you might enjoy seeing them all in one place.   And since they’re working…stay tuned for many more to help inspire more animal adoptions!

GoGo’s Glam Shots

I love dogs.  Each one is unique, if not in appearance then certainly in personality.  My session with GoGo reminded me just how unique some dogs are in appearance!

GoGo is a Chinese Crested mix.  And though I had seen the breed on TV and in dog shows, I had never met one in person.  GoGo is a sweet soul, rescued from Tennessee by her humans Marie and Jimmy.  She visited on a snowy day and was – necessarily – wrapped up in her winter coat.  When she came inside and was able to to take off her jacket it was interesting to feel her lack of coat.  I am so used to petting a dogs fur that at first it felt odd to pet skin.  But GoGo liked it just the same!  She was gentle and sweet and a great model.  Part of her natural style includes a Mohawk hairstyle which we used to our advantage in a few shots.  GoGo brought her own wardrobe, too.  I especially liked the pillbox hat!  Marie was kind enough to sit in front of the camera as well, and they looked terrific together.  Here are a few shots from our session.

To book your session visit my Hire Me page!