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What started out as a hobby of taking photos soon became a personal mission: to give 100% of my photo session fees to local charities. In a span of 18 months, I raised over $9,100 for eight local non-profit organizations (check out my video recap of my sessions from 2017). And while I welcome the break from sessions that the winter months provide, I wanted to find a way to jump-start the donations for the non-profits I’m partnering with this year (The Outlet, Wooden It Be Lovely, and Refuge Ranch) instead of waiting for warmer temps and leaves on the trees.

 

As I was scrolling through Instagram one day, I came across some cute artwork someone had done on a tea bag. It got me thinking that something like that would be a fun, artistic way to embellish a gift, use as a bookmark or give as an encouragement to a friend, co-worker or tea lover. So, I drank up some tea, set the tea bags out to dry, emptied the leaves, dyed them and dried them again then decorated it.  So, this fun mini canvas suddenly became a way for me to be creative and make money for these organizations! I began asking my friends to save their tea bags, then I posted photos on Facebook and I started getting orders. At $10 per card of 2 tea bags, I’ve been able to raise $480 in a month’s time!

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I’ve given them to the organizations to sell at their fundraisers, too. Who would’ve thought that a used tea bag that 100% of the time ends up in the trash could be repurposed as something incredibly beautiful to bring hope to those in the community! Would you like to contribute to my mission by purchasing some tea bags for a friend or yourself? Email me here.

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Pet Photography

March 7, 2018

Can we talk pet photography for a moment? You cannot swipe longer than a couple minutes on social media before coming across a cute photo or inspiring video of an animal. Why are animals such a draw and a tug at human emotion? Maybe it takes us to our happy place to know all our faith in humanity is restored when someone takes the time and has the heart to rescue an animal. Maybe all the furry cuteness is enough to turn our day around after dealing with the demands of the work day. Let’s face it…animals, namely our pets, have a way of making our day better. Their forgiveness and unconditional love they give us often can’t be matched by even those closest to us.

In 2017, I partnered with Helping Paw Project in Springfield, Illinois, as one of three non-profit organizations to receive 100% of my session fees. This wonderful organization, ran by one individual (Carol Rodgers) with a big heart, helps place middle-age to senior dogs in loving homes and there are funds available to help with heath care costs for those who need assistance paying for veterinary expenses. Every time a family or individual picked Helping Paw to donate their session to, I posted a handful of my favorite photos on Facebook and tagged Helping Paw. Out of all my non-dog photo sessions combined, more people liked, commented and shared the Helping Paw session photos featuring dogs. Seriously. Even the MOST adorable photo of a child where the lighting is golden-hour PERFECT is no match for a dog photo. And, you tack on a touching rescue story and hearts collectively melt over these four-legged wonders.

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So, now that we’ve established the undoubted popularity of animals and what they mean to their owners, why not find your niche in the market for pet photography? We know the need…the desire for people to have their pets captured because of the value they add to their life. So, if you’re willing to get to their level and interact with them or capture some tender moments with their owners, then you’re ready to learn how to perfectly capture the emotional bond between owners and their pet. Here are some essentials for your session:

Be willing to go to their stomping grounds.
My first choice is to take photos of pets and their owner at their home…their yard that’s familiar territory. If it absolutely won’t work or there are no spots for shade, then I’ll opt for a park they may frequent. But parks often become a place of distraction for the dog, whether it’s a squirrel to chase, people who want to pet them, other dogs to sniff, or they want to investigate and mark their territory. When you have an hour to capture them, familiar territory usually works best and makes for a smoother session. Plus, they can be off-leash at home (which means no Photoshop work editing out the leash!).

Put the camera away to let the pet warm up to you.
First impressions are so important here. You want to win over the pet, yes. But actually, you really want to win over the owner by showing them how gentle and patient you are with their beloved pet. Ask them questions about their pet. They’ll appreciate the interest you’re taking in learning about this member of their family.

They want to know you’re comfortable around Fido and willing to get pet hair, pet slobber and possible paw marks on your jeans and love him just the same. Bringing treats for the introduction and to use throughout the session is a great way to keep the pets okay with you being there. Score extra points by making homemade treats! Of course, ask permission to feed them your goodies.

Go for some individual shots.
The key here is to get the dog familiar with you following him around with your camera. You might not get a ton of great shots at the beginning, but the point is to get the pet used to you in his yard. Let this also be a time where the excitement of you being there is wearing off some, so he’s calming down a bit and perhaps slowing down enough for you to capture him sitting still or walking slowly.

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Have the owner interact with him.
Ask the owner to talk to, play with or love on their pet. Then capture away. I always say “pretend I’m not here” and that helps ease the awkwardness of whether or not they need to be looking at the camera. This is a good time to be patient. If you’re finding that the dog isn’t cooperating or positioning themselves well for the perfect shot that’s in your mind, then be okay with not getting that shot that’s been ingrained in your mind. There may be a better shot that you’ll get instead. The majority of my dog sessions were of senior dogs. One dog was 17 when I captured him and his owner. Another dog was struggling with health issues and another dog had a couple months to live when her owner contacted me. So for those sessions, I knew I wanted to get some sweet tender moments. Those dogs were pretty frail and were not very active, so it was easier to capture those still moments. I just asked the owner to sit and hold (or embrace) their pet and then I went in for a tight shot, setting my camera on continuous shoot.

Ask if they want any special shots of their pet.
I will typically cringe when someone brings me a list of shots they’ve seen on Pinterest that they want me to capture exactly. Confession: I’ve never had anyone have a long list like that. But, if they did, I’d feel so confined to mimic someone else’s idea instead of adding my own creative perspective. I’m not into elaborate outfits or props for pets, so the simpler the better for me. But I know some owners love that, so I try to accommodate a little of that without compromising my own creativity. My goal as a photographer is to bring out the personality and the love and emotional bond between the pets and their owner because those are what will be remembered.

I hope this helps you as you learn more about photographing pets. I’d love to hear your tips for working with pets. To learn more about my photography, click here.

 

Foil Art

August 26, 2015

With just a few simple items, you can create beautiful pieces of art! I used black foam board (not the super cheap stuff), Aleen’s Original Tacky Glue (8oz gold bottle), aluminum foil, spray adhesive and liquid shoe polish (with the foam applicator) to create these and they turned out great!

I cut out and traced letters onto a board with pencil and used the Tacky Glue to outline it. Notice, I tested filling in the letters, but that took way too much time and drying time, and it really didn’t end up making a difference at all! This glue works much better than Elmer’s glue. It keeps its form and doesn’t spread or run like Elmer’s.

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Once the glued outlined letters were dry, I took the board outside and covered it well with spray adhesive. Then I immediately placed a large sheet of aluminum foil over the board (doesn’t matter if you use dull or shiny side) and began to smooth it out, being careful not to tear the foil. I took a pencil eraser and defined the inside and outside edges of the lettering then added some doodles with a dull pencil.

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Then I put shoe polish over the entire board and let it dry for about 10-15 minutes. I took a slightly damp cloth and began to lightly rub off some of the shoe polish inside of the lettering and circle doodles. Rub off as little or as much as you want.

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I added some bling by gluing sequins on the corners. Then gave it a quick light coat of sealer spray, and that’s it! Simple as that!

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