• ... home of Ontario's premier pet photographer. This is where the photos of scruffy dog photography meet the heart and soul behind all of those fun and wacky photo shoots and the long hours in the digital darkroom ... a behind-the scenes peek into the zany life of a pet-exclusive photographer and her two ... now THREE trusty sidekicks. For more details on illona and the mcscruffies and the newest mcruffles cat, check out the "about" section.

    What you will find here is the past several years of blog entries -- selected client shoots, sneak peeks, facebook recaps, news and announcements, promos and specials, as well as info on canine health and general dog chat. (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)

    So, grab a cup of jo, give your scruffnut a beef tendon to gnaw on, and enjoy the photos and ramblin's.

the scruffy dog digital darkroom ~ {photo editing in Lightroom & Photoshop}

if you’re a follower of scruffy dog on Facebook, you will have already seen the before-and-afters i post there … offering a glimpse into the scruffy dog digital darkroom.   i do the bulk of my editing in Lightroom, and then any final touches in Photoshop.  if you are a professional photographer looking for more information or for some unparalleled one-on-one mentoring, do check out the for photographers tab in the menu above!

first up we have little Giselle who came all the way from Oklahoma with her sisters for her scruffy session.  shot in the last two minutes of light, with a dazzling sunset-sky behind her, it was all about exposing properly so as not to lose any of the sky.  of course, the fact that this wee pup is white certainly helps when exposing for the entire scene with snow and gorgeous sky … but in order to truly make the image glow, a certain level of editing is required.  you can see the finished image a little larger in the blog entry of Giselle and her sister.

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in the case of Indy and Debbie, i wanted to see this image glow in the same way i saw it when shooting.

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in some cases, the amount of editing is more basic, as you can see from the sliders on the right of Jethro’s image.  the line was removed in Photoshop but, as much as i can, i strive to keep the workflow in Lightroom … so in this case, i used the “Edit In” function, taking the file out as a tif, doing my more fine-tuned work on it, all the while keeping it in the LR workflow.

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like her sister Giselle, above, Mila’s image required some extra work in order to bring out that gorgeous sky … and this gorgeous girl!

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Poppy’s shot down by the beach wasn’t a major effort, but bringing out the beautiful sunset glow was necessary, and adding a few touches with a brush helps when it comes to the golden highlights touching the edges of the legs, as well as the beautiful glow that shines through the skin over the Achilles tendon.

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… but Woody’s headshot benefited from some external editing.  while Woody certainly looks splendid, the sky was a little boring.  because i was shooting both Woody and his canine brother Boston in the afternoon, Woody’s portion was a little earlier, when the sun was higher and harsher … so in this case the editing was two-tier:

(1) basic editing in LR … and then

(2) taking it out as a tif to CS where i swapped out the sky with an image i actually shot on the way home from Woody’s session … with the finished seen below.

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sometimes editing in LR is required because you simply missed the proper exposure in-camera … something that happens a lot more with outdoor pet photography than probably many other types of photography, since our subjects are always on the go, moving from one setting and one type of light to another within seconds.  this is why, in some situations i shoot Aperture priority, but even then, there will be some misses … like Chewy unexpectedly coming over the ridge of sand during his beach session.  this was the first sequence in his session, and i was not ready for him, but i loved how he flew over the ridge, so i grabbed it.   and — if using professional gear — the ability to recover details in situations like this is much greater.

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the next few images demonstrate the very standard LR work that i give to each image …
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and with this image i am able to show you the kind of recovery that is possible with Nikon.  as per the scruffy gear page, i currently shoot both Nikon (D4S and D3S) and Canon (1DX) … and i can vouch for all of the reviews that place Nikon as the leader in Dynamic Range.  while the 1DX is pretty amazing, Nikon pro bodies still beat it out when it comes to recovery.  in the bottom left crop you can see how much of the sky appeared burned out even after LR does its automatic and basic recovery … yet i was able to recover even more through editing.

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with Muffin’s jumping photo, after basic editing, i needed to remove Eric’s arm and shadow … and i also accentuated that adorable wrap-around tail of Muffin’s.

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with Henry’s photo, it was more than just basic editing and recovering some detail from the shadowed side of his face/body … i also needed to straighten it, and artfully remove the houses behind Henry.

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i hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into the behind-the-scenes here at scruffy dog headquarters and what goes into our clients’ images.  if you’d like to see more, consider following scruffy dog on Facebook where you can always keep up with the latest!


Charlotte Reeves - Love your work Illona! Lightroom rocks!

Belinda Dorman - We edit very similarly Illona, sometimes I think I can get rid of PS altogether then a tricky leash removal or swap/replacement comes along 😀

Kathie Ono - Illona: THANK YOU for having these type of posts. I know I’m wrong when I think this, but I usually think that you “old timers” at pet photography always take the perfect photo at the first crack. My head says that’s wrong, but seeing this and the fact that you go thru the same thing as I do – recovering this, cropping that, editing in PS – comforts me. I’m definitely better than last year, but I’m going to be better next year. Can’t wait to visit with you in July to help in getting better.

connor - love you and your work. if ever possible to attend a session, please say the word. my niece is in Toronto working on the Pan Am Games. would be great to visit you both.

Ruth - Gosh, the last one is really impressive. You’re the editing queen!

Steve - If you ever produce an online course, a video, or a “How to” book, I’ll be first in line to buy it.
Love your work. Unfortunately, I’m not a pro and as such don’t qualify for your coveted one on one sessions.
Anyway, I’m a big fan of yours!!

Fenne - very cool of you to share these, it’s great to see those transformations. Nice work!

Grace & Zoe ~ {Toronto professional dog photographer}

meet Zoe, the Bernese Mountain Dog …

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… and sister Grace, a possible husky-shepherd mix adopted from Toronto Animal Services.  i met these two on a crisp winter afternoon, with their amazing guardians, Jennifer and Ryan, and Jennifer’s father as recipients of my annual Holiday Tribute Session giveaway.

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sadly, Zoe is no longer with Jenn and Ryan.  ten months after their session, Ryan and Jenn had to say goodbye to their sweet girl after the degenerative myelopathy she struggled with became too unbearable.  
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i was so grateful to have captured at least a few photos of this gorgeous and very stoic girl enjoying the snow and kicking up her heels.

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both of these seniors had a good spring in their step, and clearly weren’t bothered by the colder weather.

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we had some fun in the open fields by scruffy dog studio …

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… and then headed to the woods.

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thank you, Jenn and Ryan, for sharing your girls with me and trusting me to capture their spirit.  i remember our afternoon often and think of you and Grace, and know that Zoe’s spirit must be with you. always.

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Chelsea Tyrer - She looks like she has Akita in her!

Makeda ~ {Waterloo pet exclusive photographer}

how’s this for a face?  this is Makeda, a lovely 11-year-old ridgeback i had the pleasure of photographing for her Fine Focus session last winter.

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she loved the snowy trails, and didn’t let her age slow her down one bit.

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it was a foggy winter day when Makeda’s session came up, and her guardian, Tyson, wasn’t certain about the weather … but i had a feeling — based on Makeda’s color, combined with the beautiful dried beech leaves in the forest — that we could pull some interesting colors and tones out of the afternoon.

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just how stunning is this girl?

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thank you, Tyson, for sharing your majestic girl with me, and entrusting me to capture her image for you.  it was such a pleasure to meet her and create lasting artwork for you!

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