• ... 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 trusty sidekicks. For more details on illona and the mcscruffies, 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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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.

doing what you love ~ {Waterloo, Ontario pet-exclusive photographer}

just touching in to the blog with a message … a simple one about passion and drive, and focusing your life on doing what you love.

for those who know me (and even those who don’t but who ‘see’ me via social media) they know that there is absolutely nothing on this planet i love more than dogs … oxygen doesn’t even top dogs.  not even cheesecake or chocolate.  fact: i’d eat dirt the rest of my life if it meant sharing my life with a dog.

so i guess, in that, i chose right.  in fact, when i conceptualized this business almost a decade ago, “dogs or bust” was my motto.  honestly, i swore if i couldn’t make it as ‘animal exclusive’, i’d go back to writing novels … and i’m still willing to do that today before ever turning my cameras away from what i love most in the world.  this is my drive.  this is my passion.  and i hope you are living yours!

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Little Vistas - Thanks for sharing! Very inspirational!

Derk Steenblik - And we, the owners of four leggers that have captured our hearts and our souls are now and will be forever grateful for your passion and your drive. Thank you for your gifts and talents and your willingness to share them with others.

Holly Garner-Jackson - Your passion is your art as well as your life. I can’t imagine you any other way!

Amelia Durham - Gorgeous, well done!

Marylin Scheffer - Dogs or bust…, my kind of person!

Liz Silverstein - Unconditional love…

Margaret Chekouras Duerr - This is inspirational. Thank you!

the difference of a few sliders ~ {pet photography, Lightroom editing tips}

the sometimes overlooked yet very powerful sliders controlling your images’ colors lay nestled under the often collapsed HSL / Color / B&W tab.  although i often have this tab collapsed simply for the sake having other tools more readily available, i often go to my HSL / Color / B&W controls in many instances — a black dog being too blue, skies needing to be boosted a little, just not finding the happy place for that bright green spring grass.

but the Color sliders come in very useful for other more severe functions like changing the entire color of a wall or, in the case i’m about to show you, a settee.  of course, one thing to be aware of is that these sliders do affect the entire image.  there is no ability to mask areas you would prefer to not have affected by your changes using these sliders.  so, for instance, having a vizsla standing in front of an orange wall, and trying to change that orange wall to red will only end up making your vizsla look like he was born on Mars, since the dog’s coat has the same tones of your wall and will, therefore, be equally affected.

in the instance below, i’m safe to play with the color of the turquoise settee — which i quite love, but the clients are wanting to see other options — because there are very few traces of turquoise (aqua) anywhere else in the image (which i will address later).

here is the original image — after initial editing within LR.  even here, you can see that i tweaked the Color sliders just a little … boosting the saturation on the aqua and a little on the blue so that i get a little more punch to this lovely turquoise settee.

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not a fan of turquoise? no problem.  maybe purple is more your style.  here, obviously, we have to take greater liberties with the sliders in order to achieve more drastic changes … and since these are raw files, there is no degradation to the actual file.


but then i re-read my client’s email and realized he’d requested blue and royal blue … i’d read ‘royal’ and simply thought purple.  no problem.


and a deeper, more royal blue …


and a little bright teal, for good measure.


of course, it should be noted that — for the sake of workflow — the easiest way to manage these different color versions while the client is still deciding, is to utilize Lightroom’s “Create Virtual Copy” feature … generating a fresh copy for each new color version you are going to create, making it much easier to handle the workflow, without having to create large files of each version.

also, if you look back at the original image with the turquoise settee, you will notice that there are traces of aqua and blue in the window frame at the top left of the image and in the plaster wall under that window, and also in the settee’s reflection on the floor.  what you can’t see, but what was immediately apparent upon these more drastic color alterations, was the fact that there were subtle traces of aqua in almost all of the white sheers as well.  so when making these big color changes, it was important to note the unwanted changes to these other elements as well, and address them.  they were easily remedied with the Adjustment Brush.

so … don’t be afraid of those sliders!  and have fun with Lightroom!


Little Vistas - What a great space. So much natural light! (and the color changes are fun, too!)

Jess Kamp - Beautiful! There is something stunning about a white dog on a nice purple couch, am I right? :P I will deffinetly be getting to know my colour sliders and I just wanted to thank you for sharing, I watch your Blog & Facebook like a hawk and I am always looking forward to the next group of pictures :)

Susan Humphreys - Wow, the new studio looks fantastic. As usual I’m in awe of
your beautiful photographs, plus all the technical knowledge
of which I have no clue. Great pictures of Chevy, and the different
colours of the autumn (sorry, fall!) leaves are just stunning. My
favourite time of year. Glad things are going so well for you
Illona, you really deserve it.

Best wishes,
Susan Humphreys


Charlotte Reeves - Nice work Illona, loving that space you have to shoot in! And of course, the teal sofa is my favourite. ;)

Christine Crosby - I just love your work Ilona and so appreciate your willingness to share like this!! So generous of you! I’m not totally familiar with this so this may be a dumb question but on the purple setee, I see that you greatly bumped up the aqua and blue sliders but it that “all” that was needed to achieve the purple?? The purple slider itself doesn’t look like it was adjusted, nor was the red/magenta (red and blue make purple) so I’m just not getting how the beautiful purple was achieved using “just” the blue and aqua sliders. Thanks so much!!

Christine Crosby - Thanks Ilona!!! That totally makes sense I just had no idea you could get from “here to there” so dramatically! Very cool! Thanks for sharing! Your work is just stunning!!

handsome sampson ~ {Kitchener Waterloo, Ontario pet photographer}

meet Sampson … a.k.a. Sammers, Brickhead, Bully, Mr. Wiggles, and Goober.

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like a lot of scruffy dog clients, Sampson’s Starter session had been booked more than a year in advance … in fact, this boy’s session was supposed to have taken place last November, but weather thwarted our attempts and we rebooked for spring.  even then, Sampson’s session was bumped a couple more times due to weather … in this case, the bizarre and brief heat in May, which would have left this highly athletic bulldog’s tongue lolling in most of the photos.

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but finally we found a day, in spite of a threatening sky, where the temps were just perfect for this incredible boy.  and boy, did we have fun!

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i love photographing bulldogs.  i won’t lie though … i’ve always said they’re not a breed for me.  for my own personal dogs, i prefer sharing my life with a true working dog, hunting breeds being among my favorite.  i love working with their intense drive, and training and building a deep understanding and working-bond with my dogs.  i have to admit though, this boy Sampson certainly made me reconsider, if only for the brief time of our session together.  like all bulldogs, Sampson is a character … a clown, a joker, a comedian.  he’s fun-loving, happy, and totally adores his parents.

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Sampson is also well trained and handled by both of his parents.  not only did we not need a long-line, but you’ll notice Sampson didn’t even require his collar … and let me tell you, if i feel even the slightest hesitation about a dog’s reliability, i will not let an owner remove a dog’s collar and ID.

Sampson’s recalls were not only perfect, but this tank came in like a torpedo, leaving me laughing behind the camera at the variety of expressions i could see on his face with each click of the shutter.

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Sampson is something of a poser as well … it’s like he almost knows how handsome he is.

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…and since he’s not a bird dog and my highly-skilled duck calls are lost on him, ‘meows’ seem to encourage the proper reaction.

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and of course, no bulldog session would be complete without some fun with a ball.

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…although Sampson’s favorite is sticks.  so we scrounged up a couple for him.

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thank you, Sampson, for being one of the most fabulous bulldogs on the face of the planet.  and thank you Jonathan and Jamie for trusting me with your Brickhead’s images.  it was such an honor and a pleasure!

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Diane - Stunning shots!

Joni A Solis - What a hunk of a dog! Love all the photos. The day looked perfect for him.

William Sterling - Awesome shots and dog!!!
I own three EBD and is what has me coming back to photography

Stephanie Faigl Mullen - Love your work! New fan from Wyoming! Love how you capture our furry family members. ;)

Kevin Lowery - WONDERFUL photos! so awesome!

Jess Kamp - He is gorgeous! I am just new to your site and I.am.hooked! I am just a beginner photographer but dogs are my passion so you can see why this is so amazing to me! What lens did you use for this shoot?

Renata Ramasra - I’m sharing your post with our bulldog friends in Toronto… :) LOVE THIS SO MUCH!

Sarah McGraw - Simply amazing! They are all gorgeous but the lighting in the second image is so gorgeous!

S e a r c h
F a c e b o o k
S u b s c r i b e
M e r r i c k