• ... 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 (NOTE: previous years of blog entries have been archived.)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.

a few adjustments to the work station ~ {Ontario pet photographer}

with as many hours as a busy photographer puts behind the computer — editing, prepping images for print, designing albums, and responding to emails and inquiries of all kinds — well, it doesn’t matter how ergonomic and carefully laid out your work station is, how high-end the chair is that you plant your butt in, day in and day out … pulling those long hours takes its toll on your body.  in fact, even during my 20-year career of writing novels, often burning the midnight oil, i never put in these kinds of hours … and my body never experienced this kind of pain.

so, i’ve been looking into alternatives.  i’ve tried kneeling chairs over the years… they’re okay.  the big balls … well, the problem is, my workstation is very high to begin with, so i’d need a SUPER big ball and have not been able to find one.

and then … there’s standing!  of course, you can spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on a “standing desk” with hydraulics … and perhaps one is in my future.  but with the way my station is set up, with long side tables, it’s not an ideal fit anyway.

so … with a little ingenuity, a little thinking outside the box, a few measurements, and a little online searching for the right components, i’ve added a new ‘position’ to my work environment!

standing desk-2
with the platform or “sub-table” bringing my keyboard and mouse to a comfortable level of elbow-height, all i have to do is raise my display and tilt it.  honestly, setting myself up to be ready to work in a standing position takes seconds … no doubt, far less time than it would be to wait for an adjustable ‘standing desk’s’ hydraulics to get me to the correct position!

standing desk-3

this little stand is a $25 remedy.  it is a combination of Ikea’s Ekby Bjarnum’s aluminum brackets and the Ekby Viktor 29 1/2″ shelf.  it took me maybe 15 mins to drill the holes and screw on the legs, and bam.  yeah, the goober helped … only sorta, kinda.

standing desk-5

standing desk-6

the idea, obviously, isn’t to stand all day!  gah!  my lower back could never manage that, nor could my feet.  the aim, of course, is to just offer more variety of positions, to keep moving, and not be sedentary … because the bottom line is: the work’s gotta get done!

of course, i’m not suggesting that this particular combination will work for everyone.  as mentioned, my workstation is already quite high, and well, i’m kinda short.  so making up the difference in height didn’t require more than 7-8″.  if you’re considering doing something similar, you may need a higher “sub-table”.  take measurements!

i hope you’ve enjoyed this behind-the-scenes peek into scruffy dog … more than that, i hope it’s inspired and maybe helped you consider your own desk situation!


Monica Schwartz - Brilliant! And it’s a great suggestion for me, too, as my work station is ok but certainly not optimal. Once I have completed my move and I’m set up on the other side of the ocean, I will start optimizing, and your post couldn’t have happened at a better time. So, thank you! Lots of fuss to Merrick & Miss Matea!

Paula Weir - I have created something similar for myself, but much more rugged and cheap. I bought a $3.99 rubbermaid step stool, took a piece of plywood and covered it with polar fleece and laid it over the step stool. Place my laptop and external mouse on top and I instantly can stand to work at the perfect level. I too find it difficult to work from a chair all day. ps. your photo’s are out of this world. I have a whippet that I would love you to capture at his full speed.

Pamela Dobbs - love it I mean!

Pamela Dobbs - thanks! I lone it!

just a little of what goes into SDP images ~ {Ontario pet photographer}

often on the scruffy dog facebook page i post before-and-after screen-captures of the editing of choice images.  some examples demonstrate straightforward editing — adjustments in exposure, white balance, tone,  curve, and any other required adjustments — while others show more significant changes from highlight- and shadow-recovery to boosting certain light sources that have been captured in-camera.

i’ve shared these before-and-afters for years so that clients can see what goes into their images, so they see the care and attention to detail that i bring to every scruffy dog image even before they end up in the proofing gallery.  in most cases leashes and lines, eye goobers, tear-staining and any other distractions are removed only on images ordered for prints, album, and wall pieces, but i always show at least a few with these additional edits done to help clients envision what can be done.

for those scruffy dog followers who are adverse to facebook — yeah, you know who you are! — i thought it might be nice to share a sampling of just a few of the before-and-afters that have been posted on the SDP facebook page.

in most of these cases, all of the editing has been done in Adobe Lightroom.

here’s Mika … showing off his combover …

and his brother Bobby in one of my most memorable sessions on a very rainy afternoon.
and here’s Sophie, working that backlighting.
of course, whenever i post these before-and-afters i always receive a handful of emails from photographers asking whether i offer online editing courses.  again and again, the answer is “no”.   the reason i don’t offer on-line courses or videos is because editing — understandably — is an important component of the One-on-One mentoring that i offer to other pet photographers globally.  with this being a significant portion of their experience, it would not be at all fair of me to offer it elsewhere.

i have taught for years … in the past, writing, and today, all aspects of the business of pet photography.  i connect with my mentees; i want to affect their outlook with respect to photography, motivate them, offer a new approach and a new way of thinking … and to do this, i teach in a very hands-on approach.  so, sorry, no videos … for now.

i do recommend, however, exploring all aspects of Lightroom or whatever editing program you are using.  and i always recommend shooting RAW.   if you’re looking for some good solid guidance on your journey through Lightroom — as this is a program that is as much about workflow as it is a powerful editing tool — consider purchasing one of Scott Kelby’s books on Lightroom.

here are Beans and Stewie.  the line would be removed later in Photoshop.

and how about the handsome Gully?
here are Joey, Bruiser and Pebbles … these three came all the way from Kansas for their session.  one might suggest that the image is initially underexposed, but in the case of two white dogs and a darker dog, i’m careful to expose according to all three dogs.  i would rather underexpose just a little so as not to lose too many highlights, knowing that my Nikons (the D3S and D4) have incredible dynamic range.  unless the shadows are really underexposed, i know i won’t be compromising any quality by bringing up those shadows.
ah sweet, Juniper …
and here’s big Kingston.  here again is an example deliberately underexposing … in this case, underexposing so that i don’t lose everything in the sky.
and here is little Lucy, showing exactly how much can be regained when you do shoot RAW.  this is not some pasted in sky … sorry, i’ve got no time for that!  this sky is original to the scene, and was easily brought back.
here are Rogue and Mobi … in this case, the image was edited in LR, then exported out as a tif to CS5 where not only was the line removed but also some of that ugly black steel railing, and then brought back into LR.
with Tiger’s image, i was able to use LR to bring out the glow already captured in-camera.
and other times, images need just typical but still significant adjustments.

if you’d like to see even more of these before-and-afters, you can find more in the b-and-a album on the SDP facebook page.  enjoy!


Gillian Hersh - Thanks for sharing. It’s always fun to see what other photographer’s do to their images in post. Looks great!

Jess Kamp - I am so excited to try my new lightroom program, but this just brought it to a new level, this are simply gorgeous, I am so inspired!

Kelly Doucet-Simpson - Oh thank you thank you for sharing the “before & after” images, really appreciated! Yours are superb!

Donald Townsend - Thanks for sharing these before and after images. I’ve always learned a lot from these. Keep up the good work and keep on sharing.

Norma Rowley - Just seeing these before and after photos is an education in itself ! I am so inspired by your work – thank you so much for sharing….

Michelle Bradshaw - wow….I’m certainly not a photographer (heck I can’t usually even fnd the camera on my crackberry) but I LOVE seeing these before and afters shots. It really gives you an appreciation for the amount of work you put into your beautiful images. Thank you for sharing illona.

we’re not in Kansas anymore! ~ {International pet photographer}

meet Joey, Pebbles, and Bruiser.  although we’ve had scruffy clients travel from NYC, Chicago, Montreal and even fly from California, i think these three scruffnuts win for having driven the farthest distance for their scruffy session — all the way from Kansas!  these three belong to photographer Brandi Majerle, so they know a thing or two about posing.

Brandi and Pete wanted an urban component to their session to compliment the natural location they chose, and after perusing the scruffy locations page, they had a few things in mind so we headed out.  but for the graffiti aspect i had a new wall in mind, and in spite of the midday sun, it delivered!

we tooled around a bit from urban spot to urban spot … the heat was nothing for these southern dogs, but i also didn’t want every shot to feature pink tongues.  and, with the threat of rain, we had already decided to split the trio’s session across two afternoons of shooting — the urban component one day, and the natural location the second.

Joey here is the oldest … he is a 12-year-old malti-poo.

and Pebbles — a 7-year-old Maltese — worked the different locations like a pro …
then there’s Bruiser … a 2-year-old malti-poo … and a seasoned pro as well.
we drove around the city hitting a few different spots, aiming for the variety that we knew would make their Signature scruffy album stand out.   from orange brick walls …
… to the red caboose …
… to back alleyways.
and even a little dancing.
the next afternoon saw us at the location that Brandi and Pete had chosen — and a lot of SDP clients choose — from the scruffy locations page.  
here we are able to work the great variety of vegetation and light …
… and the threesome could finally let loose.
thanks, Brandi and Pete, for introducing me to your fabulous pack and for entrusting me with capturing their images.  it was a pleasure to spend a couple of afternoons with you, and it will be a pleasure to work on your album, storyboards, big canvas and package!


Joni A Solis - Three super duper cute dogs in totally delightful photographs. Love scruffy dogs.

Jean Inglis - lll

Jean Inglis - l

Michelle Bradshaw - Too cute for words. Does pebbles have a feather weaved in her hair??? Love it!!!!!

Stacy Lynn - They’re so very sweet!! Wonderful

Kathryn Burke - Bee-oo-tiful!!!

Nancy Damman - how in the heck did you get the two of them to turn their heads like that?!?!?!?

Shelley Castle Erickson - These are all so beautiful.. You always amaze me how you find and portray the light! Love the dancing dogs and that ear in the graffiti pic is priceless!

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