my personal faq
Here is a list of some personal and frequently asked questions I get asked…. frequently.
Why “Shine Pet Photos”?
I’ve been using the handle “graceshine” now for a really, really long time on emails, websites, chat names, you name it. So back in 2003, it was only natural to use www.graceshine.com for my advertising portfolio site and now the name has stuck. As you probably already know, “shine” is not my last name. But I love the connotation of the word — it’s bright, friendly, and optimistic. A great description for my style of pet photography, and perfect for the name of my photography business!
What’s your professional background?
I’ve found this to be a pretty common thing for pet photographers to say, but I wanted to be a vet (or doctor) for as far back as I can remember. So I actually received my undergraduate degree from The Pennsylvania State University in Biology! Yup, I endured hours and hours of advanced biology, chemistry, physics, and calculus. I’ve interned at the Philadelphia Zoo (ask me to tell you some zoo secrets and I will!), and I even volunteered at UPenn’s renowned animal emergency room. (Yeah, carrying body bags down to the freezer — NOT FUN!)
My senior year of college, I realized that my love for graphic and web design could be so much more and that I could actually make a career of it. So after graduating from Penn State, I went to grad school to get my Masters of Fine Art and have been working in the advertising industry as an art director ever since.
Working in this industry has given me such a fantastic opportunity to work with some of the most talented, creative people I’ve ever met — from photographers, to directors, to graphic designers, to illustrators, to the people I get to work with at the agency every day. I feel so fortunate that I can bring this wealth of knowledge and creativity to my photography.
So how did this whole pet photography thing happen?
I’ve been interested in photography for as long as I can remember, but I didn’t seriously start dabbling in pet photography until I moved to LA in 2006. My roommate at the time had 2 dogs, and I took photos of them all the time. I even had photos of them at work, which my coworkers were always asking questions about — like “How did you take those?” or “What camera did you use?” I was just using a little Canon Elph point and shoot at the time, but it was really cool to get such positive feedback.
Eventually, I upgraded to a Canon DSLR and started taking head shots of homeless dogs for a rescue group in Los Angles called The Pawd Squad. The feedback I was receiving on my photography was phenomenal, so I decided to turn my hobby into a side business.
When did you start Shine Pet Photos?
Shine Pet Photos started marinating in my head in December 2007 but I didn’t officially launch until February 2008. In just a few short months I’ve photographed hundreds of dogs, shot my first magazine cover, been featured in a few AKC magazines, been asked to judge a dog photography competition, and made lots of new friends!
You work full-time? How do you have time to manage Shine Pet Photos?
I have a very understanding and loving boyfriend who tolerates my crazy work hours. I think right now I’m working around 70 hours a week. Maybe more!
Since November 2008, I’ve been pursuing my pet photography career full-time and am taking a little break from advertising for an indefinite amount of time. To read more about my journey to full-time photography, click here!
What equipment do you use?
I’ve been using Canon cameras since elementary school and have been a Canon loyalist ever since. I use Lightroom and Photoshop to process my photos, InDesign to design my coffee table books, Dreamweaver to manage my website, Apple computers just because I was forced to in art school, and veeeery strong iced coffee to keep me awake. You can view all my equipment and photography recommendations at my Amazon page.
So what kind of retouching are you doing on your photos to achieve the look you have?
I came across this thread today where people were guessing at the kind of photoshopping and retouching I do on my shots. “She used a lot of retouching for her blurred backgrounds,” one person said. “She is blurring and vignetting digitally,” says another. Just for the record, I actually don’t do any background blurring in post-production. Don’t ever do this - unless you download a plug-in that can mimic lens blurring, it looks really, really fake. It’s ghastly. I can spot it a mile away. Just don’t do it! As far as processing goes, I do slight fixes on contrast and exposure in Lightroom as I shoot RAW and the files tend to have a sort of a grayish, dingy look to them. I use photoshop to do further spot adjustments or clone out distracting elements, as well as any other cleaning up needed to achieve “commercial quality” photographs.
I cannot stress the importance of getting the shot right IN CAMERA. That goes for exposure, cropping, composition, the lighting, everything. Yes through the magic of post production you can fix any errors you make at the shoot, but A) it’s way more time consuming and B) you lose picture quality.
Can you give me some advice on pet photography?
Sure! I get a ton of emails every day and it’s getting increasingly harder for me to respond to emails individually. But if you have a question head on over to my Facebook Page and ask away on the discussion boards - just make sure your question hasn’t been answered already!