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New Award-winning Images: 2018 IPC Results

Last year I entered print competition for the first time, which was a huge learning experience.  I entered again this year, although admittedly kinda at the last minute.  If you're not familiar with Professional Photographers of America's International Photographic Competition (or the "Superbowl" of professional photography as I call it), then read last year's IPC results post first for an overview of how scoring works.

How I did in 2018 IPC

Three out of four of my images were awarded a merit, all within the General Collection.  Not too shabby!  Although my goal was 4/4, it's still better than 2/4 last year.

Now for my entries:


Image 1:  Collie and Columns

I love the architectural elements and leading lines in this image, but unfortunately the judges did not feel strongly about it.  Although I haven't received my critique yet, I'm wondering if perhaps the judges wanted more of a story?  It scored 78.  And actually I'm grateful it didn't score the dreaded 79!  Still one of my favorite images taken this summer.

Collie and Columns

Collie and Columns


Image 2:  Mr. Tough Guy

I love Adobie's intense expression and the colorful graffiti wall.  The ironic part is that Adobie is ANYTHING but tough - he's actually quite gentle and snuggly with his toy bunny.  This one scored 80, and earned a merit in the General Collection.

Mr. Tough Guy

Mr. Tough Guy


Image 3:  Maybe She's Born With It

If you've visited Loyl's Natural Pet in the West U area, you may have met Lucy, one of the resident greeters there.  She has the most amazing eyelashes, and I instantly fell in love with this image of her.  It scored 80, and earned a merit in the General Collection.

Maybe She's Born With It

Maybe She's Born With It


Image 4:  Wish You Were Here

The first three images were all taken during client sessions in Houston, but this last one was taken while on vacation in Paris.  No lie, I spent a couple hours sitting, watching, and walking around the Champ de Mars, waiting for the perfect dog to walk by to pose for me in front of the Eiffel Tower.  When I saw Chicco, I knew he was the one!  And shhhh, don't tell anyone, he's actually Swiss, not French!  This image scored an 80 and earned a merit in the General Collection.

Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

Pulling back the curtain

I love a good before and after!  So I thought I'd pull back the curtain and show how much post-processing work can go on behind the scenes.  The slideshow below shows my four entries 1) straight out of camera, and 2) as submitted into print competition.

Curious to see my entries from last year's competition?  Check out the 2017 IPC results blog post.

Is your dog ready for his close-up?  Fall sessions are booking now - send me a message and let's chat!


Voyage Houston Magazine Feature

Recently I was featured by Voyage Houston Magazine as part of their inspiring entrepreneurs series.  You can read the original article at Voyage Houston (with more cute puppy pictures!) or read it below.

Meet Megan Murray of Megan Murray Photography

french bulldog with crooked teeth houston texas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Murray.

Megan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?

I became a dog mom in 2005 and my life was forever changed. It’s funny how a little ball of fur who has bad breath, pees on your floor and chews your furniture can wiggle completely into your life and heart. What in the world did we do before we had a dog? Gosh, what a boring life it must have been!

Mackenzie, a dachshund mix, taught me about responsibility and unconditional love and started my obsession with short puppy legs. Less than a year later, we brought Sophie, our spunky Maltese mix, home and learned that there was indeed enough love to go around. And a few years after that, we rescued a calm puppy only to realize later that her personality was anything but calm. Sadie inspires me to live life with exuberance and joy.

Like most dog moms, my phone was filled with thousands of snapshots of my furbabies, but one day I realized we didn’t have a really nice picture of our little family all together. I was desperate to document the head tilt and crazy hair and underbite of our first children, so I hired a professional photographer to do just that! Fast forward several years… our dogs’ portraits still hang prominently in our family room, and I now help other dog moms and dads preserve memories of their own beloved furbabies.

Has it been a smooth road?

Most people think their dog would never behave well enough for a photo session, but that is a myth! While some dogs can be more challenging than others to photograph, it’s amazing how a little patience, funny noises, and stinky treats can turn any dog into a supermodel!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Megan Murray Photography – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.

I’m an on-location photographer specializing in candid pet photography in Houston, Texas. I believe dogs are family, and my goal is to provide clients with a fun and personalized photography experience resulting in beautiful artwork to enjoy every day.

My sessions are laid-back with plenty of time for belly rubs and a game of fetch. But the fun doesn’t end there! After the session, I create and deliver custom framed wall portraits and albums. Smiles guaranteed! Houston dog moms choose me because they appreciate quality photography, timeless tangible artwork, and personal attention from start to finish.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?

Having family close by is my favorite thing about Houston. A close second is the variety of world-class restaurants, entertainment, sports, and cultural events. I don’t enjoy the mosquitoes or the hot and humid summers (not exactly the best weather for an outdoor portrait session!).

Contact Info:


Thank you Voyage Houston!

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Dogs of Paris - a week in the city of love

I could almost feel the sand between my toes...

Mouse hovering over the "purchase" button, moments away from booking a weekend getaway to a beach resort....

when the phone rang...

It was the hubs asking "how would you like to upgrade our beach weekend to something bigger... like Paris?  I have to go there for work."  Umm.... yes please!!  (I've only been waiting 6 years for his company to send him back to Paris so I could tag along!!)

and our plans changed from Caribbean resort to Parisian boutique. 

Forget the sunscreen and flip flops.  Enter jacket, umbrella, and sensible walking shoes.  We visited Paris in late March and stayed a block off Avenue Montaigne in the Champs-Elysees area.  While J was at work, I spent my days wandering the city on foot and by metro.  I did very little planning ahead of time which truth be told, if I were to go again, I would certainly book a few things in advance (like going up the Eiffel Tower at night). 

All in all, a great week exploring.  I'm not a huge fan of French food (shhh... don't tell anyone) but I did consume a lot of cheese and wine!

Now let's see the stars of this post: the dogs I met wandering around Paris!

Outside Shakespeare and Company book store

Outside Shakespeare and Company book store

Rainy walk near the Notre Dame cathedral

Rainy walk near the Notre Dame cathedral

Sunset at the Pont des Arts

Sunset at the Pont des Arts

Twilight at Musee du Louvre

Twilight at Musee du Louvre

Puppy wearing in Montmartre

Puppy wearing in Montmartre

Wish you were here from the Tour Eiffel

Wish you were here from the Tour Eiffel

Don't be fooled - this Frenchie is actually from Switzerland!

Don't be fooled - this Frenchie is actually from Switzerland!

Along the banks of the Seine River

Along the banks of the Seine River

Want to see my week-long Parisian adventure condensed into three minutes?  Watch the video below!

This isn't the first time I've photographed dogs outside the USA - you can see more international puppies on the blog from London and Costa Rica.


Houston Dog Photographer - Office Makeover

Picture this:

It's 9:00 am, the house is quiet, you have zero plans for the day, and you sit down to work on your latest creative project.  9:02 and your eyes wonder to the pile of papers sitting on the table, then to the basket of who-knows-what that's been sitting on the floor for the last 3 months, then over to that new photo you've been meaning to hang on the wall.  By 9:05, you realize your plans for the day just got very busy tackling the mayhem that's taken over the room.

That's exactly what happened to me.  One minute I was planning to edit our vacation photos, and before I knew it I had emptied out the room and was buying paint at Sherwin Williams! 

My home office is where I do all my photo editing and planning for my business.  And the space had been neglected for too long.  Introducing my new and improved home office and design space:

office makeover

A new paint color, desk, rug, chairs, and tables.  And even more exciting, new gorgeous product samples.  I love inviting my clients into this space to view their images and design their artwork!

houston home office
photo album and wall portrait samples

What's your office like?  Do you thrive on a clean desk, or can you function in a messy workspace?


2017 IPC Results - my first venture into print competition

Back in June, I mentioned that one of my goals this year was to enter print competition, which I did.  And today, I'm reporting my results!

What is print competition? 

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the leading industry association for professional photographers, and like most industry groups, they host conferences, continuing education classes, certification opportunities, and competitions.  International Photographic Competition (IPC) happens once a year, and is the "Superbowl" of professional photography.

Each photographer can enter up to 4 images (a "case").  Each image is judged against 12 elements of a merit image:

  1. impact
  2. technical excellence
  3. creativity
  4. style
  5. composition
  6. presentation
  7. color balance
  8. center of interest
  9. lighting
  10. subject matter
  11. technique
  12. story telling

Yes, that's a lot to consider, and that's why it's challenging! 

How scoring works

Images are shown to a panel of 5 judges, whose scores are averaged together to give an overall score.  The judges have a chance to challenge, discuss, and re-score.  The highest possible score is 100.  Any image that scores 80 or more earns a merit and is accepted into the General Collection.  From that pool, the judges choose the best of the best to showcase in the prestigious Loan Collection, which is published in a book.  So the two words you want to hear are "Merit" and "Loan"!!

How I did in my first competition

Two of my images did not merit.  One image merited in the General Collection, and the last image merited and was accepted into the Loan Collection!  Interestingly, my goal this year was to earn 2 merits, which I achieved.  Next year, you can bet my goal will be 4/4!!

Now for my entries:


Image 1:  Higher Grandpa!

This first image was my "case filler".  I was struggling to pick a 4th image and ultimately chose this one of my daughter because it is special to me.  It was taken on Thanksgiving Day last year at my dad's farm, and he built this wooden swing for my girls.  Entering this image was a good lesson in understanding that sometimes the photographs that are the most meaningful to us are not always the best choice for competition.  It scored 75.

Higher Grandpa!

Higher Grandpa!


Image 2:  They Went That-a-Way

I love Nola's expression and ears in this next image.  It was taken during a charity fundraiser I organized earlier this year.  It scored 78.

They Went That-a-Way

They Went That-a-Way


Image 3:  Dapper Dachshund

Ahhhh Floyd!  If you've been hanging around the blog this year, you've seen this handsome bowtie-wearin' boy several times.  You might also remember his bowtie was actually red gingham.  I personally like the red better, but alas I changed it to blue to satisfy element #7 above.  Yes, print competition typically requires additional post-processing work.

Immediately after I clicked the shutter button on this image, I just knew it would be one of my entries this year.  It scored 81, and earned a merit in the General Collection!

Dapper Dachshund

Dapper Dachshund


Image 4:  Places to Go, People to Lick

And finally, this image of Khloe was taken towards the end of her session - she was trotting along, happy to be on an early morning adventure in downtown Houston. 

I took a chance on this one, and it paid off.  You see, the majority of images submitted to IPC are formal portraits: dramatic lighting, traditional posing, eye contact, and for dogs, typically no tongue showing.  This image broke a lot of the "rules", but I kept gravitating towards it.  So I followed my gut and chose a title that made the tongue "work". 

The judging is streamed live online, and my favorite part was hearing the judges giggle when this image came up.  This image scored an 85, earned a merit, and was selected to be published in the Loan Collection!

Places to Go, People to Lick

Places to Go, People to Lick

All in all, I learned a tremendous amount from entering print competition this year.  I am very happy with my results, and motivated to do even better next year!

So not to brag of course... but I guess you can now call me an award-winning photographer ;-)


Keeping your eyes on the prize

Did you set any goals for 2017?  Did you write them down so you can pull them out, read them, and give yourself a little nudge to keep going?

Well, I did.  And I keep a hard copy of those goals folded up in my wallet, where I'm reminded of them each time I pull out my credit card, which is... well.... almost daily haha!

dog chasing tennis ball on beach

One of my personal goals this year is to enter print competition.  International Print Competition (IPC) is like the Super Bowl of the professional photography world.  There are also district and local competitions, which are equivalent to football's regular season.  If I had been smart, I would have entered these local competitions first to dip my toes in and practice... but alas, I'm jumping all in and going straight to the "big game."

The nice thing about print competition is you are really competing against yourself and how well you master the elements of a technically excellent photograph.  Regardless of how I score this year, I have already learned so much for which I am grateful.

So.... wish me luck!  Judging happens during the first week of August, and I'll be sure to give you an update with my submitted images and results.

How are you doing with your goals this year?

More from Barkarica

You took a vacation last month.  Somewhere warm, where you didn't need to wear a watch, disconnected from your digital "leash", read an entire book for the first time in a year, and enjoyed the local food and adult beverages.  It was exactly what you needed!

But now, several weeks after returning home, you find yourself in an all-day meeting, thinking about all the things on your to do list - fold the laundry, pick up groceries, call your parents, schedule a dentist appointment, buy a birthday gift, on and on...  and try as you might to stay focused, you can't help but reminisce on how wonderful that trip was.

See where I'm headed??

Let's go back to Costa Rica!

Sugar, Charlie, and Cinnamon (mama)

Sugar, Charlie, and Cinnamon (mama)

Vela

Vela

Flash, overlooking the grounds at Rafiki Safari Lodge

Flash, overlooking the grounds at Rafiki Safari Lodge

Spot

Spot

Romeo

Romeo

Mickey

Mickey

Maggie

Maggie

That was fun!  Always nice to relive happy memories and reflect on the experience.  More from my pet photography retreat in Costa Rica in this Barkarica post.

Where was your last vacation?  And where will your next one be?


Barkarica... a workcation with puppies!

How many of you with corporate jobs attend industry conferences or enroll in continuing education classes?  Usually held in a huge hotel and conference center, you have to dress up and make awkward small talk, but at least you're not sitting behind your desk staring at Excel, right?  Yep, been there, done that. 

But this was totally different.

palm trees at Manuel Antonio beach

palm trees at Manuel Antonio beach

Imagine tropical weather...

...a luxurious treehouse with a pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean...

...amazing home-cooked meals by a private chef...

...monkeys playing on the rooftop deck...

...sunsets on the beach...

...puppies...

... three inspiring, passionate, and successful instructors...

...and a small group of insanely talented pet photographers.

Barkarica.

No shoes required.  Class in the pool.  Field trips to the beach and rain forest.  Downtime in the hammock.  Now that's my kind of continuing education!

Barkarica was actually the second out-of-this-world pet photography retreat that Nicole, Charlotte, and Kaylee hosted.  I sadly missed the first one, Barkelona, because well, at the time I had a 7-month old baby to take care of!  But I wasn't going to let another opportunity pass me by.  In February, I hopped on a plane down to Costa Rica.

monkeys at the beach

monkeys at the beach

So what do a bunch of pet photographers do when we get together?  Photograph dogs!!  Our first shoot was at the Rafiki Safari Lodge - this place was well off the beaten path nestled in the mountains, known for its "glamping."  The resident dog and his buddies were our models.

Flash

Flash

Charlie

Charlie

My favorite shoot of the week was at the beach in Manuel Antonio.  The dogs ran, jumped, splashed, and played fetch with sticks and balls and coconuts.  We all got covered in sand.

Maggie

Maggie

Romeo, a boston terrier, is easily the craziest dog I have ever photographed.  Even after two hours of his crazy antics, he still wanted more!

Romeo

Romeo

a little behind the scenes...  dog paparazzi!

Photo credit:  Charlotte Reeves

Photo credit: Charlotte Reeves

Mickey

Mickey

Spot

Spot

Maggie with her mama

Maggie with her mama

Near the end of the week, we visited the PAWS (Pets of Aguirre Welfare Shelter) shelter in Quepos to photograph their adoptable dogs.  We took the dogs on a short walk to a nearby river and goodness, it was beautiful! 

Elle, adoptable dog through  PAWS

Elle, adoptable dog through PAWS

Veronica, adoptable dog through  PAWS

Veronica, adoptable dog through PAWS

Peanut, since adopted!

Peanut, since adopted!

This next dog is Coco, and her life changed forever because of our photo shoot at the PAWS shelter.  Christine, one of the pet photographers at Barkarica, fell in love with Coco, adopted her, and took her home to Oregon two days after this photograph was taken!  Coco was a little timid this day at the river, but is now thriving in her new home.

Coco, adopted during Barkarica!

Coco, adopted during Barkarica!

and the group photo... that's a lot of puppy-lovin', photo-makin' talent right there folks, representing the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK! 

Photo credit:  Sam Haddix

Photo credit: Sam Haddix

As much as I love traveling, it's always nice to come home.  Barkarica pushed me creatively, inspired me, and was just plain awesome. 

I am forever grateful to shoot alongside and learn from this group of pet photographers!  We laughed, we cried, and we continue to encourage each other daily.  And hopefully it's not the last Barka-adventure for me...

New year, new look!

Happy New Year!

Normally at the start of each month I post a list of dog-friendly events happening around town, but there aren't many scheduled for January.  So instead, let's talk about what's been happening behind the scenes!

I love this time of year... time for reflecting on the past year and planning for the next.  Over the holidays, I worked on two big projects... the first was a redesign of my website.  Bigger pictures, a more modern design, I'd love to know what you think!

houston pet photographer website

The second big project will be revealed soon, but if you follow me on Instagram, you got a tiny peek.  Let's just say you want to be on my mailing list so you don't miss out on a special opportunity! 

Cheers to a happy, healthy, and successful 2017!  What are your new year's resolutions?  Are you optimistic about the new year, or cynical about making resolutions?

Photographing Disney World with an iPhone

Leave my big camera at home?  Say whaaaaat?!?

I can't remember the last time I went on vacation without my big camera.  Packing light just doesn't seem to be in our vocabulary any more.  But this trip to Disney World was sans kids, and I agreed I would leave the big camera behind if my husband left his laptop as well.

It was fabulous!!  So light and free.  Of course I still took pictures, but 100% with my iPhone.  Here are some of my favorites:

Disney World monorail

Disney World monorail

quite possibly one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten:  Nutella fruit waffle in Magic Kingdom

quite possibly one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten:  Nutella fruit waffle in Magic Kingdom

Rapunzel lanterns in Magic Kingdom

Rapunzel lanterns in Magic Kingdom

Frozen show at Cinderella's castle in Magic Kingdom

Frozen show at Cinderella's castle in Magic Kingdom

front row seats at Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom

front row seats at Festival of the Lion King in Animal Kingdom

why we came: Food and Wine Festival at Epcot

why we came: Food and Wine Festival at Epcot

mmmmm... cheese and wine at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

mmmmm... cheese and wine at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Epcot at night

Epcot at night

We had a great time.  Disney World has a special place in our hearts - the last time we were there alone was over 13 years ago, right after we got engaged!

Where was your last vacation?  Did you lug around a big camera or simply use your phone?