Why I’m glad I hired a pet photographer for my own photos

Written by Courtney Bryson

Every little girl’s dream

I was 4 years old when I got the fairytale gift every little girl dreams of – my grandfather gave me my very own horse. 

 It was cold and 8 month old Dixie Rose had her fuzzy winter coat and I was wearing my brand new Western duster in bright red. I was wearing my fanciest cowgirl boots and cowgirl hat and had the kind of excitement you only get as a 4 year old horse crazy little girl. 

Getting in front of the camera to capture images with your pet is so important.
Courtney Bryson of CM Bryson gets on the other side of the lens for her own equine photography session with her senior horse.

If you know me, you know my horse’s name was Ginger – and here’s a funny story about what happens when you give a 4 year old a horse named Dixie Rose: 

Dixie Rose is a beautiful name. It’s a perfect name for a quarter horse cross chestnut mare with a golden mane and tail. It’s a very hard name for a little girl to remember and when your little girl is standing on the porch calling for “Rosie Dick” you realize maybe it’s a good idea to have her choose a new name for her new horse. So, Dixie Rose became Ginger, named after the mare that was Black Beauty’s best friend. 

Finding natural locations is possible even when the focus of your pet's photo shoot is an urban adventure.

30 Years of Being A Horse Girl

From there began the longest relationship of my life. Over the next more than 30 years Ginger was my best friend. I spent hours and hours in the pasture of my grandparent’s North Carolina farm brushing Ginger, setting out hay, giving treats, and riding the same little path in the pasture 6 million times. I hugged her and laughed with her and cried into the fur on her neck more times than I count. 

When I was home in Georgia I took lessons, first western and then hunter jumper and then dressage for fifteen years. Ginger was a trooper as I changed disciplines and tried to teach her to side pass, turn on the forehand, piaffe, etc. She’d try most anything for me – especially if there a peppermint at the end for her. 

I dreamed of the day I’d get to have her at my home and not a state away that I could only visit on weekends and summer breaks. And when we bought the farm that would become the Rescue Ranch, I planned a pasture so she could come home to live with me. I was ridiculously excited when we finally bought a horse trailer and went to pick her up. It was that same feeling I remember as a 4 year old little girl. 

It had been years since she’d loaded into a trailer and everyone was nervous she wouldn’t get on. She walked right in with me. 

At this point, she was retired from being my riding partner, but I was so happy to be able to look out my bedroom window and see her in her new pasture. I loved walking out in the mornings with her breakfast and having her nicker at me to hurry it up. I loved watching her with her two mini donkey pasture buddies that she could boss around. 

My grandmother asked me so many times to get her a picture of me with Ginger. She really wanted a picture of us together to go in her frame. I sent her a picture of just Ginger and promised I’d get one of me too, but I put it off. 

I struggle with pictures of me. I don’t love the way I look or my weight or my face or my hair. I reached out to an equine photographer friend, but didn’t actually book anything. I’d get pictures made when I lost 20 pounds. 

And then in September of 2019 my grandmother passed away suddenly.

And I hadn’t gotten the pictures done. 

My grandmother was my family’s photo keeper. As we went through her things after her death I have FIVE albums of photos of just me through my childhood. Those great big albums that had the clear sheet you put the 4×5’s behind. 

And on the wall in her house was one of the frames that has multiple openings for photos and there was the picture I had sent her of just Ginger and then an empty place where the picture I had promised her was supposed to go. 

And I still hadn’t had the pictures done. 

Then it was 2020 and we were in a pandemic and I put things off again. Instead of losing 20 pounds I gained 10 pounds. We all stayed home. I started to build a studio. And then my grandfather got sick. 

We couldn’t visit him in the hospital and so we conferenced with the doctors and then had to make the decision about hospice care. If we did in home hospice then we would all be able to visit and say goodbye. I was able to transform my guest room into a hospital room and he came here. 

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to have him here in my home as he made his final transition back to my grandmother. I know that he wanted to pass at his own home in the country in North Carolina with the pasture out his window, and while we couldn’t give him that I hope that having him at my home in the country in Georgia with a pasture out the window and Ginger in that pasture was a close second choice. 

And I still hadn’t had the pictures done. 

Again, we went through the paperwork of death. We gathered the photos as you always do and there were so many, thanks to my grandmother’s dedication to printed photos. 

And I finally realized it didn’t matter that I wasn’t 30 pounds thinner or that I hadn’t had a haircut now in nearly a year because we were in a global pandemic. I just needed to get the photos. The pictures were important for the memories, for capturing the relationship, for having something to look back on – not for what I looked like. 

So, I finally scheduled my session with Charlotte Detienne Photography for photos of me with Ginger. We had our session in September of 2020. 

I was so nervous I panicked and cut my own hair the night before. I worried about what I would wear and if you’d see the little lines that have started appearing around my eyes (and on my neck…. Who knew the aging lines on my neck would be so obvious). I nearly called to postpone, but I am so glad I didn’t. 

Ginger was her normal opinionated mare self throughout our session. She refused to snuggle with me unless I had treats in my hand. She didn’t want to stand still. She rubbed sloberry horse cookies all over me. And it was perfect. 

When I met with Charlotte a few weeks after our session I loved the images. She managed to capture everything I wanted. The photos show our relationship developed over the last 30 years. I had a hard time narrowing down my favorites to have printed in a beautiful image box. 

In November of 2020 Ginger was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease after she developed an abscessed tooth that brought us into the equine vet. Because of her age and the Cushing’s diagnosis, removing the tooth with dental surgery wasn’t an option. Luckily, with antibiotics her tooth seemed to heal very well, but she was losing weight steadily. She began daily medication for her Cushing’s disease. 

On December 4th 2020 when I went out to take her breakfast she didn’t come across the pasture nickering at me to hurry up. Instead she was standing on the side of the pasture with her head down. I knew the moment I walked up to her that the infection was back and it was worse. 

I called the vet to let her know we were on the way, and I begged Ginger to load into the trailer. She refused to step inside. I knew that she was ready to say goodbye, and she wanted to do it at home. Our vet came out that evening and helped her say goodbye and I cried into the fur on her neck one more time. 

It’s been four months and I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’s hard to believe that after 30 years she’s really gone. When I look at the pictures Charlotte created for us, I don’t see the flaws I usually see in the mirror. I see the incredible relationship that I was lucky enough to be a part of for so long. I see the horse crazy little girl and the lesson taking child and the teenager who dreamed of having her own farm and the woman who now lives on that farm and the horse that was there through it all. 

And I am so glad I finally had the pictures done. 

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"Such a wonderful experience! A true professional with has an exceptional knack for animals! Totally recommend!"

Trish & Hazel

"I am thrilled with the outcome! This will get a very special place in my home."

Krista & Scarlett

"I had such a great experience with Courtney! She ensured not only that the pups were prepared but that I was also. I had a detailed checklist of what to do to prepare before the shoot. From how far in advance to get the groomed/bathed to Coloring/cutting my hair in advance (if needed), what color and texture of clothing to wear for the best results, recommended collars for the pups. I think she had everything covered. Courtney was very patient with all of us :). If you are looking for photos with your furry family, I would absolutely recommend her!"

Liz, Kaos, & Kali

"We were lucky enough to attend the Love Barks event at Pet Pleasers Bakery in Gainesville, and Courtney captured some amazing photos of my dogs. It can be challenging to get them to sit still, but Courtney is a pro! Everything was set up perfectly to maximize our time there, and she is so fast with that camera. She was even able to Photoshop my hand + the leash out of several of the photos. It was a great experience, and we look forward to doing another session with Courtney soon!"

Kristen, Teddy, & Chloe