The Emerge Dog Photography Awards Part 1

Big thanks to Hannah, Maple, & Party for making this image happen.
This was my first photo session post surgery and I was nervous how my body would do and if my brain would work creatively after taking so much time off to heal, but I had made a commitment to complete the challenges within the time frame.
And while, I was SORE the day after and my image right out of camera was seriously TILTED as I struggled to hold the heavy camera & lens with weak core and arm muscles – I am so proud of how the image turned out. And I am thrilled with it’s first place spot in the Emerge Dog Photography Awards for Double Trouble.

The Awards Show

Last night we settled in to watch the Emerge Dog Photography Awards LIVE via Zoom. It was really fun to revisit each challenge, see the top images, and see the overall winner for each challenge announced.

Over the last 6 months I feel like I have really gotten to know some incredible pet photographers across the globe as we competed together. One of the things I love most about my fellow pet photographers is that even when we are competing, we are colleagues and friends first. It was great to cheer each other along and celebrate each other’s successes in the challenges.

Seeing the work others submitted, I am absolutely blown away to have received the overall challenge win for Double Trouble.

Here’s what the judge’s had to say: “A beautiful image with a clever design. The tonality and softness of the light and mist give it an ethereal quality.”


Overall Winner in the Emerge Dog Photography Awards - Double Trouble Challenge - presented to Atlanta dog photographer Courtney Bryson

Getting the Final Image

Here’s a look at all the images of how my “concept drawing” moved from paper, to raw file, to the edit, and finally the finished image. 

A RAW file contains all the raw data the camera sees. As a photographer you balance the shadows and highlights knowing you can increase the dynamic range to more closely match what the eye sees in post production.

Image directly out of camera – The RAW format often seems “flat” but so much detail is contained inside this file type. 

Sometimes when the idea is in your head and you need to share it with your model, but you aren't a sketch artist - you draw dog stick figures.

Well, I never claimed to be a sketch artist, but I was trying to convey to Hannah how I envisioned the Pharaoh hounds placed on the dock and where she would need to stand to hold their leashes.

Created during the Embark dog photography challenge of 2022 this image of a Cane Corso in Atlanta, GA scored a Top 10 placement.

Image after post processing in lightroom – Lightroom is the darkroom of digital photography – bringing back the detail our eyes saw.

Created during the Embark dog photography challenge of 2022 this image of a Cane Corso in Atlanta, GA scored a Top 10 placement.

Image after photoshop- Photoshop was used to remove the leash, Hannah the handler, clean up the dock, and remove distractions. I also centered the post under the dock to highlight the symetry of the image.

The next round of challenges is called Empower and begins in early 2024.

Does your dog have what it takes to be an Empower model?

If you’d like to be notified when you can apply with YOUR dog,

please fill out the form below.


The Emerge Dog Photography Awards Challenges by Unleashed Education presents an international group of professional pet photographers with 12 challenges – each with a different theme of image to create, enter, and compete. While the primary goal is competition with myself – pushing myself creatively and improving my craft of pet photography – we also competed with each other. Each challenge is judged by two of the world’s leading pet photographers with decades in business, a long list of awards from international photography competitions, and some big name commercial clients (let’s just say you’ve seen their work on numerous occasions).
In each challenge you can receive a Top 20 or a Top 10 placement – as well as feedback on your work and suggestions for improvement. In the end I finished with a “Highly Commended Portfolio” highlighting work of a professional standard for my final 12 submissions, 3 Top 10 images, and 5 Top 20 images as well as an Overall Winner in the Double Trouble Challenge.

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