Pet Portraits (because they’re family, too!)

In a recent nationwide survey, 7 out of 10 pet owners admitted that their favorite family member is the dog. Given our immense (and totally justified) love for dogs and the fact that Americans are spending more money than ever on our pets, it should come as no surprise that professional pet photography is a growing niche. 

Travel writing and editorial photography make up a fair bit of my work, but my favorite assignments are closer to home: I love doing pet portrait sessions. Capturing the essence of a dog through my lens is great fun and often quite a challenge, especially when the “model” is more interested in chasing bees than smiling for the camera. But I have an arsenal of tricks, and come with pockets full of liver treats. 

When a client who has a thousand iPhone photos of her pup is bowled over at our image reveal session, saying things like, “Holy cats, I can’t believe the difference!,” it’s music to my ears. I credit the Rocky Mountain School of Photography (right here, in downtown Missoula!) for teaching me the difference between a good photo and a great one—and how to consistently create the latter. 

A Montanan since 1999, I was thrilled to return to Missoula this spring after spending the last few years in western North Carolina. In addition to my wonderful human partner, I brought with me a tall, skinny, three-year-old mutt of mysterious origins. Enzo has made himself right at home, finding Missoula’s best mud wallows and gopher-hunting grounds. He’s also my go-to test subject, helping me seek out the best light and the most photogenic backdrops for future client sessions. And while I don’t want to play favorites, Enzo is the family member most willing to work for liver.