His Calgary doggie daycare proves the key to the perfect pet shot

By Helin Jung
Updated December 28, 2009 06:00 PM

For photographer Brian Burke (BackinthePack), getting his models to smile wide isn’t so simple as just asking them to “say cheese;” sometimes he has to throw them a little kibble.

“Dogs are dogs, and dogs are the stars,” he says. “We really don’t try to get the dogs to do anything they don’t want to do.” Burke records pets’ experiences in the hour or two he spends with them, using a range of cameras and lenses and posing very few shots as he follows the dogs around.

Although he’s been snapping pictures of Calgary-area pups for three and a half years now, Burke’s career path has been an unlikely one. “I spent most of my time at the camera store [where he worked] obsessed with the gear,” Burke tells PEOPLEPets.com. “I would literally put fingers in front of photos.”

In fact, had his wife, Janice – the “pet expert” in the family – not grown exhausted from running her pet daycare service, Back in the Pack, Burke may have stayed happily where he was. Instead the two swapped careers and Burke is not only running the daycare, but he is also managing a photography studio specializing in dog portraits.

Burke casually started taking pictures of his clients’ dogs at Back in the Pack. Six months into the daycare stint, he set up a Flickr account online and soon discovered he “was actually really good at pet photography.” Burke’s large and active Flickr audience helped to focus his work, and the more he focused, the better he got.

Taking photographs of dogs has taken on special meaning in recent months: Burke has received numerous requests to chronicle pets in their last months. “One of my favorite clients and one of my favorite photo shoots was a dog that the owners knew was going to be put down within weeks,” Burke says. “We were able to get in and get an absolutely fantastic photo shoot. The dog was healthy, the kids were there, it was a whole family thing.”

Click here to become friends with Brian Burke on PEOPLEPets.com!