Meet cover girl Bev Hollis, a veterinarian and pet photographer who unleashes her talent with a camera.
By Sharon Selz
Bev Hollis is a new breed of photographer; she focuses on the unique relationship between humans and their pets. “Photography has always been a passion of mine—and as a veterinarian, I love animals,” says Bev, who practices around her home in Loudoun County, Virginia, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “Being able to blend the two professions is perfect for me.”
Raised in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, Bev has always had an affinity for animals. “Since age 9, I’ve seen the world through the lens of a camera,” she adds. “I can’t recall a time when I didn’t see an outing, party or vacation as an opportunity to take pictures.”
When she started taking classes in photography six years ago, Bev quickly realized that she clicked with four-footed subjects. “I’ve shot horses, goats, llamas and cats professionally, but my heart is with the dog,” she notes. “More than any other animal I’ve seen, they really put themselves out there emotionally.”
Fidos on the Farm
Often, Bev’s photo sessions are set on Tranquility Farm, the 24 acres of picturesque hills, creeks and fields she rents as her photography headquarters. Her studio/gallery is set up in a renovated 1807 barn, with a floor of boarded horses just below.
“Sometimes I travel to a client’s home for a session,” she says. “But I’m surprised by how many people from the city pack up their pets and come here. They book an animal-friendly B&B and make a weekend of it.” The farm offers a wealth of locations. Bev has walked a well-trained agility dog to a log above a creek and posed other pups on a sofa she’s hauled to the middle of a meadow. Some romp unleashed with a barn, silo, woods or rustic fence as a backdrop.
After talking with a dog owner about the content of the portrait, Bev and her assistant head out with lenses, lighting equipment and the pet’s favorite treat or toy. “If you’re patient and just watch, you’ll find the pet’s personality,” she says. “It’s about timing.” Dogs don’t understand the concept of glamour shots, which means each session is full of surprises. But there’s one constant: “We always have a ton of fun,” she says.
Many of Bev’s clients consider their pets full-fledged members of the family and plan to hang the portrait at home or in the office. Often, people with aging pets want a beautiful reminder of their friend because “they realize their time together is precious.”
Bev’s portraits have also graced greeting cards, calendars, national magazines and art galleries. And she has participated in Smile for a Cure, a group of pet photographers who donate a portion of their fees toward a cure for canine cancer.
Her own dogs, Niles and Lily, are frequent models who are “used to having my camera in their faces,” she says. “I’m very aware and respectful of the amazing bond we have with animals. Helping them as a vet and honoring them as a photographer is about as good as it gets!”
For more on Bev’s fine art pet photography, go to her website, bevhollisphoto.com.
Get Great Photos of Your Pet: Here’s How
Taking picture-perfect photos of your pet is a snap when you follow Bev’s tips:
- Be playful. For a fun lifestyle shot, photograph your children playing with their pet rather than posing.
- Get on their level. Try a belly crawl; your images will take on a totally different look.
- Focus on the eyes. The expression and light in your pet’s eyes give the image feeling.
- Forget the flash. It can distract or frighten a pet, so work with natural light whenever possible.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bev turned the tables on our CW team during her photo shoot! To see the “behind the scenes” photos she snapped, visit her blog.