From Paw Prints to Portraits: A Peek at the Week of a Luxury Pet Photographer in Pittsburgh

Toss those briefcases out the window and forget the fluorescent-lit drudgery of boardrooms because my nine-to-five is anything but beige! (If you know, you know.) As a luxury pet photographer in Pittsburgh, my workweek is far from ordinary. Routine? Sure, but only in the sense that I call the shots. No day is ever the same, and that’s exactly how I like it. My days are a well-choreographed tap dance between high-powered collaboration and mastering the art of the “down” and “roll over” to truly get on my clients’ level (quite literally).

Wondering what exactly that looks like? Well, get ready for a high-level peek at my week as a luxury pet photographer where the only deadlines are treat breaks and the only pressure is the gentle nudge of Hunter’s wet snow nose against my leg asking to go back outside for the 64th time in an hour.

Saturday: the Chameleon of the Week

Unlike weekdays with their fairly predictable routines, Saturdays embrace a hodgepodge of activity, a dance between structure and spontaneity, responsibility and recharge. Sometimes they dawn with the familiar hum of managing my appointments and online calendars, ensuring the week ahead flows smoothly. On other weeks, they unfold with the leisurely shuffle of errands or early mornings that stretch on in my comfiest robe and Sherpa-lined slippers as I indulge in that much-needed uninterrupted me-time, always between the hours of 5-8 a.m.

But the fun of Saturdays lies in their unpredictability.

This particular Saturday started with the usual errands, navigating the mundane with the efficiency of a productivity ninja. But beyond the checklist, this morning held a deeper purpose: reining in my schedule. Boundaries are my best friend, and I kicked off my day like I do each Saturday by updating my calendars, carving out clear spaces for pre-session consultations, ordering appointments, and artwork pickups. Control enthusiast? Maybe. Zen master of time management? Absolutely.

My internal go-button usually requires a herculean effort to switch off, or rather to turn down the dial, because I’m not sure I’m capable of ever fully silencing my mind’s to-do list. Not that I’m really interested in doing so. While most wouldn’t consider work relaxing, for me, it’s a state of flow, a satisfying hum of activity. This means true relaxation, in its more mainstream definition, feels like an alien concept to my overactive mind; however, I will admit that I quite enjoy the satisfying task of refilling our outdoor bird feeders. Watching nature’s feathered friends flit in for a snack is a personal form of therapy, a stark contrast to the seed-pilfering squirrels I’ve been grumbling at through the feeder’s bird cam app.

By late afternoon, it was time to shift gears once more for a session in Schenley Plaza with Levi, an eight-year-old husky with eyes as blue as a glacier and an “awrooo” with the potential to soundtrack a million dog treat commercials. As soon as I met him, I couldn’t wait to break out my bells and whistles and get down to business, not only because Levi was so handsome and full of personality, but because I was wielding my brand-new Nikon Z8.

Purchased just over a week ago, this was its first client session baptism by fire, and let me tell you, it was epic. The animal eye focus? Insane. Capturing Levi’s playful bounds in action? Effortless. And seeing those crisp, clear images materialize in the viewfinder exactly as I saw them at the moment I shot? Magical.

When I got home from my session, I imported my images into Lightroom, did a quick two-round cull before editing two for my editor, Christina, to use as a reference point, and sent the remaining ones off to her for color correction. Yes, I’m one of those photographers who defies the stereotype of endless editing and late nights thanks to the power of outsourcing, clear boundaries, and a phenomenal team that has helped me to optimize my workflow and schedule to ensure I can prioritize both work and my bedtime. I love that my energy stays focused on what matters most, not drowning in post-processing. I suppose you can say it’s Z8 by day, Zzzs by 8 p.m.

Sunday: Reflect, Restructure, Repeat

Ah, Sunday mornings. For most, they’re a time for snooze buttons and coffee, but for me, it’s a blend of quiet reflection and strategic planning. I collect mugs of herbal tea on my desk as I time block my week, analyze wins, assess challenges, and glean valuable lessons from the prior one, organized within the confines of a refined Craft template. This isn’t work, it’s an investment in my sanity, my creativity, my success, and ultimately the exceptional service I provide to my clients. By carving out this time, I build a foundation for a week that flows with efficiency and intention.

Sunday mornings are also reserved for client ordering appointments and artwork pick-ups. This week, Oliver’s mom, Cathy, stopped by my portrait suite to collect her boy’s gorgeous gold leaf deckled edge fine art print finished in a modern two-tone gold and oak handcrafted frame. We caught up on life since last seeing each other, chatted all things senior dogs, and collectively gushed over how freaking perfect her new wall art piece is going to look in her home.

Monday: Elevate and Collaborate

While many may associate their Mondays with breakroom coffee and tunnel traffic commutes, I often find myself immersed in learning, inspiration, and community, and this Monday was no exception.

My workday kicked off with Elevate lifelines, offering Elevators one-on-one laser-focused advice on pricing, processes, and workflow, and tackling those pesky money demons head-on. Lifelines are like having a personal pit crew for your photography business, ensuring it’s running smoothly and ready to zoom past any challenges! Witnessing each photographer’s “aha!” moments and their strategic shifts: solid gold.

Shortly after wrapping up my last lifeline of the morning, I jumped into the Hair of the Dog Academy’s 50K Club co-working call. Think of it as a virtual coworking space for pet photographers, buzzing with creativity, challenges, and high-fives in which we share wins, tackle hurdles, and fuel each other’s hustle like nobody’s business. During this over two-hour call, I zoned in specifically on reconciling my accounts, which I do every— ​what I like to call—​”Money Monday”,​ taking care of monthly sales tax payments, scheduling this year’s Biggies Bullies pet calendar contest winners’ sessions, and a bit of content creation.

From there, I immediately logged into Elevate’s six-figure call, a mastermind-type meeting specifically designed for photographers navigating the world of six-figure businesses. We plunged into the trenches, tackling high-level struggles like scaling businesses, attracting dream clients, and mastering the art of delegation. For this month’s call, we opened with a discussion on end-of-life business-related policies before the conversation transitioned to exploring the thoughts behind when people’s perceptions of us don’t reflect who we truly are and the disconnect between who we think we are and how others perceive us. This conversation has been a powerful reminder that we’re not isolated in our experiences and a nod to the universality of human experience, even in its more challenging aspects.

I had a bit of downtime to grab lunch and put together some enrichment games for Hunter before I traded my computer for skates and headed to the rink for a few hours of figure skating coaching. (Did you know that about me? That I coach skating as well?) The rink is far from your typical office; my fingers ache protests under layers of gloves, the air hangs crisp, the silence punctuated by the rhythmic press of blades into the ice. It’s a constant battle against the cold that nips at fingers, toes, and noses. The debilitating Arctic-like weariness is real, but at the end of hours on the ice, there’s a different kind of fatigue that settles: the satisfying ache of muscles pushed to their limits and the sweet exhaustion of witnessing potential bloom into reality. Because coaching skating isn’t just about clean jumps and centered spins. It’s about building resilience, nurturing passion, and teaching life lessons disguised as crossovers and edgework to my young skaters. It’s about watching them fall, pick themselves up, and try again, a little stronger, a little braver, each time.

A steaming cup of hot chocolate, a pink and gold glitter bath bomb soak, and a cozy blanket made all the cozier by Hunter’s weight are my rewards before I hit the lights for my usual 8 p.m. bedtime. Early nights may not sound glamorous, but to me, it’s the ultimate luxury! What can I say: my soul is 85, my body just hasn’t caught up.

Tuesday: Crafting Compelling Content

While Tuesdays are normally fairly open for me, an intentional choice to align with my values of freedom and flexibility, this Tuesday morning began with the familiar clickety-clack of my keyboard as I banged out my Furiday Favorites email, a bi-weekly newsletter delivered to my VIP subscribers. It’s a strategic touchpoint, carefully crafted to cultivate engagement and nurture relationships within my community. (And hey, if you’d like to join in on the fun and receive your twice-a-month dose of Bark & Gold goodness, go ahead and subscribe riiight here.)

Mid-morning, I mic’d up for a podcast interview with Tori Mistick, host of the Wear Wag Repeat podcast, who extended an invitation a few months ago to join her for an episode that will air this March. It’s one of two interviews focused on the March theme of money, the other featuring my friend and Profit First coach, Kristen Ricupero.

Being somewhat familiar with the pet calendar contests I run annually in support of Biggies Bullies and hearing good things from the hundreds of other photographers around the world who have taken my Guide to Successful Pet Calendar Contests course, Tori saw the perfect fit between this charitable marketing project and its impactful contributions to animal rescue. We discussed the ins and outs of running a successful contest, from marketing to community engagement to how these calendar contests translate into real, lifesaving help for animals in need. I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops (or at least through Facebook and Instagram posts) when my episode goes live in a few weeks, but to be sure you don’t miss its rollout, I encourage you to follow and subscribe to the Wear Wag Repeat podcast on your favorite podcast app as well.

In the evening, I headed to my portrait suite for another client artwork pickup, this time for Anthony who came by for his fine art album, barnwood round, portrait trio, and matted gift prints. There’s something magically meaningful about seeing my clients open their artwork for the first time and witnessing the culmination of shared vision, the moment captured emotions find their physical form. It’s about connecting with people and translating their stories into something to last the rest of their lives.

Every whisker, every playful glint in your dog’s eyes, every quirk of his posture: these details, so familiar in everyday life, are somehow magnified as tangible art, sparking a wellspring of memories and deepening the emotional connection you share. Tears often well up, not just from the beauty of the artwork, but from the overwhelming wave of love, gratitude, and a renewed appreciation for the joy they bring to your world that washes over you. It’s a poignant reminder of the irreplaceable bond you share, a bond that has found an enduring expression in this piece of art, which promises to bring joy and comfort for years to come.

Wednesday Wellness: Cracking the Code on Self-Care

Wednesday dawned with two appointments dedicated to the well-oiled machine behind the lens: a bi-weekly chiropractor visit and a relaxing massage. All that fun of dog photography comes with a physical toll: contorting my body into strange angles, carrying heavy equipment, and spending hours on my feet. Self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a non-negotiable for me, and those monthly (sometimes bi-weekly) massages are my happy hour. As a pet photographer, my work demands both physical and emotional energy, so ensuring my body proper care is a professional responsibility. Adjustments address the physical demands of performing my own set of tricks as I adopt awkward postures and quick movements to keep pace with your dogs’ boundless enthusiasm while regular massages promote flexibility and recovery from repetitive movements, preventing injuries that could disrupt client sessions. That, or I’m part Golden Retriever, because let’s be honest, I secretly live for those long, loving strokes.

I made it home just in time, hair slicked with delicious frankincense relaxation, with the clock ticking down to the Elevate book club meeting for 10x Is Easier Than 2x: How World-Class Entrepreneurs Achieve More by Doing Less by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy. The book’s core message—​that aiming for 10x growth can be easier than 2x by focusing on leverage and strategic action—​resonated with biiig feelings, particuarly the focus on outsourcing. The room buzzed with shared experiences, questions, and strategies for letting go of non-CEO tasks, or really, any tasks you don’t love. It wasn’t just about time (though, hellooo, more time for massages!), it was about freedom: freedom to create, to grow, to chase that elusive entrepreneurial dream life…while smelling faintly of lavender oil. May we all do less, achieve more, and remember that sometimes the biggest leaps come from letting go. (And maybe scheduling another massage.)

A brief intro call with a new lead looking to book a session for her three dogs rounded out the day before an evening in which a dose of pure downtime was just the ticket. Oh, and catching up on some Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and The Price is Right at Night. My husband calls them my “programs,” but hey, a little wheelin’ and dealin’ never did anyone wrong!

Thursday: Discovering Joy in an Open Calendar

Thursdays usually bring a whirlwind of activity, but this week, my calendar conspired to give me a sweet surprise: a light day! Instead of the usual back-to-back meetings and an evening photography session, my afternoon held just one to-do: a Flourish Academy Elevate call. The call opened with exploring the belief that we “should be further along,” and what business and life would look like if you simply couldn’t think that thought, more specifically who you would be without that thought.

The afternoon is a watercolor wash of blue-gray, perfect for curling up with a soft blanket and a snoring dog (or a good book if said dog decides snuggles are overrated). With the rest of the day unexpectedly free, I did exactly that. Sometimes, a light schedule is the ultimate productivity booster, and when I don’t fight that open calendar space too much, a practice in chillpreneuring. An ironic thought for someone who resonates deeply with “I believe it’s possible to waste time.”

Friday: a Mixed Bag of Activity

Friday’s final artwork pickup revealed a piece that elicited a smile as breathtaking as the two pups it featured. Jessie and Bo Peep’s mom Christy’s eyes lit up when she saw their stunning framed fine art print and matted gift prints for the first time. Her excitement was infectious, and hearing that she already had the perfect spot picked out in her office made my morning. It’s these moments—​witnessing the joy my art brings to clients—​that truly makes what I do so meaningful.

Friday afternoons are my “long day” at the rink, a chilly extension to my day that won’t see me home until late evening. It’s a prolonged version of my Monday afternoon freeze-fest as I partner the boys through their intricate ice dance patterns and help with group lessons. Sure, I’ll be exhausted by the end of those four hours, but it’s worth the frostbitten feet and fingers. Now, if you’ll excuse my graceful (or not-so-graceful) exit, I’m off to trade clicks for toe picks…

Notice something missing from my schedule? Oh, a session with you and your dog? We can change that! Simply choose your adventure to begin.

8 thoughts on “From Paw Prints to Portraits: A Peek at the Week of a Luxury Pet Photographer in Pittsburgh

  1. Karen says:

    Ahhh…the life of a luxury pet photographer and entrepreneur. I love how you shared a peek into your week. You sure do work hard, but isn’t it great making your own schedule?!

  2. Chantal Levesque says:

    Oh Jess it’s so eye-opening to see what a week in your shoes as a luxury Pittsburgh pet photographer is like! There is never a dull moment is there? And happy to see you are loving the z8. It’s a game changer isn’t it?

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