Spotlight: Illustrating the Bond Between Dogs and Their Owners, For a Pet Food Brand

By Varun Raghupathi   Tuesday December 10, 2019

This article originally appeared here.

Ever see something so cute that, like, you like totally couldn't even ... ?

Yeah. That’s what I thought. You definitely can’t even now, huh?

Philadelphia’s Lisa Godfrey — who totally can even — created this adorable imagery for Diamond Pet Foods. The intermediary, an advertising agency called Woodruff, had been on Lisa’s mailing list for few years before she paid them a visit.

I have done work in the animal space for years, and I keep track of which agencies do that kind of work. I went to Kansas City, Missouri to meet with a number of those agencies, including Woodruff, who came back to me a few weeks after my visit to do library of images for branding purposes. The first use of those images would be for a website update.

Even though both Woodruff and Diamond are headquartered in Missouri, Lisa completed the project in the Northeast. The animal-loving freelancer had the full support of Woodruff because of her previous work photographing animals.

A few of the creatives at Woodruff were fans of the dog calendar that I produce every year. They wanted me to do what I do for the calendar for them.

Woodruff also wanted a video for Diamond.

They wanted authenticity — dogs being dogs. I had a good bit of creative freedom.

In all, Lisa worked with six dogs and their owners in two very different locations. Half of the shoot was spent in the city of Philadelphia, while the other half took place in the Adirondacks near Lake Placid, New York. One of the main aspects of the project was the fact that none of the subjects were hired actors.  

I’m often asked to create images and videos that illustrate the bonds between animals and their owners. You can either hire models and trained animals or cast real people and their pets. Having photographed both approaches, I think you get the honest moments when you cast the real people and their pets. There’s a bond and trust there that’s hard to fake.

Animals don’t act. If they’re happy, they look happy. They don’t fake emotions. In my experience working with dogs, you need to figure out what they want. What excites and motivates them.

Not only is Lisa an adept and well-versed animal photographer, she’s also a proud pet owner herself. As such, the Philly-area resident — who always has dog treats in her pocket — knows what makes these canine companions tick.

My dog, an Australian Shepherd named Uma, is very motivated by food. She’s a smart dog and will try to figure out exactly what you want so she gets that treat. Some dogs are not food-motivated, so you have to be able to figure out what holds their interest and keeps them engaged.

Fortunately, one of the dogs for this shoot, a corgi named Cody, was food-motivated. Lisa's ensuing task was to patiently apply her tried-and-true techniques to set up the shots.

You get back the emotion you are projecting. Animals sense your happiness, anxiety, stress, and frustration. Even if you think your exterior isn’t showing it, they have a way of sensing what’s inside. This is where patience come into play. There’s a saying in dog training: 'everything goes down the leash.

As you might imagine, Diamond was thrilled with the results of the shoot. Soon after Lisa submitted her work, the pet food company plastered the images all over their website.

It was cool to finally see the work out in the wild. So often I produce image libraries that get used all over the world, but I do not always get to see where images are used.

As previously mentioned, part of the shoot took place in the Adirondacks. During filming, Lisa bonded with one of the subjects, a yellow Lab named Denali, shown here on picturesque Copperas Pond with her owner, Shelia.

While I was shooting some video of Denali walking down a path towards my camera, she came up to me and gave me a sweet little kiss on my face. I instinctively said, 'love you too, now go back and do that again.'

Scott Shade, the creative director, chuckled and said something like, 'I’ve never had a photographer tell their subject they love them on set before.'

My connection with animals is why they hired me. It’s rewarding to know that doing what you do is what makes the images happen. It’s also rewarding to see the dog happy and proud. Any day there are animals on location is a good day.


Wardrobe: Lindsay Foret

Hair and Makeup: Megan Ambroch

Assistant/BTS Video: Dan Lidon

Creative Director: Scott Shade

Graphic Designer: Brian McGeorge

Check out more of Lisa's work at


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