As Diesel the pit bull bounds off the photo set, pet photographer Sarah Meashaw leans in to let him kiss her mouth. “People think I’m nuts,” she says. “I’m a total crazy dog lady.”
Meashaw has photographed animals full-time for two years. Her Bethesda basement is a custom-designed studio, with a lit stage, an expansive prop room, and floors that are non-absorbent (for obvious reasons).
In a typical week, she does about four shoots. Most of her clients are regulars who consider their pets their children, Meashaw says. Many, like Anna Flis, run Instagram accounts of their animal companions and need new photos every few weeks. Meashaw charges $195 for a two-hour session, and most of her clients end up spending $600 to $1,800 on products such as custom wall art and photo albums.
During the course of one session in early March, Flis’s pit bulls and bunnies underwent a number of costume changes—switching from ribbons to sunglasses to Wonder Woman crowns. The animals seemed excited about it—at one point, the two dogs rooted through a giant bin of animal hats and picked out the ones that they ended up wearing.
Meashaw stresses that she’ll never force an animal to do something that it doesn’t want to do, even if the owners try to insist.
“They have fun because I’m not stressing them,” she explains. “It’s like shooting a toddler that doesn’t speak your language.”
This article appears in the May 2020 issue of Washingtonian.