All photos courtesy Modern Pet Photography.

When Ronny Miles first caught the photography bug in the Philadelphia area in the 2000s, he did so in typical fashion: traveling around Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York with friends and shooting the gorgeous landscapes those areas have to offer. He then gravitated to portraits.

“I really thought it would be people,” he says with a chuckle. “It turned out to be pets.”

As Miles, who’s owned dogs most of his adult life, started to get serious about photography, he realized that taking photos of his dogs, and then those of others, gave him great joy – and that he was quite good at it.

Miles, a native of Memphis, Tenn., who spent 25 years on the corporate side of the retail industry for the likes of Walmart, Macy’s and Universal Studios, moved to Marin in 2014 when his husband, Jamie Bruning-Miles, took a job as chief operating officer for YMCA of San Francisco.

When he arrived, he found a pet-centric culture that blew him away – “we’ve never lived anywhere where there are just so many dogs,” he says. That convinced him to make the leap of turning his personal passion for photographing pets into a business: Modern Pet Photography.

“First of all, it’s just so much fun,” he says. “Each shoot is different, especially since cats and dogs have vastly different personalities.”

Any photographer knows that patience and a flexible personality are key assets at any shoot. But with pets, those attributes are essential.

“You have to be comfortable with the unexpected,” Miles says. “You can go into a shoot with some ideas and you’ll sometimes get to do none of that. It’s often more like action photography than a portrait – you really have to be ready. And some of the best moments are when pets are just being themselves.”

To get to that point, Miles finds himself being part dog trainer, and part dog owner trainer. “People can get frustrated with their pet because they want the perfect moment,” says Miles. “But I get a sense of the pet and try to lead in a comfortable, relaxed way.”

Miles uses a handful of tricks – but only treats as a last resort – to maintain a pet’s attention. That includes vocal noises like duck calls and rabbit calls. “I’ll cycle through as many of those as I need to,” he says. “And with cats, it’s more visual cues than sounds.”

When it all comes down to it, Miles reminds himself that it’s all about the owner’s experience.

“It’s all for the owner,” he says. “The pet is their child in some cases. And what’s memorable for me is when I do a reveal after the shoot and present them with their photos, it can be really emotional for them. You want to capture that emotional bond that they have their pets.”

“That’s why I do this,” he adds. “When the client says, ‘you’ve captured the essence of my pet,’ that’s the best compliment I could ever get.” Miles says.

The 411: GO HERE for more info on Ronny Miles and Modern Pet Photography. Miles is showcasing his pet photography during the Sausalito Art Walk at New Leaf Financial Advisory at 1505 Bridgeway, suite 114, on Wednesday, August 9. MORE INFO.