In the heart of the Inland Northwest, Angela Schneider’s Big White Dog Photography is redefining pet photography. With a zest for life and a love for Spokane and Coeur d’Alene’s landscapes, Angela turns ordinary moments with our fluffy friends into extraordinary visual tales. Every session isn’t just a photoshoot; it’s an adventure, a celebration of the unique bond between humans and their best friends.
What makes Big White Dog Photography exceptional is Angela’s “no-holds-barred” and innovative approach. Her mastery of off-camera flash not only allows for flexible scheduling but also infuses each portrait with a bold, dramatic flair, capturing a dog’s goofiest quirks. Angela’s dedication and talent haven’t gone unnoticed. Her image (shown above) secured a spot in the top 100 of the 2023 International Pet Photography Awards, a testament to her standing among the world’s best pet photographers.
Angela’s underwater photography, made possible by investing in specialized equipment, adds another layer of daring adventure. She will, literally, take the plunge into lakes and rivers to capture the unique perspective of pups at play.
The Big White Dogs
Big White Dog Photography is not just a business; it’s a heartfelt homage to the two Maremma sheepdogs, Shep and Bella, who played a pivotal role in shaping Angela into the person she is today. Originating from Italy, these independent yet loyal livestock guardian dogs are known for their stubbornness and aloofness, qualities that require a unique partnership rather than a dominant leader.
“Through Shep and Bella, I’ve learned that our dogs can be our greatest teachers if we open ourselves to them,” Angela shares. Rescuing Shep in 2004, Angela embarked on a journey of discovery opening up a world of new and amazing experiences. “His presence in my life was transformative. Shep taught me to embrace who I am, leading me to make positive changes that enhanced our adventures together.”
Shep’s impact on Angela’s life was profound. He taught her the liberating lesson that she was enough just as she was. She didn’t need to conform to a certain lifestyle; Shep accepted her unconditionally. This realization prompted positive changes, from trading corporate high heels for hiking boots to swapping a Mustang for an SUV. Together, they explored the hills and discovered the true meaning of living.
When Shep passed away in 2014, Angela found herself with an abundance of adventure photos but few of them together. Determined to spare other dog lovers from that same regret, she launched Noses & Toes Pet Photography in December 2017. Shep’s successor Bella, also a Maremma sheepdog, became her top model. As the business blossomed, Angela rebranded it to Big White Dog during the downtime of the pandemic, a name that better reflects the wanderlust inspired by her two incredible dogs.
Celebrating Furry and Feminine Strength
In our journey through the lens of Big White Dog Photography, we uncover not only the enchanting tales of Shep and Bella but also the profound connection between female empowerment and the companionship of dogs. Angela sheds light on the transformative lessons that dogs can teach us and the unique bond that empowers women:
“For decades, the old saying has been that a dog is a man’s best friend. Women get stuck with diamonds. And while my husband presented me with a beautiful ring for our engagement, I would trade it in a heartbeat for the life of my dog,” Angela explains.
In today’s society, women face myriad expectations, striving to balance career, marriage, family, and personal fulfillment. The pressure to ‘have it all’ can be overwhelming, contributing to a quest for value and belonging that drains one’s energy. Angela highlights the additional challenges women encounter, from wage gaps to a loss of agency over healthcare decisions, and the persistent lack of safety. Single women, in particular, often grapple with loneliness and societal stigma of not being attached to another human.
For Angela, the simple act of caring for Shep provided not only companionship but also a sense of responsibility and accomplishment. Choosing a child-free path, she managed to nurture Shep to the age of 12 and a half, with Bella now enjoying a healthy and happy life at the age of 9.
“Dogs support us without judgment; they allow us to lean on them and listen to our rants and raves. They give us the space to work out problems on our own. They ask for so little in return,” Angela observes.
In her seven years of operating Big White Dog Photography, Angela has encountered countless women who echo similar sentiments. Dogs, it seems, empower women to feel more confident, safer, and less alone. Inspired by these shared experiences, Angela is embarking on a special personal project set to release in a couple of weeks. This project, she shares with excitement, is all about “loving your dog that damn much, finding our strength and power, and still expressing our femininity and woman-ness.”
Compassionate End-of-Life Photography
In the realm of Big White Dog Photography, we encounter a delicate yet crucial aspect of Angela’s work — end-of-life sessions. Aiming to provide solace during a potentially painful period, Angela shares her approach to these sessions and the profound impact they have on pet owners navigating the difficult terrain of saying goodbye.
“Within a year of being in business, I realized one-third of my clients were coming to me because they were getting ready to say goodbye to their dogs. I wanted to be a better support person for these clients because I know how devastating it can be to lose our best friends,” Angela shares.
Recognizing the need for enhanced understanding, she delved into the realms of anticipatory grief and pet loss grief, not only to better support her clients but also to process her own grief over Shep’s passing in 2014. Then in 2022, after her mother’s death, Angela decided to delve even deeper into the field. Now twice-certified as a grief educator and a certified pet loss grief companion, she extends her knowledge globally. Angela educates pet photographers worldwide, guiding them on how to be empathetic service providers for clients seeking end-of-life pet photography sessions.
Additionally, Angela has started the One Last Network podcast, dedicated to supporting pet guardians as their cherished companions enter their senior years and eventually depart from the physical world.
“As a photographer, these sessions are an honor and a privilege. End-of-life sessions are a special time during which my clients are so vulnerable, so in pain. They are enduring a grief that is often dismissed by general society, sometimes even our closest family and friends,” Angela reflects. In response, she aims to create a judgment-free space for her clients, allowing them to simply exist with their dogs in the brief time they spend together. Angela concludes, “I will always drop everything and adjust my schedule to make an emergency session happen.”
Putting Shelter Animals in The Spotlight
Angela attended Shutterhound, a dedicated conference for dog photography, in Las Vegas this September. The experience left her inspired and fueled with creative energy, leading her to embark on a couple of personal projects. One notable project involves collaborating with the Companions Animal Center, formerly known as the Kootenai Humane Society, in Hayden, Idaho. Angela visits the shelter to create amazing images of shelter animals, aiming to increase their chances of finding loving homes. This initiative is not just about photography; it’s a crucial effort, especially in the current climate where shelters are under excess pressure due to an unprecedented rate of pet surrenders.
Angela emphasizes the importance of giving back to the community, which aligns with her mission to “do only good” (d.o.g.). Over the past three years, she has raised an impressive $15,000 for animal-related nonprofits in the region. This includes the self-publishing of two coffee table photobooks and one wall calendar. Additionally, Angela actively contributes to a global collaborative of pet photographers, resulting in the creation of unique coffee table photobooks.
Looking ahead to 2024, Angela promises an exciting year filled with passion projects, continued collaboration with the Companions Animal Center, and the creation of epic wall art and photo albums for her private clients. Her dedication to the community and the welfare of animals remains a driving force behind Big White Dog Photography.
Connect with Angela:
Text or call: 509-720-8784