These two Golden retrievers, Lizzie and Ally from Ontario, Canada, have more than 390k followers on Instagram. We asked their human mom and photographer Fran to share the story behind the account known as @lizzie.bear.

The person behind the lens of @lizzie.bear is Fran Laurendeau. She comes from Montreal but now lives in Ottawa, Ontario. Shortly after our first questions, Fran explains that her background is in computer science and has nothing to do with photography.

“I’ve always had a creative side. When my father gave me a camera, I became hooked. It’s a hobby that I’ve enjoyed for as long as I can remember, but I started photographing my dogs only a few years ago.”

Your Instagram feed is dedicated to your two lovely dogs, Lizzie and Ally. How did the idea come to start an account for the girls?

I started it for fun, taking pictures of my previous golden retriever before Lizzie and Ally. Her name was Nellie, and she was my first muse. My passion for photography evolved as my Instagram account grew over the years.

Fran adds that they always had dogs in the family when she was a kid, but her heart belongs to golden retrievers due to their friendly nature. “They are very affectionate and constant companions, and I can’t imagine my life without them.”

I had a dog myself in the past, and it’s a mystery to me regarding how you stage not only one but two dogs at the same time. What’s the trick?

The trick is to use treats and positive reinforcement! My girls are food-driven so treats always work. We always make photoshoots a positive experience and never a stressful or negative one, so they know it’s going to be fun.

Could you explain how you get your ideas, and how you develop them into final images?

That’s a bit tricky to explain. Sometimes an idea just comes to me, and it evolves into something for a photoshoot the more I think about it. Other times I see something that inspires me, and I find a way to make it our own by putting a unique spin on it.
What I love the most is capturing moments or expressions that evoke a feeling, as well as taking seasonal shots. Here in Canada, we have four very distinct seasons. Here in Canada, we have four very distinct seasons so the landscape changes dramatically.

Can you describe Lizzie’s and Ally’s personality for our readers?

They are very different. Lizzie is the most affectionate of the two, but she’s also the naughtiest one, getting into things she knows she shouldn’t!
Ally is also very affectionate and she really loves to play with balls and sticks. She’s more of a true retriever in that way.

Do you have a favourite picture of them? If yes, what’s the story behind it?

Hard to say, but if I love a shot one day, it often changes when I get a new favourite. Some of my favourite shots have been lucky where I capture a look or an expression that evokes a feeling.

Let’s talk shortly about the past holiday season. Do your natural surroundings give you more opportunities to enjoy a magical, feathery landscape during this time of the year?

Absolutely! We just got snow in mid-December, and everything started looking like a winter wonderland!

Scrolling through your beautiful snowy, frosty images, one has the impression that winter and the Christmas season is one of your favourites. Is it?

I love snowy shots, but our winters are so cold here it can be tough to take shoots outside when it’s -25C and your hands freeze. My favourite season is actually Fall because of the beautiful colours.

Could you share with us some anecdotes or fun facts about Lizzie and Ally?

Most people don’t know that Lizzie was adopted when she was two! We had just lost our senior Golden Nellie, and a few weeks later I saw a posting about a breeder wanting to rehome a dog because they couldn’t breed her as they had planned (she failed her hip test). Her name was actually Maizie. I went to visit her, and it was love at first sight. Two weeks later, she came home with us, and we renamed her Lizzie.

Also, people often mix them up because they look so similar! I always tell them that the trick is to look at their noses! Lizzie has a black nose and Ally has a much lighter nose, more brownish. There are other differences, but that’s the easiest one to spot!

Once you quoted Maya Angelou, poet and civil rights activist next to one of your posts. Do you stand up for a cause? If so, what is it?

I feel strongly about the environment and animal cruelty and have shared my views several times.

How do you feel about the Instagram community you build up? Do you often connect or collaborate with other Instagrammers?

It’s a beautiful community. The dog/pet community is actually very close on Instagram. Most of us know each other from chatting on a regular basis and some of us have also met in person.

If you’re interested in more stories and background information of our PICKMOTION photographers, check out more of our #pckphototalks on the blog.