For Montclair Local

I never understood how “duck face” selfies became so popular, and why they're still in vogue. Frankly, I look somewhat deranged when I attempt a self portrait. I needed some professional help. Michael Stahl, founder of Portraits by Michael Stahl came to the rescue.


In Montclair since 2002, Michael has been a popular go-to photographer for pet and human portraits, many taken in black and white. A self-taught darkroom enthusiast, Stahl built his own darkroom at his father's side as a child, and started out his career with Best Friends Photography. You may have seen his dog portraits displayed around town. They are wonderfully compelling. Honing his skills through Professional Photographers of America week-long seminars, his clients also ask him to take photos of their families along with their pets.

He meets with clients before a photo session to articulate what they want. Great portraits are the goal, and he shoots 150-200 images for families, 40 or so for individuals. When I mentioned how important it is for me to have printed photos rather than a cell phone gallery full of images, he remarked, “If you don't print your photos, you won't have them for generations to enjoy.”

Don't coach your kids the day beforehand and tell them to smile. I'm not a natural smiler, and have seen the perplexing and weird results of my offspring's two minute “smile, and next” school photos with eyes closed, grimaces or goofy expressions. Smiling is overrated and not necessary.

Stahl has the ability to see the essence of someone and has tricks to disarm and relax you. Children and animals react more naturally to props and silly banter, but he managed to get me to feel at ease during our photo session. Faces have an A and a B side, and people frequently tell him about what they think is their good side. I never thought that I had a good side, and dislike being photographed. He managed to take some some great, even beautiful photos of me during our session. It was all about the expression in my eyes.





He uses a Canon camera, but it's the talent of the portrait photographer, not the equipment. I tried my hand at taking photos of him and his beloved dog Teddy and hope that I didn't embarrass myself too much. Make some memories through printed and matted photographs and leave the duck faces to Daffy.

Robin Woods tries healthy pet salad greens. COURTESY LUKAS AND BEROBE

With pets on my mind. I stopped into Lukas & Berube Healthy Pet Markets to chat with co-owners Gregori Lukas and Marc Berube, to find the best way to feed my Chihuahua Mini Doberman and keep him healthy. Both men are Certified Pet Food Specialists through training from Dogs Naturally University. Gregori Lukas is Director of Education, with a goal of helping as many dog and cats as he can with proper nutrition and providing education to their owners. Marc Berube, director of operations, wants Montclair to have a place to fulfill companion pets' dietary requirements. Cats, he explained, are obligate carnivores and direct descendants of African cats, while dogs are facultative carnivores. Both species need meat, poultry and fish to thrive. Lukas and Berube told me that 90 percent of their customers come in for help with animal nutrition. A cozy Q-and-A nook is set up in the back of the shop, with a bright orange bistro table and chairs. Of course, you are welcome to bring your leashed pet in with you.

Have you wondered how some pet food tastes? I have, and taste tested some samples. Most people won't, but their food is organic and human grade, so I could and I did. I was drawn to their Raw Bar with the slogan “From Farm to Bowl,” and found swordfish and freeze dried minnows. I moved on to the refrigerated “salad” greens, and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. It is not as dry as a prepared salad for humans, but is much softer and wetter, having tasty front notes of herbs and cucumbers.

I would definitely eat that again, but will share it with my dog. The raw chicken nibbles smelled and looked good, but needed some food prep before eating. They are reminiscent of the hors d'oeuvres served at cocktail parties. Surprisingly, the number-one selling item is fresh fermented raw (unpasteurized) goat's milk sold in half gallon cartons, which they told me has probiotic and digestive health benefits. You can also find treats, pet accessories and nutritional supplements here.

Don't forget to take a photo of your best friends.

Be your own best friend, and keep your beast friends healthy and happy for a long time.

In this column: