Advice on how to run a successful and fulfilling Pet Photography Business.
If you have a love for animals and photography, starting a pet photography business can be an ideal career choice. Running your own business gives you control over your working hours and the freedom to only take on the jobs that suit you best. You’ll need a lot of understanding, patience and skill with animals to get the most out of this career choice and be aware of the upsides and downsides of the venture as a whole.
A love of animals is one of the most critical parts of any pet photography business. Animals, unlike human models, cannot be directed, and you’ll need plenty of tricks up your sleeve to ensure you can get the best shots and provide a quality service to clients.
Invest In Quality Equipment
You’ll need a lot of equipment to get started, most notably a quality, reliable camera. You’ll also need tripods, a range of lenses, lighting and staging props, furniture and backdrops. You should know your equipment inside and out before you even consider offering services to paying clients. It is a good idea to practise with your kit to learn the ins and outs of different lighting, settings and backdrops.
It can also help to practise using your equipment with animals to get a feel for the best settings and lenses to use in different environments. You could practise with your own pets or pets of loved ones. Ideally, try to practise with as many different pets as possible to get experience with various animals and animal personalities.
Understand Animal Behaviour
The next essential skill you’ll need is an understanding of animal behaviour and how to handle the different behaviours you might encounter. You’ll need to recognise when an animal is scared, aggressive or anxious so that you can take steps to help them relax. Taking an animal behaviour course can be ideal for helping you put the animals in your care at ease. Dogs are often the bread and butter of a pet photography business, so focus on canine behaviour, to begin with.
Have Plenty of Patience
Patience is critical when it comes to working with animals. It may take time for a pet to relax in your presence so that you can get those perfect shots. You may also have to repeat a shot many times until you get it right, which can be hard work. It’s best to ensure that the owner understands that the overall shoot might take some time, particularly if they have a nervous or anxious pet.
Learn How to Put Animals at Ease
Finding techniques to put animals at ease can be invaluable in making your job easier. Some pets may respond well to treats or commands, while others might need more coaxing. Consider spending up to the first hour getting acquainted with the animal so they get used to your presence and equipment. Ask the owner if there’s anything you can do or bring to the shoot to help their pet relax, or start the shoot with a few owner and pet shots until the animal relaxes.
Set Your Studio Up
It is a good idea to have a dedicated studio for your pet photography business, even if you plan to do location shoots or home visits. Your studio could be in your home, or you could rent premises if you have the funds.
It is best to put your studio somewhere quiet where you won’t be disturbed and ensure you have everything you might need to put dogs and other animals at ease while you work. Ensure you invest in furniture and equipment that is easy to clean should any of the pets you work with have an ‘accident’ during a shoot.
Learn To Use Different Image Formats
Once the photos are done, you’ll need to be able to work them up into different formats depending on the needs of your client. For instance, if you plan to make photobooks for your clients, knowing how to change JPEGs into PDFs can be a great idea. You can change your image format here quickly and easily.
Practise Editing Photos
Photo editing is another crucial skill you’ll need as a pet photographer. Being able to edit out unwanted parts of an image can be invaluable, such as dog leads or toys used to distract or pose an animal. You should invest in quality photo editing software to get the best and most natural results. If you aren’t very experienced with photo editing, consider taking a course that will give you all the skills you need for success.
Consider the Range and Type of Services to Offer
Being a pet photographer can be a broad job, so it may help to narrow down the services you offer to help capture a niche in the market. You could provide home photoshoots, and location shoots to get more natural images of the pets you photograph, or only work with certain pets such as dogs, cats or horses. If there are any animals you can’t work with, you should make this clear on your promotional materials and website.
Set Your Prices Competitively
Most people understand that hiring a photographer for any occasion or shoot can be expensive, and the best photographers are well worth the price tag for those perfect shots. That being said, you should still ensure that you price competitively based on your experience and the average cost of other pet photographers.
When listing the prices of your services, you should include all of the things a client will get out of the shoot, including your time, props, equipment and editing skills. The price should also be agreed upon before the shoot to avoid the possibility of a dispute arising.
Get Your Finances in Order
Any business owner should have a firm handle on their finances before they think about launching a business. Keeping your debt level low and having a good credit score can be invaluable to secure funding for your business. You’ll also need to understand how your business finances and tax responsibilities work. Hiring an accountant could be an ideal option to help you manage the financial side of your business and keep you on the right side of HMRC.
Marketing is crucial to help you attract new clients to your pet photography business. You should start with an excellent portfolio, with shots of different animals in various settings to give clients an idea of the quality of service you can provide. You should also have a website built to showcase your portfolio and provide all the information clients may need to engage your services.
A good mix of traditional marketing strategies and digital marketing campaigns can be ideal for getting your business seen. Traditional strategies include leafleting and ads in local papers and billboards, while digital marketing can include social media advertising, SEO and affiliate marketing.
Encourage Engagement on Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool for small and large businesses alike. It can be a great place to display your photography, showing potential clients what you have to offer. You’ll need to find ways to engage with possible clients online, but fortunately, pet photographers have one of the internet’s favourite things — cute animal pictures.
At the very least, you should have profiles on Facebook and Instagram, which are ideal for displaying your photos and drawing engagement from a broad audience. Post regular, quality content and respond to the comments and queries you receive quickly and effectively.