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Pet photography - help needed

MattK 6 63 United Kingdom
26 Jun 2012 10:08AM
I have recently been asked by people to take portraits of their pets after taking some for lady at an event. She loved them and has kindly told her friends/colleagues and they now want to "book" me and have been asking for prices etc.

As I haven't set out as a pet portraiture business yet I am now in a pickle. I have built a real interest and passion for pet portraiture anyway and am now looking to start up a business in this area hopefully starting with these clients. I am looking for any tips or advice people can give me e.g. insurance required, website's, tips for when photographing peoples pets etc. Any help is appreciated as this could be a real chance for me to make a start! I want to do this properly.

Like anyone else who has built their own photography business I am simply trying to make a start so any constructive comments will be appreciated to help me on my way.

Thank you for your help.

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hobbo Plus
7 1.2k 2 England
26 Jun 2012 11:30AM
I am no expert in this field by any means, especially as far as studio lighting and camera settings go......but....if you look in my portfolio, you will see a very recent doggie portrait done for a friend.

The dark background helps, with natural rather than artificial light and seems tomake ia subject glow.... Read my post and you will see that I gave it a nudge in TOPAZ adjust, mainly to boost detail and textures, the flyer was selectively applied with soft bushes via a mask....a final selective sharpen using the same technique completed it.

The other advice is to get attention of the pet with a toy or by the owner being behind or just to one side of you.....focus on the eyes......the better informed experts on here will advise regarding DOF, lenses and camera settings.

Good luck with yu new venture.... Get it right....and you should do very well.

cameracat 14 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
26 Jun 2012 11:44AM
Not wishing to be a party pooper, But setting up or getting started in a photography business, Today in the year 2012 and onwards, Is at the very least going to be hard, Very hard.

If your going to paint yourself into a corner by declaring you are, A " Pet " photographer, Or a " Portrait " photographer, Or even a wedding photographer, Then the going will be harder still.

Bottom line, Become a photographer first and foremost, Then maybe just maybe specialise, If you can find a specialist subject that is not already overcrowded/oversubscribed, Try Googleing to see just how much competition is around....Grin LOL, Check out the eager beavers who will undercut you at the drop of a hat, Or a doggie treat....Sad

Whatever, I'm not saying don't try, No no no, Sure give it a bash, But don't give up the day job just yet.....Wink
Carabosse 14 41.0k 269 England
26 Jun 2012 12:13PM
There are links to some books about professional photography here . You might want to consider investing in one or more.
Sus 13 3.2k 9 England
26 Jun 2012 3:44PM
Nick Ridley is one of the experts in the field, I have also found Pet photography now! by Paul Walker and the Amhert media book on pet photography useful.

May be some websites of these pet photographers named for inspiration here:


I would consider the first thing is decide on whether you are going to go for outdoors or natural scene portrait photography - including action shots etc (lots of useful tips in Nick Ridleys books), or if what people want in a pet portrait is the simple high or low key background portrait.

A (human) assistant is invaluable in setting up shots! Can be the owner. Also, be sure to keep it enjoyable and stress free for the animal, stress will SHOW in their face, not the recipe for a good portrait.

Helping to photograph animals for a local rescue is a good way of getting known and getting publicity. Or why not offer to take pictures for a local dog club? Produce some stuff for their website and there will be a constant stream of visitors looking for dog training and being exposed to your photography.

Good luck!
MattK 6 63 United Kingdom
26 Jun 2012 5:36PM
Wow - thank you everyone.

Hobbo and Sus - a human helper is definitely needed I agree. Found it quite hard when taking the previous ladies pet photo's as the dog was very easily distracted!! Very good point made about the stress showing in their faces so will definitely be bringing treats and a toy or two Grin

I do also like the idea of dog clubs and there is a local dog rescue just around the corner so will pop down there and introduce myself - great idea!

I will have a look at the books mentioned by Carabosse and Sus as they sound very helpful.

Cameracat - This is dilemma I have - what you said is absolutely true. It is going to be difficult but hopefully by pricing myself at the right level and offering something unique in my style (and being very charming to my clients!) then hopefully I can make a success of it. Like you said - getting known as a photographer generally is hard enough so I will definitely bear that in mind when seeing up my website etc as it could have a big impact.

All of your feedback so far has been fantastic and really useful so thank you everyone - a lot of food for thought. I have a lot of reading to do and hopefully a lot of rescue dogs to photograph Grin

danielwaters 10 93 4 United Kingdom
3 Jul 2012 6:26PM
Treat it just like a family portrait session. Meet the client before they book you so you can show them beautifully framed portraits at decent sizes (30x20 or above). This shows them the value of what you do and helps you build rapport by asking lots of questions and establishing exactly what they want. You also get to meet and find out about the pet. Then do the session if they hire you and if you decide they'll be a decent client. Then project your photos for them in person so you can control the sale and show the portraits at a decent size. Lots more stuff on this on my website. Hope it helps.
MattK 6 63 United Kingdom
3 Jul 2012 7:03PM
Hi Daniel - Some really sound advice there I feel. I have looked at your website and it has raised many good points and has lots of helpful advice. Pricing is one section I looked at and this is an area I am concerned/confused with.

Where do you start?! I feel cheeky charging what others charge as I am starting out but I value my work and feel my photo's are good so it is a fine line. i don't want to go down the cheap and cheerful route because that isn't what I want to portray.

Maybe stick to fairly cheap to start off with then after a portfolio of images is built then charge going rate?

lots to think about!!

I have bookmarked your site as it is really useful!

Thanks Daniel.

danielwaters 10 93 4 United Kingdom
4 Jul 2012 12:39AM
Thanks for the kind feedback matt. Regarding price I think one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to pitch yourself slightly above your comfort zone. You then learn the various sales techniques (like asking lots of questions) until you feel comfortable t that price. Every 6 months or so you raise your price by 10% or so so you're just outside you comfort zone again. Keep doing that and in a few years you'll be comfortably selling at prices you never dreamed of. My last family portrait was 930, when I used to charge 200, before I set up my system.
MattK 6 63 United Kingdom
4 Jul 2012 8:16PM
Interesting advice Dan. If I end up charging anywhere near that and feel comfortable doing so then I know I have made a success of myself!!

I don't have a studio so will be on location but could be inhibitive on pricing but could maybe get a mobile studio set up to take with me.

Thank you again for your advice. Some really interesting points and ideas which have definitely got me thinking Grin

DT01 9 69
5 Jul 2012 10:09AM
If your pictures are 'special', people will pay...you just have to find the right people! They are out there. You say that you have a real interest and passion for pet photography and I'm sure this will shine through in your work and the way you handle your clients. People pick up on this. I have recently spent 5 hours with a client on two separate occasions, post shoot, just choosing images and various options. Why? Because I want it to be right for them and the result is that their order is just shy of 2k.

I take on board what Cameracat is saying about painting yourself into a corner however the flip side of that coin is, if you become a specialist you can be seen as the 'go to' guy for that particular niche. If you then create a signature style that people like, and it's different enough that people see is as special or remarkable, it becomes very desirable. If you turn out stuff that anyone can do with a bit of thought and application, you can only charge basic rates.
danielwaters 10 93 4 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2012 5:09PM
Drew's right and has a great portfolio. That said, I've seen people with average work get thousands too. It's how you present your work too. An average photo displayed at 40 x 30 in a beautiful frame looks a lot more valuable than a 7 x 5. Uploading photos onto an online gallery and letting clients choose is a brilliant way of killing your sales. You have to gently lead the client through your system that I mentioned before: pre consultation before they book you, followed by photography session followed by projecting the clients images in person. Works like a charm. Takes a couple of extra hours for each clients, but it tripled my average order and they're continuing to climb - so it's well worth the effort.
MattK 6 63 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2012 5:23PM
Thanks Dan/Drew.

I think that finding that something different in terms of style is a key point and I do agree with how important presentation is and spending the time with your clients. I have a lot of research to do in terms of making myself different to everyone else.

in terms of framing/selling it to them when with the client - Would you frame one of THEIR photo's and show them (this does seem logical from the sales point of view!) or would you frame a photo that you would show everyone as an example of what one would look like at that size?

The reason I ask is because if you frame one of theirs you run the risk of them not buying it anyway and you then have to bin the print.

Thank you so much for all of the advice as this is great information!

Matt Grin
MattK 6 63 United Kingdom
5 Jul 2012 5:34PM
Dan - you have a fantastic portfolio. Really varied but great on all fronts. I particularly like the spaniel against the black background - a very cute dog with some big eyes!

I was looking on your site and saw about software that allows you to let your clients see what their photo's look like framed before buying. A very useful bit of software but never seen it before. Is it a big secret or would you tell me what it is called and if it is readily available/affordable?

Mat Grin
DT01 9 69
6 Jul 2012 1:20AM

Quote:Drew's right and has a great portfolio.

Thank you Dan, very kind of you to say so. Smile

Quote: Would you frame one of THEIR photo's and show them (this does seem logical from the sales point of view!) or would you frame a photo that you would show everyone as an example of what one would look like at that size?

This is where you showcase your best work, in the best possible style. It costs a bit to do but like everything, it's something to build up to. I started with one 'premium' frame with what I thought as a great image in it. Looking back, I made mistakes even with that, but, you learn and adjust accordingly. What it did do was give people a sense of what something special could look and feel like. I would happily spend another 1000 on display frames tomorrow (if I didn't have a load of other needs, shouting louder for money!) One step at a time, but keep taking those steps.

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