Today’s post was written by Vicki Taufer, a seasoned professional photographer who loves shooting people and animals!
I have been a professional photographer for over 10 years, but really only tapped into the pet photography market five years ago when we offered our first Dog Days of Summer event.
Since then we have photographed over 300 animals and collected over three tons of dog food for our local animal shelter.
While my main business is still photographing people, I have added tens of thousands of dollars to my revenue by adding pet photography to my business. Here are some of the tips, tricks, and advice I have found essential for photography pets and running a successful studio.
1. What is Dog Days of Summer?
Five years ago, we decided to help raise donations for local animal shelters. Each year, the Dog Days event enhances our reputation in our community as “The Pet Photographers” because we get a lot of free press. In this one day event, participants donate a large bag of dog food and pay $50 to get a short photo session and a free 5×7 (they can buy additional prints from us separately).
2. How do I advertise?
The first few years we put brochures at the local pet bakery and veterinarian office. This is a great way to build relationships with other businesses in the community that have the same clients. We use press releases to get local news coverage. V Gallery also posts the event on our website, Facebook and we send an email blast to our client database.
3. How long do I spend with each animal? Do I have an assistant?
We allow 10-15 minutes for each animal. If someone has multiple pets, they can pay multiple sessions fees so we have more time to spend with them. To make an event like this run smoothly, I use assistants to greet clients and help in the camera room. Assistants also help carry dog food and wrangle pets using squeakers and dog treats! The more organized you can be before the event; the smoother it will go.
4. What type of backgrounds and props do I use?
My goal when photographing pets is to create a V Gallery portrait. This means I need variety, fun couches, and various backgrounds and fabric. I don’t just set up one scene and shoot. Some of my current favorites are WHCC floors and backdrops because they don’t wrinkle and are easy to use. I get a lot of bang for my buck without needing a lot of storage space. I use a lot of furniture from estate sales and second hand stores. I usually stay away from leathers since pet’s claws can scratch or puncture them. Don’t use anything you treasure – animals can be messy!
5. What if I don’t have a studio?
I would work with another business, like a pet boutique, and shoot in their space. This is a great way to build relationships with other businesses in the community. Plus you will have access to their client database!
6. How do I sell and price the images?
Clients set up their 30 minute viewing appointment at the same time they book their session. Most of the sales occur two weeks after the session during a couple days we set aside just for Dog Days of Summer orders. I decorate the sales room with pet images and products. We sell by projection using ProSelect. Clients see between 10-15 images. We offer special pricing on collections that start at $99.
7. What were some of the results I have seen from photographing pets?
I have seen an increase in the amount of pet sessions I shoot every year, not just for Dog Days of Summer. These sessions typically have a high sales average and some clients drive quite a distance to be photographed. We created a market for high-end pet photography. It is a niche market, so once you get “discovered” the clients will come. We have also had the opportunity to do multiple displays with some local veterinarian offices. Some have actually even paid for their displays. This helps promote our pet photography throughout the year. The other things we’ve experienced are clients returning for a regular family session after doing a pet session with us.
To find out more about our Dog Days of Summer Event you can check out our previous Animoto blog post, our creativeLIVE workshop on photographing pets, and our website with educational materials for photographers. In fact, we have an entire collection dedicated to photographing pets called “Unleashed.” You can get 50% OFF everything at V Gallery Haven by using promo code Pet50 until September 24, 2012.
Also, check out our page on Vicki for more photography video ideas!