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Advice on breaking into the pet world #15084
05/09/08 08:16 AM
05/09/08 08:16 AM
Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Jim Poor Offline OP
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Jim Poor  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Obviously, I'm a dog lover (most pets actually) and I think that if I can work with subjects I like, it will show through. I'm also a nature photographer, but unless you are leading photo tours and teaching seminars the money is hard to come by in that world. Anyway I'm looking for advice on getting into the serious world of pet photography in as much as folks are willing to share.

I'll go first with what I have done so far and plan to do in the future.

I started by doing volunteer photos for the rescue groups that we adopted two of our four dogs from, then expanded to others. That gave me a few things:
1. Experience working with dogs other than my own
2. Experience with dogs that are not well trained
3. Experience with subjects from bubbly to terrified
4. Exposure (photo credit on the site, people visiting the events, etc.
5. An "in" I have agreements to eventually put flyers into adoption packages that will give discounts to folks who adopt.

I've had several folks ask me if I do private sessions so I am getting some results.

Recently, I began contacting other rescue groups in the area offering photos for adoption web sites as well as letting them know I'm available to do fund raising events (Ah, now I get to get paid and contribute back to the groups)

I'm running over 50% positive responses and most of those include the possibility of paid fund raising events. (one for 300+ dogs in September is booked already as well as a few smaller ones).

What I would like to do is expand into the world of breeders, dog shows and vets / pet spas.

I'm sure I'll run across someone from these target pools while at an event, but I'd like to take a more proactive approach. I've contacted a few pet spas directly with less positive results than I would like.

What do you all do to break in to that market?

Thanks
Jim

Hook up with a pet related business ... [Re: Jim Poor] #15085
05/09/08 08:28 AM
05/09/08 08:28 AM
Joined: May 2005
Near Cincinnati, OH
K
KennyP Offline
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KennyP  Offline
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K

Joined: May 2005
Near Cincinnati, OH
I'm associated with a five-vet animal hospital, and have regular studio hours there. A pet hotel or groomer may also be a good bet. Finding enough clients to make a living will be difficult, otherwise.
Go to the Photography page at this site.


I believe in f/8!
Re: Hook up with a pet related business ... [Re: KennyP] #15086
05/09/08 08:37 AM
05/09/08 08:37 AM
Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Jim Poor Offline OP
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Jim Poor  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
That's exactly what I'm talking about. I think it would be great if one of the "higher-class" pet spas / resorts would offer that sort of service.

I guess the question is how to break in. Maybe I just need to be more patient with this approach than with the rescues and such.

Thanks
Jim

Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: Jim Poor] #15087
05/09/08 09:09 AM
05/09/08 09:09 AM
Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Jim Garvie Offline
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Jim Garvie  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2005
Florida
Hey Jim,
I think what you've done is an excellent way to get started in pet portraiture. So I'm not going to get into a lot of detail in this response other than to say that if you are good, the more portraits you do, the more you will get to do. It's axiomatic but absolutely true.

As for breeders and dog shows, there are some additional things you need to know. If you've never shown a dog, it's hard to know how they should be stacked and from which angle they should be shot. Most breeders want their breed positioned and photographed in particular ways. You need to know the "head" breeds so you know what to feature about those dogs (heads obviously). In short, you need to really understand each and every breed so you can emphasize what the breeders want to see.

The dog show world is all of the above plus a lot more. If you want to become a dog show photographer (the guys who take the win shots at shows) you need to know all the breeds intimately and how they should be stacked and from which angle they should be shot. You also need to be able to sell your services to show chairmen. This is a highly political process not unlike the entire world of dog-showing. Once you've been able to get a show contract, you need to be able to do the work: cover 8-10 rings simultaneously when they finish judging a breed when they all finish at approximately the same time. And then you need to understand the business end of what you do with those images in order to get paid.

The shooting part is not as easy as it looks and you have to have credibility with the handlers who can make or break you in the ring. So, unless you have experience as a show person, you might want to think twice about this niche.

On the other hand, great pet portraits require good technique and a good eye for how those pets should look and you clearly have both of those talents. And, frankly, that's where the $$$ potential is although the market is harder to identify and promote to. But, as I said, you've made a good start.

Jim


Jim Garvie
www.jagphoto.biz
Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: Jim Garvie] #15088
05/09/08 09:16 AM
05/09/08 09:16 AM
Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Jim Poor Offline OP
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Jim Poor  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Thanks Jim.

My family did some showing (Shelties) when I was young, but I won't claim to remember anything about it.

It sounds like I need to do a lot more research before going knocking at show doors.

Thanks again,
Jim

Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: Jim Poor] #15089
05/09/08 09:45 AM
05/09/08 09:45 AM
Joined: Jan 2008
North Carolina, triangle area
wallyspop Offline
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wallyspop  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2008
North Carolina, triangle area
I would like to add just a small piece of advice. Develop your own unique style. Obviously there are essential points as Jim pointed out with specific jobs but I'm speaking in general. I think you need something that sets you apart from all the others running around with cameras. This advice was given to me and I initially thought "what the heck can I do"? I surfed the web, read a ton of books looking for something. I have found when you love what you are doing you will develop that style. Try to show something that has an impact. Understand your clients needs and wants. Then go with it. I still do not do this for the money. Someday it would be nice post retirement but for now I do this for the love of pets and meeting people, and giving them something that will last far beyond their pets time. When you give them the finished product and you see the emotion in their eyes, that beats the heck out of the check from my perspective....

Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: wallyspop] #15090
05/09/08 09:47 AM
05/09/08 09:47 AM
Joined: Jan 2008
North Carolina, triangle area
wallyspop Offline
Old hand
wallyspop  Offline
Old hand

Joined: Jan 2008
North Carolina, triangle area
oh and one last point. As a result of this approach clients are not banging down the door but I am getting a steady flow from word of mouth. And by the way, I've had the majority tip beyond what I charge.... Kinda interesting.

Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: wallyspop] #15091
05/09/08 09:56 AM
05/09/08 09:56 AM
Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Jim Poor Offline OP
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Jim Poor  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Thanks Bob,

I'm seeing a style start to take form.

On those occasions where I have time to experiment rather than just get the shot that puts the most dog in the frame for a limited space site (one of the groups limits their pictures to 250 pixels) I experiment as much as I can.

This weekend I worked with 42 dogs over two locations and four hours and took 800+ images so there wasn't a lot of time to play, but I have a couple standing gigs that I can play all I want with.

Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: Jim Poor] #15092
05/09/08 09:36 PM
05/09/08 09:36 PM
Joined: Jan 2008
st. petersburg, florida, usa a...
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Visceral Image Offline
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Visceral Image  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2008
st. petersburg, florida, usa a...
Jim; I have followed a similar path getting involved in Pet Photography. After some research, I have decided not to get involved in show photography, except to help a fellow photographer with candids and such.

I agree the rescue and SPCA organizations are a wonderful way to help and get experience.

Mostly, I have had the most luck by "word of mouth" and meeting folks with pets. The other day I gave a lady riding a horse one of my post cards; turns out she teaches Dog Obedience School and I have been hired to do Obedience School graduation photos. I plan to do the graduation photos similar to little league team photos; a group photo (dogs plus owners) and an individual photo of each dog. It will not be a huge money maker but will get my name out. The horse rider also works at a local vet. clinic and she will put my post cards there along with photos of her dogs, cats, birds and horses.

Re: Advice on breaking into the pet world [Re: Visceral Image] #15093
05/10/08 07:53 PM
05/10/08 07:53 PM
Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Jim Poor Offline OP
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Jim Poor  Offline OP
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Joined: May 2008
Virginia, USA
Thanks. I'm thinking word of mouth will do for now as it looks like I have at least two major events a month from June to October.

I've actually thought about the photos for trainers too. I think there could be a good relationship there.

Photographer tells customer with a rowdy dog where to get training and trainer tells folks how to memorialize their newly well behaved pet in a nice portrait.

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