This year was the second year that we worked at the Westminster Dog Show's Green Room, located at the Penn Hotel. The Green Room is Judy Davis' brain child. It is essentially a big doggie spa. It is a place for the dogs to be groomed and for owners to purchase products and services from a variety of vendors. For example, there is a pet masseuse, psychic, and people selling a variety of different pet related valuables. There is also a place for the dogs to use the 'pet-a-potty.'
From the Green Room, many of the show's dogs will make a direct march across the street into the Garden (where the dogs are benched). As many of you may remember from last year, it was a difficult show for us. It was our first big show and we were completely out of our league. We were so lucky that we had the help that we had from forum members like Jim Garvie, Preston Smith, Jim Poor, Julie Poole and Helmi and Ken Flick. However, even with all that prep from some really competent people, making the returns that we needed to justify the hours and expense was really hard to do.
I really do not want to portray the 2009 dog show as a failure. It really was not. The show was a success in many different ways. While we did not earn a ton of money in last year's show, our connection did open up several doors for us. We wound up meeting several people and working on benefits where we were featured. We even recently were invited to the Board of Advisors for a local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Also, the show brought us enough recognition that we wound up getting calls from a variety of clients who wanted to be photographed by us because we did the show... the 'Super Bowl of Dogs.'
While the dog show is actually only two days long, the dogs start coming to the Penn far earlier. The show's commitment is actually five days. Also, the set up and break down for the show is laborious. So, if you are going to do the show, you really need to make efforts to do it right. Having looked deep into myself and at what things we felt went 'wrong' during the year prior, we decided to retool.
The first thing that we did was expanded our stall space. Last year we had 1 and 1/2 spaces. This year we took a full two spaces, giving us a lot more room to work in. It was also significantly cooler for the dogs (a complaint from last year).
The second thing that we did was spend a lot of money on high end photographs to show around the facility. To this end, we purchased eighteen 18x24 inch facemount prints. For those not familiar with facemounting, the photograph is essentially adhered to a glass plane. The results are spectacular and almost 3 dimensional. We also purchased a ton of signage that highlighted our work. I am pushing my facemount (Fracture Me - check them out) printers to move towards bigger prints. 18x24 is nice, but I really would like to make some 20x30s for next year's show.
The third thing we did was work with the show promoter (Judy) to get a quieter location than we had last year. This year we were actually outside of the Green Room, but it was significantly quieter given that we no longer had to compete with the sound of the dryers.
The last, and also significantly important, thing that we did was change our pricing structure. Instead of charging sitting fees, we worked on the philosophy of 'results oriented' sales. You sat for free and purchased what you liked. I learned from several people last year that name means everything. People may be willing to blow a chunk of change on a known quantity, but much less likely on someone who is relatively unknown. I was convinced that if I could book the dogs that I could make the show - and possibly earn a small profit. While the gut inclination is to increase print prices to make up for the lack of sitting fee, we decided to keep them relatively affordable. You could get a 5x7 for $15 (show price) bucks or an 18x24 facemount for $300.
To make a long story short, this year was a stunning success. We booked 30 different breeds (and a few repeats). I was so busy that I almost did not know what to do. Most importantly, we actually did well enough that I have already decided to do the show in 2011. We were also approached about having our images licensed by a painter in a tourist town out West. Last, we briefly made it on national television on two channels. Next year...shirts that say, "Wild Coyote Studio."
Sometimes it pays to believe in yourself. Just as importantly, it is important to look at yourself and learn from your own mistakes...then get up and do it again. Anyway, for those who are interested, the bottom shot was our 'studio.' We used a very similar lighting set-up to the one that Helmi Flick shared in her interview. I apologize for the graininess of the photograph. It was taken hand held at ISO 1600 with my Oly Pen E-P2.
Just a friendly reminder that this article is Copyright 2011 and may not, in part or in whole, be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author (James Morrissey). The images in this article are the property of James Morrissey and may also not be reproduced without written authorization.