How to Start a Pet Photography Business

What better way to spend time with pets than photographing them, either as a career or as a hobby?

Photographing outdoors will always help give your photos the most natural-looking light. By: buchsammy

On an average day, I take anywhere between 3 and 300 pictures of Banjo. There’s just something about how she sticks her tongue out at me, or sits so pretty, or rolls around on my bed, messing up the blankets, but doing it adorably. According to my Instagram feed, I’m definitely not the only dog lover who has this problem.

While many of us are happy snapping away on our smartphones — maxing out the memory capacity with photos of our pets being so stinkin’ cute — some people would like to graduate from cellphone snapshots to professional-level pet photography.

And although it’s not easy, if you’re dedicated, you can definitely make that happen.

Basic Supplies and Know-How

First things first: If you want to start up a photography business, you’re going to need some equipment and the knowledge to use it. If you’re just starting out, consider buying:

  • An entry-level DSLR camera
  • 1–2 lenses
  • Basic photo editing software

Even though these are the basics, the initial investment when starting your own photography business can be staggering. And if you’re serious about the business, you’re going to have to shell out quite a bit of dough to compete with other photographers.

If you already have the basics, expand by adding some or all of these to your shopping list:

  • A high-quality DSLR camera
  • 2–3 prime lenses with different focal lengths and apertures
  • Indoor and outdoor lighting tools
  • Studio equipment (for a photography studio), including backdrop, flash, props and more
  • Advanced photo editing software
  • Advertising materials

This can all get very expensive  very quickly, but you can upgrade and purchase as your business grows.

Where to Shoot

Here are 3 locations to consider using for pet photo sessions:

  1. Your client’s house: In this scenario, your subject will probably be more comfortable than if your client traveled to you. Scruffy may be more relaxed and easier to work with in the comfort of his own home. However, keep in mind that you will have fewer options for backgrounds and may have lighting issues if you are shooting indoors.
  2. At an outdoor location, like a dog park: Natural light is almost always the best for doing a photo shoot, especially if your subject is particularly active. Bright light means a faster shutter speed, so you can get great shots of Scruffy playing and running. The natural backdrop often adds a lot to a photo as well, capturing moments that seem less posed or rehearsed.
  3. In your studio: If you have reached a point where you have a professional studio, you can set up photo sessions any time, regardless of weather or time of day or year. With studio lighting, there’s less to worry about — finding the perfect outdoor location or trying to squeeze in as many shots as possible during the “golden hour” aren’t a concern. You can also use different backdrops and props for your sessions. However, be warned: These photos will probably look a little more artificial and posed.
Shooting at a pet’s home might help them feel more comfortable. By: SNGPhotography

Finding Clients

This can be the trickiest part of starting your own photography business. Chances are you won’t be the only photographer in your area, and specializing in pets is going to narrow your customer pool. So how do you get your name out there?

  • Print some eye-catching business cards. Leave them in locations where you know people will see them, like pet supply stores, animal shelters, boarding or grooming facilities. Make sure you ask the business owners if they mind first.
  • Use free advertising. Create a business page on Facebook, and encourage your friends and family to share it with other pet lovers. Post an ad on Craigslist or on similar websites. Put together a free website with examples of your work.
  • Volunteer your services. Many animal shelters post photos of their adoptable animals online. If you volunteer your photography services and provide the shelters with great pictures, then they may share your business information on their websites and social media platforms.

Snagging clients can be slow work, especially at first. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t seem like business is picking up. Just keep pushing for exposure and encourage any happy customers to share their experience.

Check out this photographer’s work with pets (and other animals):

How Pet Photography Fits Into Your Life

One of the most important things to consider when starting a photography business is whether this is going to be your hobby or your career. As a hobby, your availability will be more limited, and it will take longer to get started and establish clients. But the income will be supplemental, and you can treat your business a bit more casually if you’d like.

If you want to pursue photography as a career, you’ll need to do a lot of research to make sure that you’re competitive in your field. Keep your prices fair, but not too low. Make sure it’s easy for customers to locate and contact you.

Most important of all, believe in yourself. If you know that you have the right skills, your photography is great and you love your furry clients, then you’re already pointed in the right direction.

Allison Gray

View posts by Allison Gray
Allison Gray gained a wealth of knowledge about animal welfare issues and responsible pet care during her nearly 5 years of work for an animal shelter. She is a writer, photographer, artist, runner and tattooed remedial knitter. Allison also has been researching, testing out and perfecting nutritious pet treat recipes in her kitchen for Petful since spring 2017.

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