On an average day, I take anywhere from 3 to 300 pictures of my dog, 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. They’re looking to start a pet photography business.
It’s not easy — but if you’re dedicated, you can definitely make that happen.
Hi, my name is Allison, and I have been engaged in photography for many years, including a stint as an executive board member of the St. George’s University Photography Club. In 2014, I opened my business called Go Gray Artwork. In this article, I’ll give you some pro tips on how to start a pet photography business.
How to Start a Pet Photography Business
Basic Supplies and Know-How
First things first: 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 you start your business can be staggering. And if you’re serious about the business, you’re going to have to pay a lot to compete with all the other local pet photographers.
If you already have the basics down, then 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 expensive quickly, but you can upgrade and purchase as your business grows.
Where to Shoot Photos When You Start a Pet Photography Business
Consider these 3 locations for pet photography sessions:
1. Your Client’s Home
In this scenario, your subject will probably be more comfortable than if your client traveled to you. Scruffy the Beagle 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 pet photos indoors.
2. An Outdoor Location, Such as a Dog Park
Natural light is almost always the best for doing a photo shoot of pets, 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 pet photography studio, you can set up photo sessions any time, regardless of the weather or the time of day or year.
With studio lighting, there’s simply 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 pet photography sessions. However, be warned: These photos will probably look a little more artificial and posed.
This can be the trickiest part.
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, such as pet supply stores, animal shelters, boarding or grooming facilities. Make sure you first ask the business owners if they mind.
- 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 pet photography.
- Volunteer your services. Many animal shelters post photos of their adoptable animals online. If you volunteer your pet photography services and provide the shelters with great pictures, then they may share your business information on their websites and social media platforms.
Finding clients can be slow work. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t seem like business is picking up.
Just keep pushing for exposure and encourage your 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 you start your photography business is whether this is going to be your hobby or your career:
- If it’s just 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 pet 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, believe in yourself.
If you know you have the right skills, your photography is great and you love your furry clients, then you’re already pointed in the right direction. Best of luck to you on your journey as you start a pet photography business!