When I tell people what I do they often give me a big smile and say how great that is. Some of them never even thought about the idea and then to meet someone who is (at least trying to) making a living at it often gives them pause and want to know more.
I’m a pet photographer, focusing on portraits of dogs, cats, horses and any animal someone would keep and care for. I started doing this when my (future) wife and I adopted our Rat Terrier, Toby, and I started running around taking pictures of him and his friends at the dog park.
Wait, that sounds a little simple. I think you should know a little more about me. My background and education is all about photography. I’ve had a camera in my hand since high school and I’ve loved everything about the art of photography ever since. I have a masters degree in art, specializing in photography and have worked in higher education and the fine art world with my photography for most of my adult life. So when I say I’m “running around taking pictures” of dogs at the park, I do this with nearly 25 years of dedication behind me. Adopting Toby gave me a subject to focus on and I’ve expanded it to create a entire business around that I know can create a worthwhile career.
The question you might think to ask when considering hiring a photographer is why? Why should anyone hire a photographer? Nearly everyone these days has a camera either as a mini pocket camera or on their phones that can give them the photos to share anytime they want. But what do you do with those photos? You share them on- line or maybe make a small print at the local drug store to put on the fridge. It may last a short time until the next photo or something else needs a space on the fridge, and often that image gets packed away or trashed.
A photographer will give you so much more. A photographer will give you a special moment. Just by choosing to hire someone, you are making time to capture your pet at a stage of their life that you want to remember and keep forever. The photographer will work with you to find the ideal location, best time of day, ideal lighting and the ability to capture your pet’s best expressions. These photos won’t be something you just hang on your fridge. This will be a work of art that you will want to hang in your home or office that you will show off to everyone. People will talk about and be excited to see how much you love your pet.
We add value to those things we pay for. Things that are free or cheep are treated that way. If you go out for a fine dining experience, you put on your best (often most expensive) clothes, you pay a premium for a meal and what do you get? You get an experience. You are treated really well, you get a top quality meal with the best ingredients, and you get the atmosphere of the restaurant. You wouldn’t expect that same quality from any fast-food chain but you wouldn’t pay that same price either.
Who hires me? People who love and appreciate the art of photography. That isn’t going to be everyone. I want to work for people who appreciate photography and know that what they get has a real, long term value. My clients want the whole package. They want to be treated really well. They want to have a fun experience of creating the photos. They want me to capture a real unique moment and most importantly, they want to have an image they can display both digitally and in print proudly with other works of art they own.
When choosing a photographer, here are some things you should think about. Their website should have all of their best photos. Judge them by the weakest photos. If you only see a few photos you like, then you should move on. If you are impressed and want to see more, that is someone you should consider.
Also think about what you want these photos for. Are you just sharing with your friends and family or do you want to a canvas print on the wall? There are lots of options and if you’re not sure what you want or where to put it, some good photographers can help you decide on these options.
Everyone will have a budget and you’ll have to decide what is a fair price for the value of what you get. Hiring a photographer for a individual shoot can range from under $100 to over $1500 and that is just to show up and shoot. Why such an extreme range? Value of work will decide if you get what you pay for. For $100, you’ll get someone who owns a camera and will come to you if you’re nearby and will take a few nice photos. For $1500, you will bring your dog to a professional studio, work with an experienced photographer, groomer, lighting assistant and maybe others to create an image that will blow you away and you may end up spending another $2000+ on professional prints to hang up and keep your entire life.
This isn’t for everyone but for those of you who are considering this, consider you are responsible for the entire life of your pet. From birth (or adoption) to death, you will be all they know and they will touch your heart so deeply. Don’t you want to have more then just a memory?