Given the bond that some pet owners have with their pets, I would say absolutely, you can make money with pet photography.
I have a friend that she looks after animals that have been neglected that she gets from the pound and looks after them for a few weeks or even months, and then gives them back so they can find a permanent home, which I think is absolutely wonderful.
She has her own pets, and her house, at any given time, could have up to eight animals, mostly cats, but there are a couple of dogs as well.
Now, I know that, what I’ve noticed, is that she is quite, I guess I wouldn’t say obsessive, but she loves them, and you can tell by the way that she treats them. She treats them like regular kids. They’re her fur babies, as she puts it.
When her pets, have a birthday, she dresses them up, gives them a cake, puts a great background, just similar to what you would expect if you were to take your kid to go get the cake smash.
That’s, in essence, what she’s giving the animals, especially her dogs, is a cake smash. She dresses them up, puts a cake in front, and then the dog absolutely annihilates the cake, and she photographs that, and does that every year.
I find that very interesting, because if you can find people to pay you to do a similar thing, I absolutely think you definitely can make a living from it.
Can you make a living just from photographing pets? Well, I guess it really depends on how you’re marketing yourself, doesn’t it?
So, I guess before we move on, we probably should talk about, what is pet photography?
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What is pet photography?
I think, in its most simplest form, it’s basically photographing animals, or our pets, in the same way that we’d photograph humans.
What I’ve noticed is there’s a couple of ways you can photograph them, and that’s just like you would have a photo session outdoors.
You can also photograph them indoors with lighting that was potentially set up for a human.
Dramatic lighting, lighting that shows off certain features, and it’s pretty amazing what some examples you find on the internet are. It’s pretty cool, the extent that people go to.
When you look at the photos, you can tell that there’s a personality with these pets, and that’s what they’re trying to achieve. It’s definitely a skill, because as people say, never work with young children or pets, and with that in mind, for you to photograph a pet, you really have to be into pets, so you’ve got to be a cat lover or a dog lover.
Don’t forget, it’s not just limited to furry animals. I’ve seen people photograph things as snakes, and other type of animals, and I guess if you can find a type of animal that you love and you can show that that’s the type of thing you want to do, and find the people that will pay you for it, well, absolutely. I definitely think you can make a living from it.
How to find pets to photograph?
There’s a few ways you can do this, and I guess using your own pets, if you have some, would definitely be a way to do it. If you’ve got a couple of cats or dogs, that’s a great way to start your portfolio.
You know your own pets, their personalities, can they take direction from you.
Sometimes there are animals that are very good at that, and sometimes they’re not very good at that, and there’s no different to working with young kids. Sometimes they listen, and other times they don’t.
The other thing is, think about your existing customers.
I often have customers coming to me and saying, “Okay, we’re going to do an extended family portrait, a family portrait session, and it has 15 people.
My grandparents do have a dog. Is it okay if they bring the dog with … It’s only going to be a few photos, if that’s okay,” and absolutely, it is okay, because a lot of these people treat their animals as if they were their own children.
If you want to take a photo that represents them as the people that they are, then photographing them with their pets, or even individually, is definitely the right thing to do.
I’ve had weddings where I’ve been told to include pets in the photos, and even one wedding, the cat made it into the wedding album.
So, I’ll just let you think about that for a second as to how much people love their pets.
Back on the other topic of using existing customers, there’s a life cycle that we have with a customer, so for instance, if we’re a wedding photographer, and we do portraits as well, potentially, you could start the customer journey with a wedding, and then, of course, they have their child, then you can photograph that.
Then, of course, as the kids get older, you’re doing portraits with the family. Then, down the track, there’s other types of photography that can come from that as well.
We’re always trying to, I guess, get the most out of our customers, and offering mini sessions, or session’s year after year, the same thing, a lot of people don’t update their photos because, well, how much do we change year after year?
Unless you’ve got some more kids, you wouldn’t change that much, but think about your offering something special, like pets portraits, a pet mini session, where you’re photographing them and their pets, or even just their pets by themselves. I mean, that would have to be pretty unique in that sense, and I think a lot of people that would have animals, utilising your own client base would be perfect.
Another way to get animals that you’d be able to photograph and be able to build a portfolio, or even find customers, would be to use the local ads, like free listings. You’ve got Gumtree here in Australia.
You’ve also got Craigslist. Sometimes, these type of places, it’s a bit hit and miss.
You may get people that are serious, but then you also get people that are not serious, and you just have to think about just how much time you want to spend chasing these people up.
Another place where you can find prospective clients, or even build a portfolio from, would be Facebook ads.
We’ve talked about this before where finding clients for a portfolio would be using Facebook ads and targeting very, very granular, trying to find people with a particular, maybe, type of pets, or a dog of a certain size or breed would be perfect, because that way, you can narrow down your search to the type of animal that you want to photograph. It could be cats, it could be dogs, it could be reptiles, you know? Really, left up to you.
Lastly, if you’re into photographing dogs, then going to a dog park, especially if you have your own dog, and speaking to the other owners, that would be a great way to start a conversation. I bet the majority of them would definitely say “Yes” to that.
What camera & lens combo is best for Pet photography?
Well, this really depends on the pet, but a wide angle and telephoto zoom would be ideal, so if you’re photographing, say, a smallish dog, then maybe using a 24mm – 70mm or even a 50mm or 35mm, if you’re doing it even outdoors or indoors, but if you’re photographing outdoors, using something like a 70 to 200, so you can zoom and yet in and out, just so you wouldn’t have to get really, really close to the animal, especially if the animal’s coming, running towards you, or with their owners.
Full frame or crop sensor camera doesn’t really matter as much as the lens. Simply using the same camera you use for portraits would be perfect.
What type of photos should you take?
Well, this really comes back to the type of camera kit. You can photograph the animals indoors, just like a classic portrait with the background, using studio lighting.
You can also do outdoor portraits in a very similar manner that you would photograph a young family with young kids. You can do the family with the animal, or you can just solely of the animal itself.
That’s the different types of photos. You can start off with photographing just the animals by themselves, and then, as the session progresses, incorporating some of the humans in there as well. I’m sure they’ll definitely appreciate it too.
Lastly, action photos. If you’ve got dogs, or even cats, but I guess especially dogs, as they would run around the park and observe other things that are happening around the park, that’s a great opportunity to take photos, because we’re not always just standing still, especially if you have a dog that you can’t get to keep still, then maybe switching to, say, action type photos, maybe the dog running towards you, would definitely be the way to go.
You can imagine producing a big print for the client after that would definitely be very striking to have on a wall.
What type of photo products should you offer?
Speaking of what you should do with the photos, well, prints, albums, canvases, just like you would sell to a family, that’s after a family portrait, you can do the same with a pet.
I think a big canvas or a framed print of a dog, or even a cat, that’s just sitting there looking straight into the camera, and you’re capturing the personality of the animal, would be awesome to have on the wall, especially if you’re a cat lover or a dog lover.
Even if you take a series of photos that you can incorporate into a 10 page album, I think that would also be fantastic too.
That’s just some of the products that you potentially could make. I would treat it exactly the same way when it comes to selling prints and albums as I would for families, to be honest.
I don’t think they would be any different, and a lot of them treat the animal as if they’re their own child, so I wouldn’t change that at all.
Should you add the photos to your current website?
If you’re going to potentially market and sell pet photos, should you add the photos to your current website? Well, that really would depend on your current portfolio.
If your portfolio is predominantly portraits, and you’ve got families and kids and just singles or people that are couples, then I think you potentially add a session in there for pet photos, because a lot of these people would, especially families, would have a pet.
If, say, for instance, you’ve got landscape photos, or architecture, or street photography, I don’t think that would be a good fit for it, and that’s when I think making a dedicated site for pet photography in your area would definitely be ideal.
Of course, you would have to start somewhere, and that’s when you would go down the route of trying to build a portfolio, which if you’ve got your own animals, you could do it quite quickly, and then, of course, finding other people, either online or even at the local park, would definitely be a good way of pursuing that way.