When I pitch ideas about pet businesses to journalists, one problem that comes up over and over again is the lack of suitable photographs.
Often, pet business owners are so busy doing what they actually do (which is great) that things like having photoshoots aren’t considered a priority.
But if you want to get your pet business in the media – and if you’re reading this I’m guessing you do – then having professional images is important.
The days when local papers had a team of photographers to shoot images of every story they produced are long gone.
Even some national newspapers and many of the women’s magazines now rely on collects – that’s photos supplied by the person in the story.
Not having them is a barrier to getting in the paper. If you’ve got a journalist interested, the last thing you want to do is miss out because you don’t have pictures to go with a story.
They say never work with children or animals but of course your pet is part of your business so they need to be in the frame too!
I spoke to Kerry Jordan from Fur and Fables to find out why photography is important, what images you need, what to look for in a photographer and how to get over being camera shy.
Why is it important for people in the service industry, so walkers, groomers, trainers, pet sitters, to have decent photography?
We all love reviews so whatever service you provide, people will check you out, so they’ll look at your website, your Facebook, your Instagram and any review site you might be on.
If any of those things look substandard, you’re going to attract a client that maybe isn’t willing to pay the prices you would like them to, particularly if you’re offering a premium service.
If you have professional images rather that ones you’ve taken yourself or asked a friend to do, it elevates your brand above your competitors.
What about people who aren’t keen on being in front of the camera?
You are your brand or business and people buy from people, they want to see the person they will be dealing with or who will be caring for their pet.
I know people can be self conscious, and we all feel like this, but try to overcome this, people aren’t looking out for your flaws.
People zoom in on what they perceive are their imperfections, whereas the general public don’t see it, because they don’t know.
I think put on your big girl or big boy pants and just do it. Most professional photographers know how to make you feel relaxed.
A lot of the stuff that I do for example, it isn’t just sitting and looking at the camera, it’s getting you interacting with your dog or with your product so that makes it a little bit easier.
And it’s your job to make people look their best isn’t it?
Absolutely. I used to be a wedding photographer, so I have worked with people and dogs, and so I’ve learnt a lot about how to get the best out of people, and how to make people feel comfortable.
I think once people feel comfortable in front of the camera, then it shines through in the images.
What if a pet is anxious?
This is why it’s really important to work with someone who is used to photographing pets, who will spend time putting them (and you) at ease, be patient and have suitable equipment such as long lenses.
If you have an anxious pet, discuss this with the photographer before you book a shoot and ask what experience they have and how they might handle your pet. You’ll know by talking to them whether they are right for you.
If you were a business providing a pet service what would you say are the shots they need for their website or marketing material?
Good head shots. People, as you know, buy from people. They like to see the person behind the brand. If they’re entrusting their dog to you, they like to see your face.
Then some photographs of you doing your job. Just walking and interacting with the dogs in the countryside for example, or cuddling a dog after a good groom, that kind of thing.
It helps people connect with you as a brand and as a person.
What would your advice be for finding the right photographer?
There are some really good pet specific directories where you can find a photographer so that’s a good place to start.
Ask around for recommendations, have a look at their website, their social media, their interactions to get an idea of how they work and who they are.
More than anything, make sure you love their style. When you actually approach them for a price it might sound like a lot of money.
But think about how much money you would lose if you booked a photographer who was cheaper and who didn’t do a good job.
Finding somebody whose style you love means that it will reflect well on your business.
Find out more about Kerry’s work at www.furandfables.com
Case Study – Debbie Humphreys – Redhound for Dogs www.redhoundfordogs.com
Debbie’s brand makes clothes for whippets and their owners, so she was drawn to Kerry as she is a whippet owner too – she actually has five!
Debbie said: “Most of us can take a decent photo these days with phones and basic click and shoot cameras being so good, but I hire a professional photographer because they ‘see’ the shot in a different way.
“Kerry creates great composition, clarity and continuity in our brand images. I have always known the power of a great photograph and always allocated a decent budget for it.
“A professional photographer can make or break a brand.”
Here are couple of photos to show what Debbie means.
A word about pricing
I spoke to professional photographers in my network regarding their prices and they ranged from £50 per hour to £700 per day.
It might sound a lot but when you’re booking a photographer, you need to remember the kit they bring with them is usually worth at the very least £5,000.
They spend time planning the shoot and researching you and your business, putting together looks they think might work, considering other spanners that might be thrown in the work like the weather.
Finally, once the shoot is over they have to edit the photos. In the shoots I’ve done over the years I’ve been sent a final set of images ranging from 10 to over 100. That’s a lot of work.
When I asked photographers for their tips and why their clients picked them, these were some of the responses
“People have said that they love my style (I didn’t realise I had one), but more importantly to me that I treated their dogs with the utmost respect, putting them first and not pushing boundaries.”
Ade Parker, www.adeparkerphotography.com
“If I was to look for a photographer myself, I’d want to see their passion for dogs or the area of specialisation. Just have a chat with them and discuss ideas without any pressure. See how creative they are, and if it feels right, just do it.”
Megan Williams, www.meganwilliamsphotography.co.uk
“Quite often clients like how approachable, honest and down to earth I am. They’ve usually been following my work on social media for a while and enjoy the lifestyle I live and the values I promote. They also love my outdoor, coastal photographic style.”
Hattie Day, www.thecornishdog.uk
“Clients often comment on how well I handle their dogs, patience and kindness, taking the time to understand what makes them tick. They also tend to have liked my previous work.”
Sarah-Ann Nicolson, www.snicpics.com
“I mostly photograph families and it’s just the same as photographing dogs! Patience, a good location and biscuits is the advice that comes to mind.”
Jackie Tucker, www.jackietuckerphotography.com
The final word
I don’t have a pet business as such, but I have a blog and to launch it, I had a photoshoot with Daisy with Jackie Tucker.
I’ve had several others over the years, usually doing something like dog reiki, Muddy Dog Challenge, dog personal shopping, but Jackie’s was just about me and Daisy.
Sadly, a year later we said goodbye to her and it all happened pretty quickly. But I have over 100 photos from that day of Daisy and I that I absolutely love and will treasure forever, and nothing can put a price on that.
- Did you guess which one was my terrible phone pic? It was the one on the bottom – the other was taken by Sarah-Ann from Snic Pics.