Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

 

Lesson Info

Business Goals

Before I get into my business model and what, kind of how my business has developed, I wanna open it up just for a couple questions, if anybody, what I wanna hear from you is what are some of the things that are getting in the way for you, either taking the next step for your business. What are you struggling with? What walls are you hitting, if any, where I can offer some support? Anybody have any? Just charging enough to live off of. 'Cause it, I mean, it's kind of a big number when you add it all up. Yeah. So photography can be really expensive, right? There's a lot involved, but there are ways and levels at which you can start that don't have to be as expensive. So, you know, understanding what you're working with, and we'll talk about that a little bit, and kind of understanding your cost of doing business and evaluating your specific situation and help you determine what you can charge and what you need to charge in order to be able to do it full-time. We'll definitely talk a...

bout that. My, I think the hard thing for me is being able to choose what to show the clients and to kind of really, not to show too much and not to show, like, too little. So I know you were saying so you kinda were going for 20, 25. Is that normal for an hour session? And do you just do, like, a slide show, or would you do more of, like, show product? It's a great question. So we're gonna talk all about the kind of after the session, how I would work through that, and it's, and there's a big difference between shooting for half an hour as opposed to two and a half hours. So the editing process is different and the considerations are different. But we'll absolutely go through that and I can talk you through what I do for that part of the process. Yeah. And one of the things that's coming in online from a number of people, and I saw a number of questions throughout the day about this, too. This is from BackPanda. But, is just getting paying clients. So how do you get your name out there? How do you turn sort of doing volunteer photography into getting paid clients? So just a lot of that how do you get clients? Yeah, how does that happen, right? I mean, we all get into photo-, nobody really gets into photography 'cause they think they're gonna make a lot of money. Like, it kind of picks you, right? Like animals at shelters pick you, you know? It's like, we have this love for what we do and we have to figure out ways to make money at it. So as I talk through my process and how I've gotten involved in it, I'm gonna talk about just the different ways, kind of the reality of what's been happening for me, you know, in the early part, and then, and what's happening now, and get you kind of thinking about different options, 'cause there's lots of different ways to use animals in your photography, and there's money there, for sure, but it's, you know, getting clients is definitely part of that. So we'll go over that. Yeah, I mean, just a lot coming in from online about that pricing and getting clients and adding the animals to an already existing family photography business, and the stress of that, even, as well, and... The stress of adding pets into family portraiture? Um-hum. The process of doing it or the marketing part? I think that the question was just that it's stressful to have the animals and the kids together, and so... Oh yeah. Well, that's another, yeah. Committing to that. Yeah, it's another element, but I think it's a really smart way to generate additional, you can get new clients from it. I think when, people tend to be fairly literal, so if they see you can photograph a black lab, it literally might be like, oh, I'll call her. She photographs black labs. Even though I might, you know, somebody else might be able to that doesn't show that photograph. So people tend to wanna work with people that they see imagery, like, they need to see samples of that work, so that's the biggest thing is starting to generate samples of work just to put the idea in people's heads, like, oh, I didn't know that that, you did that, you know, or that could be done. So starting to show the work immediately in your portfolio is a huge part of that. Thank you. So like I said, we'll talk a little bit about what, where I come from the beginning and the business model that I have started to kind of come into reality for me. So just to back up a little bit, I studied photography in college and, you know, started taking pictures in eighth grade and, you know, fell in love with it. And, but after school, it was like, now what, you know? And I know a couple of you might be in that situation. So I did some internships and some assisting. I worked at a photo lab, so traditional photo lab printing. It got me around imagery. I got to see a lot of color imagery. I printed in a custom color lab, so that really kind of fine-tuned my sense of color, and I think that was very helpful for me. And then digital kind of came around, and so I had to learn digital. And I worked in a digital lab there. And so it was a good opportunity for me to meet people in the community and get a sense of what was going on there. So I made my first pie charts ever for you to kinda give you a sense of what was going on for me in the beginning. So I had a day job, you know? I was working in the lab, and it was like, I had that, I didn't, I couldn't just go out as a photographer and say, here it is, I'm a photographer, and make, you know, people will just start calling. It just doesn't, it didn't work like that for me. Maybe it's possible for somebody, but it would take a lot of intentional marketing to do so. So I had, you know, this is kind of a generalization of my time if I thought back to it. It was about 80% of day job and then I was building my portfolio. I was getting my images together and starting to generate a commissioned portrait or two. You're never really ready to start it and you're never really ready to do anything as far as you think you need to be, so I would encourage people to start building your portfolio now and then, you know, get some commissioned portraits, and even if you don't charge for them, work as though they are commissioned portraits, because that will give you that experience of working with a client. So I started to do that on a small level. And these percentages are kind of time and focus. They're not necessarily money-specific, but they are, it gives you kind of a general sense. And so I was working, you know, they day job started to get a little bit smaller and stock photography became part of what I was doing, and I'll talk more about how that was involved and how it's involved for me now, too. And then the portfolio building started to get smaller and the commissioned portraits started to get a little bit bigger, so, and I also introduced volunteering into my work. It was a great way for me to learn animal behavior, kind of get a sense of the community, start to connect with other people that were in the animal world in my community. And then the day job got smaller and my commissioned portraits got bigger. So it was a process. And the stock photography maybe didn't, you know, was kind of on the side for a little while, and the volunteering got a little bit smaller. And then the commissioned portraits started to take over, and it was time where I felt like the commissioned portrait and that work and the time that was required to dedicate myself to that was getting in my, the job was getting in my way of being able to do that, so I had to kind of take the leap in order to do that, and to just getting rid of the day job and working in commissioned portraits. And part of that was also stock and then volunteering and collaborating with nonprofits. So trying to start to diversify my experience levels and really dive in that way. Now, I know everybody has different situations. I mean, some of you might have dual income. Some of you might be, you know, just on your own. And so everybody's gonna be in a little bit of a different scenario, and I just want you to keep that in mind as you go along. There is not one perfect answer for everybody and this is just one way. So hopefully with me talking about my process you'll get some ideas. In the beginning, I photographed everything and I said no to nothing, and that, I think, was just the way it needed to be in order for me to be able to make it work. You know, weddings and a soccer catalog. I'm kind of laughing with that. I remember talking to... Chocolate. The chocolate. Well, yeah, I mean, I got to eat the chocolate, so, yeah, I mean, it was like, you know, soccer catalog, lighting. I worked for a lighting, I did some lighting company, so they made these metal sconces, and they're beautiful, but it was, you know, some product stuff. Events, real estate, pet portraits, head shots, editorials, children, families. It was just, you know, it was anything and everything that I could do. So I kind of got to this point where I was like, who am I? I don't know who I am anymore, you know? It felt, like, spazzy, you know? It was this, like, frenetic sense of, I didn't know, I felt obligated to say yes to things, but it wasn't getting me any closer to what I really wanted to do, and I think that kind of becomes, that can become a problem. And so I started, you know, asking questions and figuring out what it is I really wanted and what my priorities were. So I did some work with a... Let me back up here for a minute. I did some consulting work with a woman named Judy Herman. She was the president of ASMP, which is American Society of Media Photographers, at the time. 'Cause I felt really lost. And I met her at a business conference, and I was like, would you consult with me and talk to me? And it was a huge turning point for me, and it was, instead of being reactive to what I wanted, I was being proactive, and so it gave me the opportunity to work with her and answer some questions, you know, and think about what it was that was important to me, you know, what my priorities were. And, you know, she did that through a series of questions and really starting to engage with me and come down to, like, what it is that I wanted, how, what were my priorities, what was important to me in my life. And this goes beyond do I like dogs or cats. It's even, you know, it's like, what kind of lifestyle do I wanna have or need to have? Is it important, do I wanna travel for most of the time or do I wanna kinda build a home, you know, be at a home base? These are questions that were really helpful for me to answer. 'Cause I think part of me was saying, why am I not this big deal commercial photographer, you know? I kind of have this in the back of my head, like, why am I not doing this, and was that the path that I needed to be on and what I wanted to do? And so I felt this struggle about that. And by answering those ques-, by asking myself and answering those questions, it built a lotta, it showed me a lotta clarity. So one thing I was, I determined from that process was that I wanted creative freedom. That was a really important part of what I wanted. And I felt like with commissioned portraits, that was, I have freedom. You know, I have a client who wants something, but I get to choose what I want. I'm not answering to a team of people that are telling me, you know, that have passed through 10 ideas until it got to me, you know? So I get a lot of creative freedom in what I do, and that was something that I gravitate towards. And money was a thing. Was money my top priority? And if that were the case, then I would go after commercial work, because that is where the money and, you know, if you're gonna work in pet photography or really any type of photography, commercial work is where, you know, the money was, so, or is. So that was a question that I really had to settle down with was what did I need and what was really important to me? So, you know, and there's money for sustainability and there's also money, you know, money to contribute to your household. Like, what was it, for me, it was I wanted to be sustainable. I wanna, like, feed my habit. I want, I need to make money to contribute to my household, and, but it was not my top motivating priority. So I was combining the interest and the experience as well as the money part of it. So, I mean, what do you need to run your business in terms of money, asking yourself those questions are really important. I don't know if any of you have checked out that cost of doing business calculator that's online? It's free to check it out. It's, I love it, and it was something that, when I put that, when I put my numbers in, so basically it allows you to say, hey, this is how many shoots I wanna do a year, and you plug that in, and then you say, this is how much money I need to make, you know, and you start to put in your expenses and things like that. It will tell you, well, actually, you put in the money that you wanna make and all your expenses, and then it tells you how many shoots you need to do per year in order to make that money. And it's not an exact science, but it gives you a reality check to what life would look like and kind of the volume of what you'd be doing. So I would definitely recommend checking that out. So, you know, if you're working, the answers to these questions might be different if you're working with pets as a hobby, as a volunteer, full-time, part-time, they're gonna be different depending on your situation. So there's not one right answer for you. But really think about, like, what kind of experience do you want? I, you know, do you want, I don't necessarily love, like, working where tons of people are watching me, you know, despite what we did today, on a day to day basis, you know, it's intense, and I think I do really well on a one-on-one level where I can engage, you know, with people and just have conversations with people and have fun with them, and there is a level of pressure, but for me, that's kind of where I'm at my best, you know? It's like, you kind of know, do you do really well at parties or are you really good with that having coffee with a friend? And so my kind of sweet spot is really on that intimate level, and so it was really good to recognize that. And I like to be able to take time with people. So shoots where they're fast, like, I don't love doing mini sessions because I just feel like I'm not able to give people everything that I want to give them in that short amount of time, so I just really don't love doing mini sessions. But I have done them here and there and experienced that. But I keep coming back to it's just not, doesn't settle with who I am, and it doesn't mean it's not right for you, but for me, it's just too much change over and I don't get that intimate time with the people and the animals. So I guess the big question is, like, what do you value, you know? Asking yourself some of these questions could help you with how you wanna move forward and make choices as you go forward in a proactive way. So what kinds of experiences are you looking for? What kinds of challenges do you like? You know, what are your priorities? Do you really wanna be famous, make lots of money? And that's not, there's nothing wrong with that. If that's your goal, awesome. Just, you know, go for that and you can find ways to do that, and make choices now that head in that direction. What I liked about the whole process that I went through with, you know, the consulting, and I still do consulting with a marketing coach. I mean, I, it's something I check in all the time on is reassessing what my priorities are and what my values are and what my goals are all the time. So, you know, getting to know yourself is really an important part of making something successful for you, and, yeah, so figuring that out is important and asking yourself those questions is key.

This course is fantastic. Norah is incredibly open and so easy to listen to and understand. The course is comprehensive from start to finish covering all aspects of a pet photography business. I especially loved watching the live shoots. Getting to see her process on location was priceless.
-Jo Wilkens

Pets play a large part of every household, be it the best friend or first “child.”  Yet capturing their personalities is often more difficult than just a click of the shutter.  Instructor Norah Levine’s photographs are often defined by her clean compositions and authentic moments shared by people and their pets.  Now you can join Norah as she shows you the basics of pet behavior and how to get animals comfortable with the camera.  After this class, you’ll be able to capture great images of pets AND learn how to to incorporate them into your family photography.   


In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to incorporate pets into your family photography.

  • Gain an understanding of animal behavior and key body language cues.

  • Build a business model that allows you to appeal to commercial, private and nonprofit markets.

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • This course is pleasant, and contains fundamentally sound information. My issue (and the reason I can't broadly recommend this course) is due to the fact that there is a lack of detail with regard to technique and mechanics - specially, those which could benefit an intermediate to advanced amateur photographer who would target this course as a helpful stepping stone toward starting an actual business. There's a lot of pleasant discussion relating to "energy" and "approach", but there is very little specific instruction toward using your space and equipment to create and sell high quality pet portraits. This is, simply put, a "feel good" course. You'll enjoy the flow and experience of this course, and you'll like the presenters, but you're not likely to come away feeling as though you've acquired a resource you can consult in order to put it all together. I felt as though I had attended a high-school club meeting full of good friends, rather than an enlightening, information filled course taught by a strong expert in the field. Buzzwords such as "organic", "creative", "in the moment", "freedom", and "emotionally true" populate the landscape of this course, unfortunately, things never really get down to business in a way that seems to matter.
  • Norah is really great and I learned a lot watching her. Even non-pet related things, like how she's continually trying to better herself were really inspiring to me. Since watching this, I've learned to take every shoot as a learning opportunity by evaluating what went right and what didn't, and thinking of what I can do next time to do better. I liked the way she showed interacting with animals in a way that doesn't stress them (well, depending on the animal there may be some level of stress anyway I guess...) too. Great class.
  • So inspiring! Great information on both family pet photography as a craft as well as the business side. Norah obviously knows what she's doing and has tons of experience, so it's a good chance to hear/see what it's really like to take this on as a specialty whether it's the focus of your work or one of many parts of your work. She focuses not just on the mechanics, but on the personal side of working with people and animals. You can tell she's passionate about what she does, too. It's only been one day of class and I already feel totally inspired!