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Pet Portraiture - is there a market?

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Old 04-20-2004, 03:28 AM
brandonx49's Avatar
brandonx49 brandonx49 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Comox Valley, BC, Canada
Posts: 41
Pet Portraiture - is there a market?


I'm an amateur digital photographer and retoucher. I do not have the training or experience to jump into the local market place as a people portraitist so I thought 'what about animals'?. What if I create a service where I go into peoples houses with a digital camera, basic light set, backdrop, and laptop for the clients to view & select the images right away? Am I out of my mind or does this sound like a good idea in order to gain experience and create additional cash flow. Attached is a dog I extracted from an image and put it on a fake background from a tutorial in the forums.

Any feed-back would be most helpful.

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File Type: jpg pouch.jpg (14.8 KB, 48 views)
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Old 04-20-2004, 06:18 AM
Vikki Vikki is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arizona
Posts: 883
I think there are two seperate topics here. One, your idea, and two, your portrait.
Regarding your idea....It could work. I would do a bit of research first before I invested in advertising, etc. Check all your local portrait studios to see who offers a similar service and get all the details you can. Do the same with local kennel clubs and organizations such a those. Once you get an idea of the local competition (or lack of), and a knowledge of what your potential customers want, create a portfolio, price list, and some promotional media about your service. You might also consider that the customers will spontaneously decide that they want themselves in the picture and you may end up doing people portraits as well. Also, will you be limiting your service to just "regular" pets? We once had a call to do a chimpanzee. The customer wanted the whole studio cleared out, and no one was to look at the animal for fear it would go ballistic. Needless to say, the studio declined the sitting.
Regarding your attachment...I'm not sure why you posted that pic. It's not really a portrait, and if you are the photographer, you wouldn't have to do that sort of retouching. I have had the experience of retouching dog portraits, and most often the customer will want you to do something like enhance the fur, cover up bald spots, and remove eye gunk. There are some pretty standard poses and lighting setups for portraits. I would suggest doing some research on shooting pets, and then start practicing on the pets of friends and family (they will also be the best "word of mouth" advertising).
The postive side of your idea is that many studios don't want to work with animals, and do not offer "on site" sittings. This could be a niche you can service. The down side is that these studios have good reasons why they don't offer this service. Before you do anything, imagine worst case scenarios, to determine if it's something you can handle, and something you really want to do.
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Old 04-20-2004, 06:56 AM
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Jeff L Jeff L is offline
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 115
There is a definate market out there for pet photography.

In order to do what you want to do, ie. go on the road with your equipment, you will need some basic lighting, a laptop with a picture package application, and a very dependable printer. You will also need a backdrop, a low table to pose the pet if needed, and some props.

I do it on the side but I only have the lighting, backdrop, and props, and have to finish the photos at home. I can only imagine the sales I have lost because of that. We live in a world of instant gratifacation.

If you are going to the owners home you should let them know that their pet should already be groomed prior to your arrival for maximum results. That will work most of the time. If you are at a kennel club or some type of public gathering, most of the pets are all fixed up as the owners like to show them off.

Study animal portraits and the related poses. That will help alot with your comp. It helps to practice on the family pets and put together a small portfolio that you can set out for folks to look at.

You need alot of patience for this type of photography! Go to a few dog or cat shows and talk to the photographers there. Most are pretty cool about sharing ideas. Pass out business cards and have your portfolio with you.

Good luck! It is alot of fun sometimes.
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Old 04-20-2004, 11:22 AM
brandonx49's Avatar
brandonx49 brandonx49 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Comox Valley, BC, Canada
Posts: 41
Thank you for both of your comments and suggestions. I put that dog portrait there for the sole reason of it's cuteness value and I was proud of the artifical background I created.

Yes, I have a lot of research ahead of me and of course a portifolio to build. The idea of an onsite printer did not occur to me. I thought having the laptop on site for instant image selection was a good idea. My thought was to have a sample portfolio with all of the different image sizes and a price list of photo packages. The client would then select the package from the pricelist and then I'd retouch the images back in my office and make the order. Instant gratification - something to consider.

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Old 04-20-2004, 11:43 AM
Mike Mike is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Grand Junction CO USA
Posts: 676
As a photographer who does quite a bit of location photography, please let me add a few comments for you to think about:

By the time you get to the location, set up your lights and background etc, take the photos, have the owners select, do the enhancement and printing, get everything torn down and back into the car, how much time have you spent? 2 hours or better? So then what do you have to charge/how much will they buy????? How much is 2 hours of your labor plus the cost of using all that gear worth???? If you paid yourself minimum wage (here thats $7.25/hour I think) plus pay your gear the same, plus the cost of materials, then for 2 hours you have to make $29.00 plus tax plus the cost of the materials. If you sell a couple of $10.00 8x10's you have come up short!

So what will they spend? You need to have a very definate answer to that question. Would you have a setting fee? How much per print and in what sizes?

Instead of going to their house, have them come to yours? Or do this at a pet store or groomers? Not as much time per pet that way.

Around here the dog shows themselves are pretty well covered and the compitition is very tough to get in there. So your idea may have some merit but make sure you know how deep the water is before you dive off the dock!

By the way, may I also suggest that the dog owner is going to be a lot more interested in the dog than the background, so images like you posted (where the background is over 3/4 of the image) most likely will not sell to well.

Good luck, and if you have questions please ask....

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