Dallas Bonus: Half-Day with Studio Manager Don Dechow!

We were so excited when my studio manager, Don Dechow,  agreed to present a half-day program at Unleashed – Dallas!

To say Don plays a major role in my business is an understatement. He handles all communications, does our pre-session consults, all ordering sessions and deliveries.

Don came to Bev Hollis Photography first as a client in 2008. Lucky for me, a happy one! He loved the experience and the final products from his on-location session at his beautiful home with his then three Westie family. (He has since added a white schnauzer to the mix!)

When my business reached the level where I needed some help I was beyond thrilled that Don was interested.  With a strong background in sales, an exemplary customer service attitude and great enthusiasm for my business – he truly is the perfect match for Bev Hollis Photography.

The lucky attendees of Dallas – Unleashed will have the wonderful opportunity to hear Don speak on our final day.  He will walk everyone through our pre-session consults and spend a lot of time discussing how he runs our ordering sessions.

I’m thrilled to have Don on my team. We’re thrilled too, that he’s joining our Unleashed team – welcome Don!

Unleashed – Dallas – SOLD OUT

We’re pleased to announce that registration for Unleashed – Dallas 2010 is full!

We’re thrilled to see so many people eager to either add pet photography to their existing photography business model or start a brand new business around pets!

We have started a waitlist and will notify you in the order that your request was received should anyone find the need to cancel.

Again, thanks for those who have registered and we look forward to April at Unleashed – Dallas!

Our elevator speech…

From time to time we get asked to summarize what “Unleashed” is really all about and so here’s the official elevator speech. You know, the answer you give if you get asked in an elevator and you’ve only got about 90 seconds to answer?

Unleashed | fine art pet photography workshops is a deep dive into the art of pet photography. Three photographers from three different metropolitan areas, bringing three different perspectives together in one place. Their distinct vision, technique, and business experience is translated into an intense and informal three day learning retreat. Each of the Unleashed workshops is held at one of the instructor’s photography studios (with some outdoor shooting at nearby locations) so that attendees can learn in the actual environments.

While the styles and approaches of each of the instructors may vary, and even contradict – the primary mission is the same – to raise awareness for dog photography as art, and to make it profitable.

So what’s your elevator speech? If you run in to someone at the grocery store or the bank what do you say? Can you summarize your style, your strengths and your business model in 90 seconds? That’s really all the time you have to capture someone’s attention. Most of us have trouble describing what we do after the “I’m a photographer” part gets blurted out, but think about it — you have a great opportunity to capture someone’s interest and grow your business.

More Bark for your buck…

We’re excited to be expanding our next Unleashed (in Dallas) to a third day! Day three will be strictly SALES SALES SALES…from early morning until midday… with Don Dechow, the studio manager at Bev Hollis Photography.

Don’t be a terrific photographer  earning minimum wage!  Many people think dog clients won’t spend what their people clients spend and we simply don’t find that to be true.

Don is smart, engaging and fabulous at sales — so if you’re planning to attend, be sure and book your return flight for late in the day so you can be there for Don’s presentation. There is no additional charge for this extra training module and we will be bringing in lunch for everyone, so you can leave for the airport directly from this presentation.

Plan your 2010 marketing strategy

It’s never too late to bang out a marketing plan. Yes, it would be great to have a constantly evolving 5 year plan, but realistically, it just doesn’t always happen that way. You are probably looking at the end of the year numbers and shaking your head — many photographers were thrown a few curves in ’09. Surprisingly, my dog portrait business is 20% ahead of last year – and even though there are many people who would argue that dog portraits are a luxury – it is still a very profitable niche market.

Set goals for 2010 that involve new displays in high traffic locations, new partnerships with non-profit organizations and most importantly, education for yourself. It’s critical that YOU continue to grow your skills and nurture that creative streak. Don’t get stale! One of the best investments I made last year was a DVD on RAW processing from Software Cinema. Ironically called ACR: Unleashed with Jack Davis, it made a huge difference in the amount of time I spend processing my RAW images, which increased my profits. Sometimes education allows you to offer new products and increase your target market – like adding dog photography.  Be sure you’re ‘brand consistent’  and you’ll love the results. For many of our attendees, dog portraits are an addition to an existing business, but for some, it’s their one and only.  Either way, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you map out your marketing strategy on paper and work your plan. The people who invest in themselves have a much better product to sell!

Our Report Card

Well, it’s hard to brag – but the dust has settled and the word is out on the first Unleashed workshop. We rocked! Part of our success was due to the great group of attendees, the terrific studio environment and just the vibe and the passion we all shared for the art of pet photography — I think we all inspired the best in each other. I know lots of great friendships were created and I feel like we all did our part to raise the bar for pet photography as an art form.

These are actual quotes from the anonymous feedback survey:

“It was invaluable! I think you could charge much more for this. You gave us information that saved us tons of money and time. Money and time that would have been spent making mistakes and bad decisions! I think the money I spent on this workshop was the best investment I could have made for my business – and is perhaps some of the best money I’ve ever spent period!”

“Unleashed was even more than I was hoping it to be! You guys were all so helpful! And you accepted us all for who we were. Whether we were beginners, or more advanced. I loved how open you all were- no secrets, you just wanted to help! I loved everything we did… I wouldn’t want one thing to change- except the length of the workshop! (longer please!) I thought the price was very fair. I had been planning on going to another pet photography workshop, and Unleashed was much, much less! I have taken so much from Unleashed. So much, I can’t even begin to cover it! I would recommend Unleashed to anyone in, or interested in, pet photography. I would even come again myself! Thank you so much!!!”

“Being part of Unleashed was an incredible experience. The insight into both the business and artisitc aspects shared by Bev, Teresa and Barbara was invaluable. The friendships formed during the workshop are providing much needed post workshop support as I try to apply what was learned”

“I love the way the three of you work together, and you have the perfect blend of being well prepared while still being willing to be flexible”

“I honestly can’t think of anything to help you improve. For me, this workshop was beyond my expectations, As a beginner photographer I have only attended one other workshop. I had such a wonderful time attending this workshop. Not only because of the tremendous talent of the three women hosting it but, from the other attendees. Everyone was so willing to answer questions, offer advice or lend a hand; and this continues to be the case even now on the unleashed private chat board on Facebook, I’m just so happy to have met all of you.”

Where do you belong?

Life these days looks like a bowl of alphabet soup –everyone knows their acronyms!  In this complex society we are defined in part by our associations. Your business as a photographer can also be shaped largely based on your affiliations – are you PPA (www.ppa.com) or WPPI (www.wppionline.com)? As independent small business owners we are responsible for our own continuing education and often that means travel and expense, so we choose carefully and look for the best value. One of the best pieces of advice I give new photographers is to affiliate with the organizations that have members with similar interests and start learning from them!

Teresa Berg Unleashed pet photography workshops

Back in the day,  you could open your doors in a community with a few solid community contacts like Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce. Just get to know your neighbors and voila’ your photography business was on it’s way. Just change your props once a year and invest in some of those lovely wrinkled muslin backdrops and you had your “look.”  The lab was in charge of making your images look good and things just didn’t change much from year to year.

The internet and digital photography changed all that, of course. Now you must stay on top of the latest trends and to say there is a lot more competition is putting it mildly. You have this thing called workflow to think about and all these tools that cost lots of money –so you better know how to use them because that’s what people expect from a professional. The point is, we all rely heavily on our forums, trade organizations and fellow photographers to stay on top of it –the days of getting it all from a book at a library are over!

So where do you get your information? What forums do you belong to – do you lurk or contribute? Do you search out new groups? Every organization I join has something to offer. Let’s start with photography forums –there are so many it’s hard to know where to start- and they are all a bit different. I joined ProPhotogs (www.prophotogs.com ) a couple of years ago specifically because they had a pet photography forum. It was absolutely the best $100 I ever spent. Besides, it’s where I met my fellow Unleashed instructors!

A great free forum with lots of serious amateurs and great technical articles is Photo.Net (www.photo.net) For every 15 minutes you spend contributing something in a forum, I’ll bet you get 10 times the amount of time back in shortcuts and information you don’t have to dig up yourself.

Since I also shoot people, I have also visited or joined:

I love Photography  www.ilovephotography.com

Pro4um  www.pro4um.com

and the Digital Wedding Forum www.digitalweddingforum.com

Some forums that have professional pet photographers are:

The Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum (www.nwpphotoforum.com)

Check out the great interview they just did with our own Bev Hollis!

PhotoCamel (www.photocamel.com)

PhotoTalk (www.phototalkforum.com)

Finally, since the labs have put us in charge of our color correction, image editing and special effects, we have to get smart on Photoshop. Each new version brings a dizzying array of books, tutorials and DVD purchases. To stay even halfway current a photographer needs to spend a few hours a week just memorizing shortcuts! One of the best resources is the National Association of Photoshop Professionals:  www.photoshopuser.com

Become a member for $99 and watch training videos, get their magazine, and get juicy discounts on all sorts of things. And please use this link to join, so they’ll know we sent you – plus you get a free DVD


The moral of the story is join an organization of professionals you admire, then contribute and learn. You and your business will profit enormously. Photography as an art form has never been more exciting, accessible or more wide open for your creative ideas.

Who Inspires You?

When I started my pet photography business I looked where most of us would for inspiration – other pet photographers.  Of course I don’t think there’s a pet photographer on earth who isn’t inspired by the works of the great Elliott Erwitt.

Early on,  I had the wonderful opportunity to assist Jim Dratfield while he worked on location here in northern Virginia.  It was an outstanding learning experience for me for which I am grateful.

Another early trail-blazer is Amanda Jones.  Fifteen years into her animal photography career, she continues to create gorgeous imagery and command rates that only add credibility to pet photography as a profitable niche market.

So, whether you’re already in the pet photography market, or looking to go there, where will you get your inspiration?  How will you be different?  While I have learned so much from all the early “leaders,” I am also inspired by less obvious influences.

For instance, I love to study some of the amazing wedding shooters out there.  Those who are doing really exquisite work transcend all niche markets. They are just awesome, creative artists from whom we can all learn.

In 2008, while attending WPPI in Las Vegas, I discovered Jerry Ghionis.  To be honest, I had never heard of him. But when I was strolling through that huge exhibit hall, nearly overwhelmed by sounds and textures and choices, I came upon his booth and was honestly awestruck.  I remember saying to him “I don’t know who you are or what you do, but this is magnificent.”  I realize now how ridiculous I must have sounded to the many wedding photographers who were crowded around his booth!

Luckily for me I discovered Jerry with one day left on the speaking schedule and I was able to attend his morning lecture.  And so I sat, for an hour and a half, sleep deprived, over caffeinated, and truly mesmerized.  Jerry was engaging, funny and oh so wonderfully, amazingly talented.  After hearing Jerry speak, the one thing I decided to add to my pet shooting repertoire was a video light.  Why not? It’s easily portable and different.  Even better, it’s something my clients would never think to do.


Since hearing Jerry speak I regularly visit his website and blog for ideas and inspiration.  I love that he is so innovative.  I say all of this to motivate you to ask yourself, “Who inspires me?”   And I suggest, as you build your pet photography business, that you cast a very wide net and look for inspiration beyond other pet photographers. There’s a superb league of photographic visionaries just waiting to inspire you!

Using Photoshop Actions in Pet Photography


Using Photoshop actions is an essential element for the post processing of my dog images.  The less time I spend in front of the monitor, the more profit I make.  Using actions simplifies and speeds up image post processing.  Some of the actions I use are ones that have I created, but there are many action sets that I use regularly and highly recommend, like those listed here.

All of the actions recommended here are used in batch processing or can be used individually.  I try to batch process to save time.  Some images need individual attention if I didn’t get it right in camera or if the client desires color modifications (B&W, sepia, color pops) or just to add an artistic touch.

Actions that are created using layers give you the flexibility to adjust the layers to get the exact look you want to achieve.   Not all action sets are geared for your style or type of photography. For example, there are many actions sets that are designed with an edgy urban look, and they look great on senior photography, however not on dogs.  They can add too much contrast, losing the detail in the dogs’ fur in the highlight and shadow areas.  Try some of the actions listed here and don’t be afraid to experiment!  Include one or two options in every session you shoot – just to gauge your client’s reactions, and don’t forget to add on the extra fee for your time.   Your client doesn’t know it was a “one or two click” process. Charge a little more for your artistic eye!

Digital Expressions, Photoshop Solutions by Jeffrey McIntyre

Totally Rad

Kubota Image Tools

MCP Actions

Craig’s Actions

Itty Bitty Actions

Nichole V flourish actions


blog7610 copyKubota’s Artistic Vol II – midbright,   MCP – Light Fog Fixer, Craigs Actions/CMA Production Set I-Unsharp Mask Light  & Totally Rad Yin Yang for vignette

blog7610bwTotally Rad – Bitchin BW

blog7610sepiaTotally Rad – Boring Sepia & Cinnamon Toast

What is Fine Art Pet Photography?

We refer to ourselves as fine art photographers but what does that really mean?

 According to wikipedia (www.wikipedia.com) fine art photography “refers to photographs that are created to fulfill the creative vision of the artist. Fine art photography stands in contrast to photojournalism and commercial photography.”

So the question I often ask myself is “am I fulfilling my creative vision?” Some days I feel like I’m just creating-to-sell, in other words, creating a product instead of a work of art.

To help ease my conscience and to continue my growth as an artist, I spend a few minutes of every session doing something experimental –I really strive to make it something I’ve never tried before. And I’m the first one to admit that at times it’s very difficult. When it’s the third or fourth shaggy white dog that I’ve shot that month and I KNOW the shortest route to a good sale is to shoot from a certain angle – well – you know what goes through my mind. The temptation is pretty strong to just do what I’ve done before and call it a day –but I rarely give in. I’m almost always driven to try something new.

 Which is why I really really like difficult subjects. The dogs that just don’t want to settle down, or won’t look at the camera no matter how many crazy noises I make.  You do have to know their body language to know what to do and when it’s okay to do it.  I photograph a lot of dogs for a local rescue organization and many of them have been traumatized by abandonment, abuse, or health issues. By the time they arrive at my studio they’ve really been through a lot. These and other difficult pets are the ones that force me to think outside the box. I’m exhausted when they leave – but excited by the new things I’ve learned.

And just in case we make it look easy? I want everyone that’s considering our workshop to know that being a pet photographer is physically and mentally demanding and if I didn’t love dogs and cats I wouldn’t be successful at it –no matter how good I was with my equipment. I do it because they are perfect little works of art, I adore them and anything that loves so completely and unselfishly deserves to be cherished forever as a work of art.

 When people tell me how lucky I am to have a job where all I have to do is play with dogs all day — I just smile.


fine art pet photography rescue portrait