Photographing pets | Unleashed Workshops

Are you ready to start photographing pets?

Let’s pretend that you are an experienced photographer shooting babies, kids and families. There are only 100 of us per square mile these days.  How do you set yourself apart from your competition? Start shooting pets, right?  They’re cute, everybody’s got one –how hard can it be?

Think about a few of these scenarios before inviting pets in to your studio:

  • What happens if Max, the black lab, refuses to look at the camera and chooses instead to take off after a squirrel?  Chaos follows.  Now you’re watching your profits go flying out the window as everyone takes off after him, messes up their hair and clothing, scaring the baby who erupts in to tears.
  • A 50ish couple calls and books an appointment for a session with their elderly Schnauzer. After they arrive, they announce that he’s deaf and almost blind – but that’s okay, right? How do you get his attention, where do you seat the three of them and how do you make all three of them look younger, healthier and blissfully happy?
  • Your favorite clients want you to photograph their new baby with their old baby – a 9 year old Golden Retriever. How do you set up the shot?
  • The Smiths show up with their three Jack Russell Terriers and want great portraits but they forgot to tell you they didn’t want to be in them.  Now what?
  • The young couple down the street wants shots of their Australian Shepherd catching his Frisbee in mid-air, in the park, in the middle of the day on a Saturday. Are you ready?

You’re laughing now because you KNOW one of these things is going to happen to you (or already has) and you know you were unprepared.  So back up a few steps. There are lots of great reasons to photograph pets and it WILL increase your sales and it WILL bring new clients in your door –but be a professional and do it thoughtfully. Take a workshop, buy a book, get some practice and build a great pet portfolio that will actually BRING in new clients.  Find out what Pet lovers buy and what you have to charge to actually make a profit. Then update your website and start marketing to pet lovers. Adding pet photography brings all sorts of benefits to your existing business –not to mention puppy breath!

Unleashed dog photography workshop

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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

http://www.photoshopuser.com/register.html&aid=qzgqzv&code=friend

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.

Dog Photography Workshop – Chicago, Illinois

Fine art dog photography workshop

September 18-20, 2009

Location:  Chicago area

This is a cooperative effort between Teresa Berg (in Dallas), Barbara Breitsameter (in Chicago) and Bev Hollis (in Virginia/D.C.). We saw a real need for a workshop dealing with the many different aspects of fine art dog photography. Representing three different styles from three different geographic areas, it’s exciting to work together and offer a real variety of techniques and styles for other photographers. The first workshop is scheduled for September 18-20 in Chicago -with long range plans to offer the similar workshops in D.C. and Dallas.

Friday September 18, 6pm

Saturday,  September 19, 8:30am-5pm

Sunday, September 20, 8:30am-3pm

Friday evening get-together with wine, beer and snacks

Continental breakfast and box lunches included on Saturday and Sunday.

For more information, email us at: unleashedfadp@gmail.com