Want to be top-dog as a pet photographer? The cat’s meow? Then look no further. We sat down with successful and seasoned pet photographer; owner of Mutley Snaps Photography Studio, Ewan Cheyne, and he shared with us his top tips for professional pet photographers. These tips will be sure to elevate your business’ bark and bite.
1. How to Market my Pet Photography Business and Get My Name Out?
Ewan highlighted two key areas to cover to effectively expose your professional pet photography business: appropriate events, and social media.
He stressed to fear-not as a pet photographer as many of the same exposure opportunities available for wedding and newborn photographers exist for pet photographers as well:
“There’s the bigger events; they’re starting to bring in one for dog’s now – like the bridal shows – they do things like that for dogs.
"There’s lots of Fun Days. So the rescues run fun days, so they’ll have lots of people come along to do stalls. There’s Gala Days. All the town’s up here run a Gala Day, and they’ll have stands, and they’ll have dog shows….And dog shows like the Kennel Club shows.
"Things like these; there’s lots of big shows you can take advantage of. So, it’s quite similar to weddings that there is shows specifically for the pet market because it is getting that big.”
And for those who feel like, yeah, well, I live in a small town so I’m sure I’m an exception, Ewan reassures that he himself is located in a small town in Scotland and still has this success.
So research your area around you and take advantage of pet-related shows and events. If there are options for Ewan in Falkirk, it’s likely they’ll be many for you too.
The second avenue of exposure Ewan explored was social media. Perhaps even more advantageous than the pet events mentioned above, Ewan stressed that social media is, “very important.”
“Everybody likes pictures of pets,” he states matter-of-factly. Indeed, pets and animals seem to be those ideal subjects – that perfect neutral ground – where people from all over feel comfortable interacting with and commenting on their pictures.
This can’t be said for other types of photography. Ewan reminds that while, “maybe people wouldn’t comment on pictures of a baby, or a couple getting married,...everybody likes commenting on cute dogs.” Simply put, he concludes pet photography is, “something that people relate to and like to share and be involved in.”
Aside from that general aspect, social media is growing for pets as rapidly as it is for people. “Plus, the whole Instapet; Instafamous is becoming quite a thing,” Ewan informs. “Most dogs I photograph they’ve actually got their own pet page and Instagram – so, it’s quite a thing.”
And, Ewan’s not kidding about social media pet celebrities.
We’ve all heard of the late internet sensation known as ‘Grumpy Cat.’ The cat amassed an incredible 2.7 million followers on Instagram and news of her death depressed a global internet audience spawning tweets and posts from around the world; many featuring one of the thousands of memes the cat had starred in.
Social media is massive in all walks of life and all genres of photography, but as Ewan describes, perhaps nowhere is it as useful as in pet photography. Take advantage of the world’s love for cute animals; please the world and advertise your skills and business by keeping up proper social media pages and running appropriate campaigns – who knows you may be the catalyst and personal photographer for the next ‘Grumpy Cat’ internet star.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Social media is truly a pet photographer’s best friend as it’s a self-serving mechanism for the industry. As Ewan highlights, “especially with social media people are becoming more invested in pets and the lifestyle of pets.” This implies, and then leads to, what we discussed above; begetting professional images to appropriately showcase the pets – often on their very own social media page.
As Ewan advises, do yourself and your pet photography business a favor and learn the ins-and-outs of social media and use it to your advantage.
2. How Can I Best Improve as a Pet Photographer?
“Doing things with other pet photographers, or learning about behavior is really important….” Ewan is straight-forward with this piece of advice as he stresses that there are essential skills to master, “outside the pet photography.” Understanding animal behavior is essential, he asserts as dogs – or any animal really, “will very rarely just sit and do as they’re told.” He admits, “It’s not easy...,” but learning and understanding the behavior of dogs, and other animals you may photography, “...would really aid your business.”
How, Where is the Best Place to Learn about Animal Behavior?
Apart from the conventional books and online workshops, Ewan emphasizes the importance of working with animal shelters and animal rescues. “It lets you practice, and they'll share images to promote the dogs, and that gets your name out there as well.”
Only, the value of spending time at such locations doesn’t stop there. Ewan later explains these are fantastic places to learn and get comfortable with dog behavior as;
“...a lot of dogs in shelters will be quite nervous. So you need to learn to give them space. So working with the shelter, you get, you'll get a wide variety of dogs. You get dogs that are happy-go-lucky. You get the ones that are a bit nervous, or a bit shy of people, and you get to learn how to interact with them. It's really good.”
While, Ewan focuses on dogs, as that is his most common client, this principle can also apply for any species of animal as well.
So in short animal rescues and shelters are must-volunteer places for professional pet photographers. The best way to learn about pet behavior is to experience it; and shelters and rescues will provide a wide array of varying characters ensuring you will then be prepared for any kind of personality that comes through your professional studio.
3. Is a professional studio necessary?
Yet, speaking of a professional studio, fear not as Ewan insists it’s not necessary to become a successful pet photographer. “[T]here's lots of pet photographers that do location. Well, more dog photographers do location – and they're really successful.”
But even if you’re someone like Ewan who lives in an area cursed with consistently bad weather, that doesn’t mean you need to break bank to have a fixed place.
“You can do...smaller setups in people's home for studio stuff,” he states. “So you got portable studios sessions as well as actually having a physical studio. And, I actually use quite a small set-up for my studio work; so it's something that you'd be able to put up in somebody's house – in quite a small space if you want to do that. So there's lots of ways around not having a physical studio. And, some people quite enjoy doing location work because they feel it's more natural; and some dog owners as well. They like the dogs out running and playing – so it's definitely doable.”
4. Print or Digital? What products are necessary for success?
Print. Simply put. But, don’t take our word for it we’re not the expert.
Another way to ask this question is if print products are necessary for success as a pet photographer, to which Ewan replies emphatically, “Yeah, absolutely!”
Yet he carries on to illustrate the dramatic effect print products have on a professional photography business.
“I think it's also going to be where you make most of your money as in-person sales, selling products. It's made a huge difference to my business; being able to have the studio and have people come and see the samples and come see the images.
“Before I was just doing galleries online and I almost got no sales, maybe one or two sales the whole time doing galleries. But now that everybody comes back to see the products and see the images, every session leads to sales. So it's made a world of difference.”
Wow. That’s a pretty dramatic twist of fate with a pretty obvious catalyst. This then begs the more specific, follow-up question:
Are there specific print products that sell well for pet photography?
“Folio Boxes sell really well. I think it's because a lot of time people can't – they struggle to choose between images, and, if they've got the Folio Box they've got the 20 images printed in the Folio Box and they find; they think it's really good value. So they get to take 20 beautifully printed images home with them whereas they might have been only able to afford one piece of wall art. So having the option to buy 20 prints in a really nice package is - people love that. So that's a big thing for me. I like selling Folio Boxes.”
Interestingly enough, we came to the same conclusion as Ewan about the usefulness of Folio Boxes for pet photographers. For other ideas of good products to match with pet photography check out our other post ‘The Best Print Products for Pet Photographers.’
OK, but what’s the deal with digital products? Are you saying they won’t work?
The experience and mentality Ewan has for digital products is mirror-opposite to his thoughts and experiences with print – as one might expect. He addressed the issue with digital products:
“I don't know how sustainable it'll be long term. I think there's probably a price point where you can reach selling a session with digitals. I think people are happy to spend, say, just a sitting fee – so they spend a sitting fee and you don't get anything with it – and they're happy to come back and buy products on top of it. But, I think if you're just giving them the session and 'X' amount of digitals I think there's probably a limit to how much they'd be willing to pay in advance.
“I think once they come back and see the images, and they see the wall art, and they see the print boxes, and albums then I think they're willing to spend more money than they would be just doing the session in digital, in advance.
“And, I think if you're trying to sell to them from an online gallery, it's just it's not gonna work because they can't see the products. They can't see how beautiful the wall art is and how good the quality the print is. Online, the price just doesn't make sense to them; if they're not seeing the actual products.”
5. What are some tips to successfully market as a professional pet photographer?
Ewan goes a little outside-the-box as he discusses not so much a concrete market strategy, but rather a general atmosphere to create: fun.
“One of the things that really sells for me is the fact that people have fun when they come in here. So I start getting referrals from the moment people leave the studio; before they even see the images they're already telling their friends they had such a good time in the studio.”
Ewan elaborates on just why this is so successful as it quells original assumptions clients come in with that cause them to stress.
“I think a lot of people think that it's going to be quite stressful, but they, in fact, have lots of fun, and that sells the business for me."
On top of having fun, he reiterated the importance of having tangible products in the studio – and good quality products – to help push sales and make the ‘business’ that much easier.
“I'm not much of a salesperson. So for me, having nice samples that sell themselves is a big thing. I can't – I'm not a salesperson. I'll never be one of these type of people that can upsell easily; so it's the images and the products that sell themselves.
"[Selling], it's not something I'm particularly comfortable doing.”
Do yourself and your professional pet photography business a favor and get some high-quality print samples on hand to make the selling easier, or even have it take care of itself. Printed products in good quality, specifically Folio Boxes, is just a few of the many ways renowned pet photographer Ewan Cheyne describes to help your pet photography business get to that next level.
If you want to learn more from Ewan be sure to check out the rest of our interview with him below; where you can learn the ingenious way he makes pets more comfortable for shoots.
For more from Ewan Cheyne and Mutley Snaps Photography be sure to check out his channels: