I understand that choosing a pet photographer can be very confusing for the average pet parent. I imagine it to be akin to my fear of finding a mechanic. My knowledge of cars is NADA, so it’s a scary experience for me!
Perhaps the biggest contributor to all the confusion in the photography world is that no two photographers are alike. They all have different services, prices, packages, products, and they likely all have a very different style, process, and focus (pardon the pun!).
People in search of a pet photographer seldom even know what they are supposed to ask when shopping around. So, all too often the typical questions: “What do you charge for an 8×10”, and “Do we get to keep the digital files?” are the only questions that are being asked. In reality, most people don’t really want these products anyway – these are simply the only questions that come to mind!
To make matters worse, the answers to these questions can often be misleading, and even more often they don’t make the decision making process any easier. I suppose it would be like calling around when looking for a mechanic to fix your transmission and asking what they charge for an oil change. Sure, you can compare the pricing of an oil change from one shop to the next, but are you any closer to getting your transmission fixed or finding out what their customer service is like? Not likely.
So, here are a few of what I consider the important things to research when looking for a pet photographer.
How much experience do they have working with your pet type?
A photographer that claims to specialize in many types of photography (babies, families, pets, maternity, weddings, etc) is not a specialist; they are a generalist.
Pets, and dogs especially, require an experienced person to work with them and bring out the best in them for their portraits. Someone that is not experienced with pets, may not recognize the signs of stress (or worse, be the cause of the stress) and may not give them the time and space necessary to adjust. This will result in photos full of drooling and stress panting and not likely something you will want to hang on your wall. AND the worst part, is that your pet had a bad experience and my not be very into photography sessions in the future!
Set your pet up for success, and find yourself a photographer experienced with pets!
Ask the photographer to describe their process.
Do they take the photos and provide them at low cost to you on disk? If so, are they edited? Light edits, or full edits? What is the resolution of the photos – ie how big can they be printed? Do they have a suggestion for where to get your images printed?
Alternatively, you may find a boutique/custom photographer that spends more time with you and is actively involved in the process with you. Ask them if they will help you choose products, product styles to suit your home, and maybe even make suggestions for gifts etc.
Many people find that they are just too busy to sort through hundreds of files and print their own products and the disk ends up sitting in a drawer or worse, lost.
Boutique photographers go through the painstaking process of narrowing, or culling, your session down into a few amazing photos for you to choose from. They use labs that use archival papers and inks ensuring they last for decades. And, they will assist you in choosing suitable products and have your artwork ready to hang and show off immediately. <insert sigh of relief here!>
What is your budget?
My best piece of advice to you when it comes to talking dollars and cents is to sit down and figure out your budget. When you call or email around, ask each photographer what suggestions they have for you given your budget. Pay close attention to how much time and effort is involved in their answers. Do they have a payment plan if something you’d like is just out of your reach? As them what the average client spends with them so you can get a better idea what you should be prepared to invest.
After all, isn’t it better to get a little of what you really want, than a lot of something you don’t?
Make sure your personalities mesh!
If you end up choosing a boutique pet photographer, you may end up dealing with them several times over the next few weeks/months/and possibly years. Do you like them? Are you getting the service you are expecting from them? Are you getting quick and thorough responses?
If you feel you don’t click with a particular photographer, it may be best to try another. In my experience, the entire process is so enjoyable when everyone gels.
Word of mouth is always something that makes people feel more comfortable, and if you can find a person you trust that speaks highly of a particular pet photographer – this is the best-case scenario for you! Ask to see their photos, and products, and ask them about the experience. Many custom photographers offer referral incentives for their current, and new clients as well! And almost EVERYONE loves showing off photos of their pets!
Do you have any questions that weren’t covered in this article? Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave them in the comments below for everyone to see! Don’t be shy – we pet photographers want to help you!