Photography is an aspirational yet illusive career path for so many creatives. The industry has experienced rapid growth thanks to the rise in social media and the relative affordability of equipment. However, it certainly can take a while to find your feet as a photography. Especially when it comes to choosing your nice, finding a steady flow of projects and defining your personal visual style. I’ve been working as a commercial pet photographer since 2018 and want to share more of my professional journey with you. I hope it will help improve accessibility to creative industry jobs and inspire others to pursue their passions professionally.
When I first started out, I had no idea that a commercial pet photographer was a viable role. I had recently graduated from the BA (Hons) Photography at Falmouth University and had started photographing my own dog Woody for my ongoing personal project The Cornish Dog. Of course, it took time to develop my personal style and apply my practice specifically to the pet industry. However now I predominantly work with small and medium enterprises across the UK and Europe. I’ve worked with clients such as Pedigree Wholesale, JR Pet Products, Dorwest, Henry Wag and K9 Connectables to name a few.
What is a Commercial Pet Photographer?
Commercial photographers specialise in creative projects for client websites, social media and other marketing materials. My commercial work is tailored specifically to the pet industry. So, I provide small and medium enterprise clients with visual content they can use alongside their advertising campaigns and marketing materials.
Commercial pet photography is slightly different to pet photography in general, due to it focussing on helping b2b (business to business) clients rather than individual pet owners. Of course, a lot of pet photographers offer both one to one and business services. However I’ve just chosen to focus solely on commercial projects, as their structure make the most sense to me!
What Do They Do?
The vast majority of pet photographers (and photographers in general) are self employed, myself included! While there are some in-house photography roles, self employed freelancing has been the norm for most visual arts industries. Therefore, photographers have to juggle a number of roles in their business. You’d be surprised how little time is spent actually on set photographing!
I work remotely with most of my clients, which means they’re rarely on set with me when I’m creating our projects. Therefore I am in charge of shoot production, as well as creating the images themselves. This involves everything from model sourcing, location scouting, organising equipment and the logistics of getting everyone in the right place at the right time. I am also in charge of all the post production elements of a project, including image editing, retouching and delivery to deadline. As I work with animals, I also have to ensure we’re following the RSPCA guidelines when it comes to working with animals. This includes a limit on how long models can be on set, as well as ensuring good overall welfare.
How Can I Become a Pet Photographer?
There are a few ways you can become a pet photographer. I chose the more traditional route and attended arts school/university to gain my degree in Photography. While studying I decided I was most interested in commercial photography. When I graduated, it took me a while to find my niche as a commercial pet photographer. I do wish Falmouth University’s Commercial Photography course existed back when I first enrolled in 2012 though, as I think the syllabus would be more relevant to the role I’ve created for myself now but my degree has definitely helped me navigate the more practical side of starting and running my business.
Of course, university isn’t for everyone. I myself struggled quite a lot while studying, thanks to my ME/CFS flaring up in second year! Fortunately, as the vast majority of pet photographers are self employed, you don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications to get started. Many photographers are self taught, with pet photographers starting out by photographing their own animals or those of friends and family. This is a great way to build your reputation, especially for pet photographers that work with individual families. If you’re looking to become a commercial pet photographer, you’ll need some different skills. However, finding transferrable experience in a marketing or agency role is a great way to learn on the job. Especially while you’re building your photography practice on the side.
I hope this blogpost has helped introduce you to the realities of being a commercial pet photographer. If you’d like to learn more, please subscribe to my newsletter!
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