Originality, Integrity, and Collegiality in Your Dog Photography Business
Pet photographers of all sorts are popping up like crazy. It’s a fast-growing industry, so chances are, you’re not the first one in your area to start this type of business. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move forward with launching your endeavor; it just means you need to do so with originality, integrity, and collegiality.
Despite the fact that pet photographers are everywhere, this world is still small, so you can pretty much bank on the fact that when you emerge onto the scene, the other dog photographers will follow their canine subjects’ example and “sniff” you.
They’ll check out your website and watch what you do and how you work. You need to be just as good with these people as you are with dogs. Even though they’re your competitors, you definitely want to earn their respect. Here’s some advice from a couple of people who have been there:
Be original: In this growing industry, finding ways to stand out is becoming more challenging. However, standing out is vital. Sure, you’re all taking photos of dogs, but what do you do or believe or see that’s different from the rest? For your business to grow, you have to offer something unique that clients can’t get anywhere else. If you don’t know what that is yet, figure it out.
Always use integrity: Don’t copy. Anything. When you do your market research and you see other photographers’ websites and materials that you like, it may be hard to come up with something unique for yourself that you like just as much (or more). But you must.
From your name to your logo to promotional materials, you really need to think of your own stuff. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are illegal, not to mention an example of terrible manners, especially in the fine art world, where someone’s content and images are more than his property — they are his livelihood.
These principles apply to how you interact with and serve your clients, too. If you make a mistake, admit it. If a client is unsatisfied with your service or product, do what you can to remedy that. Build a reputation of being honest, thorough, and trustworthy. You may gain a little short-term ground by cutting corners, but is that really the foundation you want to build for yourself?
Be collegial: Again, the world of pet photographers is small. You’d be quite well-served to introduce yourself to the people you cross paths with when the opportunity arises, to support your fellow photographers’ endeavors (as much as you can without hurting your own business, of course), and to always be pleasant and respectful.
Unless you live in a town of ten people, remember that there’s plenty of work for everyone and that you’ll probably end up at the same events as your competitors at some point.
Sometimes, you may have more work than you can handle. Perhaps someone contacts you for a gig but you’re unavailable. Be prepared to give a referral to another photographer. Both the client and your fellow photographer will appreciate it, and that photographer will remember you when he finds himself needing to make a referral of his own.
You should always make decisions with the best interest of your own company in mind, but your company depends on people. And people depend on relationships. Make sure yours are good.