Over the past decade+ the number of people offering professional pet photography services has grown exponentially, not just in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area, but all over the world. While many of those have come and gone, there are still a LOT of us out here, and wading through the options can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re doing your initial search when you don’t have much time left with your beloved pet. I wanted to give you a bit of an inside look into the world of pet photography, and some tools to help you make decisions.
There’s no perfect photographer for everyone, but chances are there IS a perfect photographer for you!
Two types of photography businesses
First, know that there are 2 main types of pet photography businesses, known in the industry as either “Shoot & Burn” or “Boutique.” One isn’t inherently “better” than the other, but they are very different and cater to different kinds of pet parents.
A shoot and burn photographer usually has a low flat fee, will “shoot” your session and “burn” some or all of the digital files onto a disk – or these days, more likely an online downloading service. The name comes from when we used to use CDs to deliver digital files. And that’s interesting to think about –– do you currently own a device that can read CDs? Technology changes over time, and if you have important memories stored on an obsolete media, be sure to make backups to current media so you can continue to enjoy them. There are professional services that can take your CDs (or DVDs, or VHS tapes, etc.) and update them for you.
A boutique photographer typically has a session fee to secure your date and cover the time and expertise in creating the images, then offers a variety of physical artwork to display and enjoy those images in your home. There will usually be an in-person or zoom ordering session where the photographer helps select the very best images and products for your specific budget and aesthetic. They may (or may not) offer digital files as well, either complimentary with products or available to purchase. Boutique photographers generally work with a lower number of clients per month, because they spend more time with each one.
What do you value?
The biggest consideration when starting your search is going to be about you: What do you value?
Do you want a full-service experience and come away with finished products to immediately display and enjoy? Or are you just looking for some digital files to post on social media and view on your phone?
Are you a DIY’er and love designing a display wall, seeking out printing companies and frames, or would you rather spend your time on other things and prefer someone else take care of that stuff for you?
Are you happy with buying lower cost products online, or do you appreciate higher quality, handmade pieces that have been vetted by a professional who’s tried dozens of printing companies to find the best ones?
The question of pricing
Shoot and burn photographers are going to have lower prices than a boutique photographer who offers a full service experience and printed products.
When researching local pet photographers, it should be clear from their website which type of photography business they are. Is there any mention of products like prints, wall art, or albums? Does the pricing/investment page say that digital files are included?
Most shoot and burn photographers have pricing on their websites. Not all boutique photographers will list their prices on their website, but many will give starting price points or an average of what clients typically spend. There’s no one-size-fits-all price, because everyone purchases what works best for them.
When there are many different products, sizes and options, it’s impractical and overwhelming to list it all out on a website, and much simpler to send that information to potential clients who are truly interested in moving forward. And when you’re shopping on price, it’s like comparing apples to oranges between shoot and burn and boutique photographers, so listing all the prices isn’t beneficial when clients might not know the difference.
Since shoot and burn photographers typically work with a higher volume of images and clients, their digital files are minimally edited for color correction and possibly removing things like leashes. Boutique photographers typically spend a lot more time meticulously editing each image that’s going to be printed: making composites, head-swaps, extending backgrounds, removing all blemishes and stray hairs as well as leashes; anything needed to make them look their absolute best at the right size and dimensions.
By understanding these differences, you can save time (and disappointment) by only contacting the type of photographers that align with your values and budget. Don’t be surprised when a boutique photographer doesn’t give away all the files, or a shoot and burn photographer doesn’t offer printed artwork.
What’s your style?
Of course, an equally important consideration is the photographer’s style. Are you excited by what you see on their website and want similar images for yourself? Do they shoot in a studio or outdoors (or both)? Is their style more modern or classic? Do they use sets and props or is it more minimal? Fun or serious? Action shots or only sitting / laying down? Do they include the owners with the pets (and do you want that)? Do the images make you feel any kind of emotions, or do they seem more like snapshots?
Do the images on their website have a cohesive look and feel, or are they kind of all over the place? An experienced photographer who’s worked with many different types of pets and people will be able to deliver images to you that look like what you see on their website. Newer photographers may not have developed their style yet, or have the experience to produce consistent work.
Prioritize your priorities
Really think about your goals for your pet photography session: what you want, what you can afford, and what kind of experience you’re looking for.
Are you looking for the cheapest option, or are you in a place where you can invest a little more?
Do you value quality or quantity? Do you want 200 pictures of your pet, or would you rather have a handful of really amazing images that truly capture your pet’s personality?
Do you want to sort through the files and put the work into making your own book or ordering products online, or does that not interest you and you’d rather take something home that’s ready to display?
There’s no right or wrong answers, and what’s best for someone else may not be best for you. Remember, if you’re going to ask for recommendations in a local Facebook group, that not everyone values the same things. What’s “expensive” for one person might be perfect for another. A style that one person thinks is amazing might not connect with you at all.
Consider your pet’s needs
What is your pet’s personality? Are they happy and confident in new places or are they reactive to other dogs and people? Does your cat hide under the bed when people come over, or are they the life of the party? Not every pet does well in a studio environment, but their personality might shine when they’re in a familiar place. Can your terminally ill dog travel, or would a photographer need to come to your home?
Each situation is unique, so be sure to consider what your pet might need and express any concerns with your photographer. Some photographers have a studio and some don’t; some will travel any distance to you, and some won’t. Make sure the session you’re arranging is going to be enjoyable and comfortable for both you and your pet and their individual needs.
What we offer
Sarah Beth Photography is considered a “boutique” business. I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and the way I serve my clients has always been through a boutique experience. I’ve offered physical artwork since day one, and over the years have curated a beautiful selection of high quality products that I know you’re going to love! There’s a huge range of quality out there, and I’m VERY particular about the products I offer my clients.
Designing albums is one of my favorite things –– possibly only surpassed by seeing the look on my clients’ faces when they hold their custom fine art albums for the first time!
We’ll make decisions together at your no-pressure, in-studio ordering session, which has proven to be the most efficient way of determining which of your favorite images will go on the very best products at the right size for your home. Sorting through dozens of images can be overwhelming, and having a professional to help you makes it so much easier.
And I do offer digital files as well! Every image you order comes with its matching social-media-ready file, and printable files are available for purchase in Collections or a la carte. If all you want is digital files, that’s definitely an option, but most clients are coming to me because they want high quality, done-for-you artwork and albums.
I hope that everyone out there is able to get professional images of their pets in a way that works best for them, even if it’s not with me. Hopefully this guide has given you a clearer idea of what to look for, and to understand what’s most important to you.