Starting A Pet Photography Business

Starting a business is hard. It’s a challenge to run a small business, let alone one as expensive as a pet photography business. Just consider the cost of equipment and education like photography school. If you have the money and desire to start your own pet photography business, here are a few tips that may help you get established.

Pets are a big part of many of our lives, whether it be our own pets or even just other people’s. They bring us so much joy, laughs and unconditional love. And if you’re reading this post, I’m sure you’ve had the thought at least once in your head that maybe you’d like to be apart of that by starting your own pet photography business. Well, as someone who has done it before and is still doing it now, stick around and let me tell you everything you need to know about how to get started with some hints and tips on taking great photos and even how to possibly make some extra income by spreading your wings outside your home town!

Starting a pet photography business is a great way to combine your love of animals with your interest in photography. The business has many positive aspects and should be considered by anyone who enjoys taking pictures of pets.

The first step in starting a pet photography business is to identify where you want to take pictures. This can be done in many different places, including people’s homes, parks, or even the local pet store. Once you have decided where you want to take pictures of pets, the next step is to find clients who are interested in hiring you for their pet’s portrait. A great way to get started is by posting flyers around your area advertising your services as well as asking friends if they know anyone looking for a photographer for their pet’s portrait session.

Once you have found clients interested in hiring you as their pet photographer, it’s time to start taking pictures! You will need some basic equipment like a camera and tripod; however, there are other more expensive pieces of equipment that can make taking pictures easier such as light stands and reflectors. It may also be beneficial if you have someone help hold up lights while shooting so that light does not fall directly on the subject being photographed (i.e., dog).

Starting a pet photography business can be a great way to get started as a professional photographer.

When you’re starting out, it’s important to focus on the things you love and know how to do well. If you don’t have much experience with pets, consider working with other photographers or taking some classes before getting your own business off the ground.

Once you’ve decided that you’re ready for a pet photography business, there are a few steps you should take before jumping into the world of animal portraiture.

Starting A Pet Photography Business

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Pet Photography Business Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

It’s very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your pet photography business is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It’s really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.

Small Business Taxes

Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).

You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business’s name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company’s assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Open net 30 accounts

Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.

NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.

Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business’ expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company’s credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a pet photography business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain state and local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply.

Certificate of Occupancy

A pet photography business can be run out of a large storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a storefront:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a pet photography business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or a storefront:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your pet photography business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Learn more about General Liability Insurance.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers’ Compensation Coverage.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren’t feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we’ll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market a pet photography business

Before building a marketing strategy, research your area to determine how pet friendly it is. If the local market is already saturated with pet photographers, or if it isn’t particularly pet friendly, expand your service area to reach those who would be more interested in your services.

Once you’ve identified your service area, approach local dog magazines and pet publications. Purchase ad space and offer your services for a featured article. Give back to the community by offering a photography session to your local animal rescue. By doing so, you’ve helped save a life and the community has a chance to see your work.

Create a portfolio of your work, including photos of a variety of different types of pets (birds, fish, tortoises, rats, and, of course, dogs and cats). Approach local businesses that cater to animals and ask to leave a copy of your portfolio and business cards. Businesses should include: groomers, dog daycare, high-end pet stores, veterinarians, dog parks, and dog-friendly cafes.

Setting up a booth at Pet Expos is also an effective way to reach your target market. Pet photographers have also found success donating a photo session package to their community’s animal fundraising events.

How to keep customers coming back

Customer retention often comes down to the quality of goods and services you provide. Always treat animals with the respect they deserve, and do your best to deliver excellent photos to every customer. Incentivize current customers by offering referral and repeat booking discounts

Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites – full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2022 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com

Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it’s fair pricing.

Start a Pet Photography Business in your State

Is this Business Right For You?

Pet photography is the perfect career for an individual who understands, and is inspired by, a family’s love for their pets. Whether photography is your hobby or your current chosen profession, uniting your passion for both is the ideal way to venture out on your own professionally.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

What happens during a typical day at a pet photography business?

If you’re contemplating opening your own pet photography business, it’s important that you clearly define your vision and professional goals. Will you be involved, rolling around in the dirt, waiting for the perfect shot? Or do you prefer to handle the administrative duties, leaving the photography to your talented staff?

Regardless of which path you take, your days will include the following activities:

  • Answering phone calls, scheduling shoots, and collaborating with pet owners regarding their vision for the photo shoot.
  • Attending pre-shoot meet-and-greets with clients and their pets, preferably on location.
  • Prepping for photo shoots and collecting any props that might be necessary.
  • Driving to photo shoots—many pet photographers say this takes up a considerable amount of their time.
  • Educating yourself regarding animal behavior, dog and cat breeds, and the latest in camera/photography trends.
  • Marketing and networking with members of the community who share your love of animals.
  • Delegating responsibilities and photo shoots to your team.

There are a number of administrative tasks that will also require your regular attention. If the creative aspect is what drove you to this profession, consider employing someone who can handle these responsibilities.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pet photography business?

As a pet photographer, it’s important to show kindness and patience towards your subject. Each animal possesses their own personality, quirks, and hang-ups. Unlike humans, however, they’re unable to verbalize what they’re feeling. You must be able to read their cues, relying solely on the pet’s body language.

Successful pet photographers suggest signing up for courses in canine behavior, ethology, and animal training through an academy such as Trish King’s Canine Behavior Academy. While this training won’t deliver you the patience necessary for this profession, it will provide you with the tools required to read their cues and shift the animal’s focus whenever necessary. Additionally, a basic course in pet photography could provide you some valuable insight into capturing the true essence of a pet’s personality.

What is the growth potential for a pet photography business?

More than 62% of U.S. households now include at least one family pet. With the number of pet owners increasing, this industry is set up to see significant growth in the coming years. With pets being a significant part of many families, many owners are now interested in displaying professional photos of their pets, and they are willing to pay for high quality images.

Not sure if a pet photography business is right for you? Try our free Business Idea Generator and find your perfect idea.

Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a pet photography business?

Experienced pet photographers offer the following advice:

  • An animal’s true personality comes out when they feel comfortable and secure. For this reason, a mobile studio is most effective.
  • The most successful photo shoots happen when the photographer and animal have had a chance to meet before the scheduled session. The cost of your time and transportation to meet the pet in advance can be factored into the total package you are selling.
  • Speak with the pet owner prior to your photo session. Does the pet have any quirks, habits, or fears that you should know about?
  • Treats will help most sessions go smoother. Be sure to ask the owner about any food allergies before offering treats.
  • Practice makes perfect. Get to know your equipment so well that it starts to feel like an extension of you. If you have to look down to change your shutter speed, you could miss the ideal shot.
  • Include animals in your practice sessions—the more badly behaved the better. This will prepare you for just about any scenario.
  • Research the style of other photographers in the area. What is their style and how does it compare to yours? A distinct style is what will make you stand out above the competition.
  • Growing up with dogs doesn’t make you an expert. Be honest with yourself regarding your knowledge and skill level. Read up on the different breeds, and consider taking a basic handling course.
  • Never force an animal to pose in an uncomfortable position.
  • If your subject is a dog, always keep him/her on a leash. This can be edited out later.
  • Keep your schedule flexible and keep in mind how special this pet is to their family members. There may come a time when you’re asked to drop everything to photograph a dying animal.

How and when to build a team

Successful entrepreneurs never turn work away. As word starts to spread, you may need to hire additional photographers. There is always the potential for injury when working with animals. Keep this in mind when considering prospective employees. Look for someone with prior animal experience and with the maturity to handle stressful situations with ease. Since each photographer will represent the company, the quality of their work is critical. Review each prospect’s portfolio before making a final decision. Try to build a well-rounded team by adding photographers with different styles and/or experiences. The more options you can offer your clients, the less likely they are to seek the services of someone else.

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