How to Start a Pet Photography Business
With pet specialty stores and dog-friendly restaurants becoming the new norm, more and more families are embracing the idea of openly expressing their love for their pets. Pet photographers, whether working in teams or as individuals, are there to catch a family’s four-legged loved one in action. Whether at an adoption event, dog show, horse race, or private photo shoot, these moments are captured on film, delivering pet lovers a keepsake they’ll cherish forever.
Learn how to start your own Pet Photography Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a pet photography business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Pet Photography Business
- Form your Pet Photography Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Pet Photography Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Pet Photography Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Pet Photography Business
- Get Pet Photography Business Insurance
- Define your Pet Photography Business Brand
- Create your Pet Photography Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your pet photography business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your 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:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a pet photography business?
There are a number of pet photography franchise options available for the entrepreneur who prefers support and guidance as they start on this journey. Liquid capital required to franchise with Lil’ Pals Pet Photography is $71,000. $10,000 of this goes towards your initial franchise fee, while the remaining $61,000 is used for start-up costs.
Start-up costs include the following:
- Canine behavior training
- Photography equipment (camera, lens with autofocus, zoom lens, and memory cards)
- Mobile studio
- Computer and editing software
- Marketing materials
Each employee will need their own set of equipment, as well as a reliable vehicle.
What are the ongoing expenses for a pet photography business?
Most pet photographers choose to forego the physical studio, opting for a mobile studio instead. This offers more flexibility and reduces overhead costs tremendously. When planning your budget, consider the following ongoing expenses:
- Equipment repairs and replacement
- Vehicle repair and fuel costs
- Mobile studio props—as trends change, you’ll need to keep adding to your studio options
- Animal treats, toys, and leashes
- Annual state registration fees, sales tax license, and city occupational taxes
- Payroll taxes—consider hiring freelancers as you start out to reduce initial expenses
- Liability insurance
- Ongoing education/workshops
- Software updates
- Marketing materials
- Website hosting and maintenance
Who is the target market?
It’s estimated that there are more than 78 million pet dogs and 85.8 million pet cats across the United States. A vast majority of these animals are considered a part of the family, going on road trips, to the store, and out to dinner. For most pet owners, there isn’t much they wouldn’t do for their furry family members—this is your target audience.
How does a pet photography business make money?
Your organization will generate revenue from each photography shoot. Most businesses charge a flat rate for the shoot, including a specified amount of photos. Additional goods and services are offered for an additional fee.
How much can you charge customers?
Rates vary depending upon the photographer’s experience and location. Most offer multiple packages, which include the photo session and a specified number of photos. Packages might start in the area of $175, and can reach upwards of $350. Additional photos are available for an additional fee.
How much profit can a pet photography business make?
Your company’s profitability depends upon a number of factors—how much you charge per session, how many packages you sell at each level, and how your business pays other photographers on your team. For example, one pet photographer out of Seattle charges $350 for a basic package. He is currently the only photographer, so all work is completed by him. If he shoots five sessions a week, he brings in $7,000 per month in fees. With an average of $600 per month in expenses, he earns a profit of $6,400 each month.
How can you make your business more profitable?
To make their businesses more profitable, industry professionals have implemented the following strategies:
- Offer to hang your art for sale at local vets, restaurants, groomers, and humane societies.
- Include printing and framing as part of your service for an additional fee.
- Offer a variety of products to choose from, including: key rings, calendars, cards, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and earrings.
- Consider taking photos at horse shows, racetracks, horse breeding farms, equestrian centers, adoption events, and dog shows.
- You can also offer to shoot photos for pet walkers, breeders, or groomers that these professionals can use in their online and print marketing materials.
- Christmas photos showing clients’ pets with Santa Claus have become a recent consumer favorite.
- Approach local breeders, trainers, and groomers about taking advertising shots.
- Sell stock photos to websites like iStock and Dreamstime.
- If you’re skilled at videography, include this as an additional service.
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
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 through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
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.
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.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
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 2023 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.
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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.
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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:
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.