Fluffy cats with pouty expressions and pugs posed with their paws in the air are pretty much the stuff that makes any human being smile. If your Instagram feed is mostly celebrity pets, Lil Bub and your own cuddly, four-legged friend, you might want to consider a career as a pet photographer. This week, in our How to Quit Your Day Job series, we chat with Los Angeles-based pet photographer Diana Lundin about how she makes a living out of her passion for imagery and animals.
Meet the Pet Photographer Pro: Diana Lundin
In 2011, Diana Lundin was laid off from her website editing job after working for the company for 11 years. Her side gig had been family and headshot portraiture, so she’d already purchased professional photography and video equipment. After being laid off, she transitioned into photography and, in 2013, added pet photography to her skill set. “It’s where my heart is,” says Diana, who now spends most of her days working with animals and having a blast. Catch a glimpse of her daily work life and some pretty adorbs pups and kitties on Instagram at @dlundin.
1. Get support from your tribe. Diana credits her spouse for being extremely supportive of her work. “She absolutely believes in me,” says Diana. When she was first starting out, her friends loaned her their pets and their time so she could learn how to work with dogs and cats who are admittedly cute, but can require a learning curve to understand how to get them to pay attention on command. “Starting a new business is not easy and it really takes a village to boost you.”
2. You need two important skills — practice and patience. When working with animals, Diana says it’s so important to cultivate a sense of patience, because every animal is different in how they will react. Practicing photographing friends’ furry pals is a great way to learn without the pressure of delivering professional shots immediately. “Learn how to photograph pets on your time, but once you’re good enough to charge, don’t let someone take advantage of you,” says Diana.
3. Creativity is only part of the game. While it might not be the most fun part of running your own pet portraiture company, you’ll have to pair your creative skills with business acumen if you want to be successful. “You can’t just be creative, because you simply won’t make it when everybody has a camera and fancies themselves a photographer. You have to learn the business,” says Diana.
4. Meet with clients in person. Nowadays with digital files and cloud storage, it can be easy to simply meet with potential clients remotely, but Diana suggests that meeting in person adds an important layer to pet photography. “My business is conducted in person and decisions are made at the ordering session. I offer fabulous products that consumers can’t get on their own. Plus, I’m smart enough to know my digital files are the most valuable thing I have,” says Diana.
5. Learn the differences between cats and dogs. Diana’s learned a few choice tips over the years working with animals. Pups tend to respond to sounds and perk up their cute little ears at unknown noises. A common mistake is to bust out the treats too early, which can drive a food-motivated dog bananas and throw off the calm you’ll need to snap a good photo. Cats are totally the opposite. They love motion. “Feathers are really good at attracting a cat’s attention,” says Diana.
6. Adore your job. Chances are if you want a career in pet photography, you probably love animals. “Working with animals is the most fun you can have in a day,” says Diana. Whether she’s on location at a client’s home or shooting at a pet boutique, Diana is having a great day. “Dogs are so different, so much fun and so interesting.”
Purrfect Your Skills
1. Creative Live Animal Photography Class ($129): Learn the ins and outs of working with dogs, cats and everything in between with award-winning animal photographer Rachael McKenna. Grow your photography skills while also learning how to license your imagery.
2. Volunteer to Photograph Shelter Animals (Free): To practice your skills as a pet photographer, donate your time to a local animal shelter and help a pup or kitty find a much-needed home. The nonprofit organization One Picture Saves a Life offers workshops to help you learn to groom and document these adorable animals in all of their true glory.
3. Quick and Dirty Tips from The Dog Trainer (Free): If you’re going to work with animals, this podcast from a professional dog trainer covers topics such as how to get your dog’s attention and handle your cat’s behavior, and will give you a basic understanding of how to work with your furry clients.
What’s your dream career? Tweet us @britandco to let us know, and we could feature it in the next column!
(Photos via Diana Lundin)