My name is Erin McNulty and I’m a professional pet photographer in Melbourne, Australia. I specialize in relaxed and candid pet portraiture.  I have recently completed a fundraising calendar for Saffron on the Hill, a dog rescue group here in Melbourne. Creating a calendar is a huge amount of work but a very rewarding project, and I’m excited to share my experience here with you on Hair of the Dog.

This article is broken up into 3 parts; before you start, during the process, and finding a printer. If you have any questions that I haven’t answered, I’d love to hear from you!

Before you start

 I feel it’s important to have an existing relationship with your rescue group of choice before you take on a project like a calendar. It’s a big project, and the more you know about the group and how it works, the better placed you will be to create photos that strongly represent what they are about.

You should also be working with a group who you are really passionate about. Don’t use this project as a way for you to get your name out there and get more clients – do it because you believe in what your group does and because you want to help them raise money. You should be 100% confident in your ability to deliver professional work , if you’re portfolio building and still don’t really know your camera perhaps file this as a future project.

Pet Photography calendar

The below checklist is a guide to what you need to consider before you even start shooting your calendar. If you’re anything like me, lists will be your best friend!

  1. Start planning early. There’s no point thinking about a 2013 calendar in November of 2012. Calendars for the next year start to sell in around August so plan ahead as early as possible. Set a date for when you will finish the project by and a tentative sale date.
  1. Amount of time you can dedicate to the project. Factor in shooting time, travel, editing, time spent on layout etc. Do not dedicate yourself to the project unless you are sure you can complete it.
  1. Format and theme of the calendar. Do you want A4, A3, desk calendar? Will all the photos be landscape or portrait? Don’t shoot both with the aim to crop – this will not work! Black and white or colour? Will there be a theme for the shoot? (Side note, don’t get caught up with what other rescue groups are doing. You need to create a calendar that best represents YOUR rescue group and copying never did anyone any favors.)
  1. Expenses. There will be an initial cost to print the calendars, who will cover this? Make sure this is explicit and in writing. Also set a budget for printing expenses.
  1. Be prepared to project manage the whole thing. Rescue groups are incredibly busy and generally won’t have time to confirm every last detail with you. This is where your pre-existing relationship comes in. Because I’d worked with Saffron on the Hill in the past, they knew me and entrusted me with all the final decisions. It meant they didn’t have to constantly look at drafts or approve small changes.
  1. Design work. Once you’ve got your photos sorted you’ll have to put together and design the calendar. If this is a task you’re not 100% confident with, use your networking skills to find someone who is willing to help out. In a pinch most printing companies provide design work for a fee.
  1. Plan ahead how many calendars you will print, but be flexible to change that number. We thought we’d sell around fifty calendars and then ended up with that amount of pre orders on the first day. It’s also a good idea to get some extras done as thank you gifts to businesses that have helped out the group throughout the year.

This is the first post in a series of 3, so be sure to stop by tomorrow for some tips to remember while you are working on your calendar project!