I’m thrilled to share an interview with Emilee Fuss of Emilee Fuss Photography based in Englewood, Florida which is on the west coast of Florida between Tampa and Naples.  Not only is Emilee an incredible artist, but she started her business at only 16 years of age!  Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us today!

Hi Emilee!  You created your business at a very young age, please tell us what inspired you to start your photography business?

I was born an animal lover and an art lover. As a kid, if I wasn’t dreaming about my dream horse, I was drawing pictures of it. As the years passed, I found myself drawing less and less and loving photography more and more. When I was fourteen, I got my first point-and-shoot and got great feedback from my friends and family. Around that time I also discovered pet photography, and fell in love. Pets and art? Yes, please! At fifteen, I was given my first DSLR and things just came together from there. With the support of my family, I started my business when I was sixteen and it has been an awesome four years. Also, I know I wouldn’t be a pet photographer were it not for my awesome Lab, Buddy. He has been an amazing teacher and model, patiently enduring the hours upon hours of time spent in front of the camera. He is the best!

If you don’t know Buddy…..let me introduce you….

What is your favorite thing about photographing dogs and what do you enjoy most about photographing humans?

What’s not to love about dogs? They are endlessly entertaining. They are so honest and real in front of the camera. They aren’t worried about what they look like and have no problem being themselves. I love to capture the little details—closeups of those beautiful eyes, soft ears, rough paws. It’s so much fun to interact with them and find out what will really make them want to work with you.

While dogs are definitely my favorite subjects, I do enjoy photographing the two-leggers, especially kids. Like pets, they can be a challenge, but they are fun! The main reason I love photographing children is also why I love to photograph pets—they are so innocent and honest.

What was the most beneficial marketing techniques that you employed when you were starting your business, and what do you do now?

Partnering with local businesses continues to be the number one way that clients find me. I’ve been working with a fabulous local grooming spa and healthy pet food store/boutique for several years now and have my work hanging in the store. The owner loves my work, and I’ve photographed her dog several times, so she is always raving about me to her clients. It’s important to find a business that you want to support and that really wants to support you, too. I have my work in other stores, too, but none of those displays have generated the amount of business as this partnership has, simply because I’ve found a business that wants to see me succeed and actively helps me to do that. The second way that my clients find me is through Google and other online searches. I’ve also tried magazine advertising, with little success. While I still advertise, my focus is on word of mouth and partnering with fellow business owners.

How did you learn the craft of photography?  Are there any resources that you would recommend to those just starting out?

A lot of trial and error! Before I even got my DSLR, I scoured the web to find out as much as I could about shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and other camera settings. While I knew most of the terms, they didn’t really “click” until I actually got my camera and practiced, practiced, practiced. I was always shooting something. If I didn’t understand something, I Googled or just played around with my camera until I figured it out. Nothing sophisticated about that! I also took part of a course with the New York Institute of Photography, which gave me more confidence in my understanding of exposure and my camera, even though I did not finish the course (I found it hard to focus and stay on track when the material hadn’t been updated since the 1970s). But the primary way I learned the craft of photography was through practice. You can never shoot enough!

Tell us about your recent film shooting adventure.

In 2011, I started noticing that more and more photographers were shooting film, and I was intrigued. Having never picked up a film camera (and those disposable cameras I used as a kid don’t count), the thought of ever shooting film seemed crazy to me, especially as a dog photographer. I take hundreds of photos at a shoot, and dogs don’t like to hold still, so film just didn’t seem very practical. But as the year went on, I just fell in love with the look of film. When I saw that Jonathan Canlas’ Film Is Not Dead guide would be going away forever, I bought it and got myself a used Nikon F100 and some Kodak Portra 400. The FIND guide made film seem so possible. It was a struggle at first, since I did not have a light meter, but it was a lot easier than I had anticipated (I had anticipated the worst—thankfully my film camera didn’t kill me, lol). Shooting film also made me slow down and really think about every single shot. I couldn’t just fire off twenty photos of the same thing. With film, I take one or two photos, and if I feel confident that I captured what I was hoping for, I move on. You can’t shoot film and be a “spray and pray” photographer! I now think that every photographer should try to shoot film, at least once. I it helps you to appreciate the craft more and make every shot count. And it’s pretty!

Is there a favorite lens or piece of gear that you just couldn’t live without?

I love my Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 lens. I use it 90% of the time. It’s a fantastic lens for a great price. A very good lens for pet photographers to have in their camera bag!

Have you always done in-person ordering and viewing sessions?  If you used to do online ordering, what was the biggest change that you noticed by starting in-person appointments?

Actually, my first client order was done in person simply because I did not have an online ordering system set up! I was shocked when my client ended up spending almost $1,000, but I did not realize that it was because she was ordering in person instead of online. It wasn’t until the past year or two that I started encouraging every client to meet with me to order. Most do, but some aren’t able to. The clients who meet with me almost always purchase more than my clients who order online. They are able to see, touch, and compare products and visualize those products with their images. They can see multiple photos side-by-side to compare and narrow down the selection. We will go back and forth between photos and take as much time as is needed to make sure that they are getting exactly what they want. And I can chime in with suggestions and tips. I know ordering images isn’t any easy task for clients, but I can’t imagine how much harder it would be on them if they couldn’t meet with me and have someone to help them through the process.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!  Please let Hair of the Dog readers know where they can see more of your work and keep up with your latest work.

Portfolio – www.emileefuss.com

Blog – www.emileefuss.com/blog

Facebook – www.facebook.com/emileefussphotography

Twitter – www.twitter.com/emileefuss