I am so pleased to bring you a very successful pet photographer from “down under”, Brisbane pet photographer Charlotte Reeves!
How long have you been in business and what drew you into photography, pet photography specifically?
In early 2007 I brought home a Great Dane puppy all of my own called Kaya. That year, I also embarked on a year-long project called Project 365 which involved taking and posting a photo a day for every day of the year. The project had the wonderful side-effect of allowing me to rediscover my love of photography. In the process, I found myself taking more and more shots of Kaya and ended up starting a blog to document her first year of growth.
Focusing on photographing dogs had a steamroller effect and the more I photographed Kaya, her canine friends, friend’s dogs and then our next Great Dane, Luna, the more I improved and ended up loving it. I came to a realisation that pet photography was something I wanted to do professionally. My pet photography business was born in late 2007 and I haven’t looked back!
What is in your camera bag? Is there a particular piece of equipment that you just couldn’t live without?
I have a Lowepro Flipside backpack that suits me perfectly – it even has space for a water bladder for longer sessions and photo treks. Inside is my Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-70mm f2.8L lens, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L lens, Canon 50mm f1.4 lens and my latest purchase, a Canon 35mm f1.4L lens. I also have a Speedlite 580EX (that doesn’t get much use), backup batteries and memory cards, various dog toys, treats, leads and yes, even spare poo bags!
As boring as this sounds, I really do love the shooting flexibility and image quality of my Canon 24-70mm f2.8L lens. It’s a great all-rounder and is on my camera most of the time.
Do you have any advice for photographers that are trying to find their “style”?
A trap that I fell into when first starting out was spending too much time looking at other photographers’ work. It’s really easy to become obsessed with keeping up with the latest and greatest work of other pet photographers and being preoccupied with how to recreate their style, to the point where you are reducing the amount of time you spend devoted to improving your own skills and creativity.
I recommend limiting your time perusing other people’s work, to maybe just once a week, and spending the rest of the time shooting, shooting and shooting some more. The more practice you put in, the more obvious it will become to you what you enjoy and what you are good at and the sooner you’ll discover your very own unique style.
I know that the longer I’ve been photographing the more I find myself analyzing the light throughout the day, whether that is in a parking garage or while watching a movie. Where do you find inspiration for your work or trying new things?
My inspiration mainly comes photography and video production in other genres. Wedding photography is a big influence, I love seeing the variety of shots and the emotion captured in weddings, along with the amazing locations and beautiful light.
Commercial photography such as stock and branding or lifestyle photography, is another big inspiration. The kinds of images that sell well exhibit certain attributes that I like to try and adopt and incorporate into my own style.
What do you find is your most valuable marketing strategy now?
I’d love to be able to say personal referrals, but at the moment this comes a distant second to my website. I have put a lot of thought and time into my website to make it into a sales tool as well as an informative place for potential clients. I make sure I keep it maintained by blogging and updating the content and my online portfolio on a regular basis. Search engine optimisation and promotion is also an important part of my web strategy. Being a website designer myself, I guess I have a head start when it comes to these things!
Working with shelters and rescue organisations is another valuable marketing tool, as well as allowing me to give back to the community at large. I put much of my own time into volunteering by taking photos of adoptable dogs, but I do get some referrals and bookings from these avenues as well.
What was your most valuable marketing strategy when you were starting your business?
Visibility and brand awareness was an important thing, and continues to be to this day. Back at the start, I attended many trade shows and events and introduced myself to local pet photography businesses. My website was also a big draw card back at the beginning as I’ve always made sure my online presence has been solid. My aim was to establish my name and make Charlotte Reeves Photography the brand that immediately came to mind when people thought about pet photography.
A photography business can’t stay in business very long without sales. Tell us a little bit about the sales strategies that have worked well for you.
The most successful strategy I have employed with regards to sales has definitely been in-person ordering sessions. I started offering these in 2010 and instantly started hitting much higher sales than I had by just uploading the final images to an online gallery and waiting for the client to order in their own time.
I also created collections and put a lot of time and effort into finding the best products, then ordering samples in the largest sizes to promote and sell to my clients.
How did you learn the craft of photography? What advice do you have for those just starting on their photographic journey?
I completed a two year Diploma of Photography after leaving high school in 1999-2000, but went on to become a website and graphic designer instead, as I wasn’t sure what I wanted to specialize in. Back in those days, we shot only on film as early digital cameras were just 1 or 2 megapixels, hardly professional quality! It was an expensive course to complete given we had to purchase all the rolls of film and photo paper ourselves, not to mention the gear. You think a lot more before you press the shutter when you’re paying for every exposure! When I finished college I moved onto studying multimedia (website design) and graphic design, before going on to work in those fields.
After a six year break from photography, I purchased my first digital SLR (a Canon 350D) in 2006 and started getting interested in photography again, shooting landscapes, macro and architecture and starting up a real estate photography business. I found the knowledge I’d gleaned from shooting on film years beforehand was very useful in getting the most out of my digital camera.
The most valuable bit of advice I can offer is that you must shoot every day to really improve. Subjecting yourself to new environments, new subjects and different lighting continually means you are always learning, improving and developing your own personal style.
Tell us about your new e-book that may be valuable to those starting in the field of pet photography.
“Fetching Photos” is an e-book about dog photography. It’s mainly targeted towards pet photographers who are just starting out in this wonderful industry, but also includes much information of value to amateurs, hobbyists and existing professional photographers alike.
It offers tips on dealing with different doggy personalities, how to best prepare for the session and the best ways to gather useful information about your subject. Valuable information is offered about gear and technical basics such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length and focusing, always relevant to how various settings can be best utilized to photograph dogs.
Handy hints are given about finding great locations and when it comes time to shoot, I guide the reader through all the considerations in running a session from start to finish. There are so many different methods to employ and things to try when photographing our canine friends and I share my favorite and most useful techniques. Working with light is such an important consideration and I run through the different lighting conditions possible and how to make the most of each of them.
I often hear that black dogs and white dogs are the hardest to photograph and I can definitely sympathise – they aren’t the easiest of colors to expose for! There is a whole chapter dedicated to this topic and I share lots of helpful advice about how to photograph black dogs and white dogs for the best and most consistent results.
It’s important to keep practicing, improving and learning when it comes to photography, so I’ve included some information and ideas about how to keep working on your skills and how to stay inspired.
I’ve included two bonus chapters in the e-book, the first being about how to photograph your own dog and the second about photographing adoptable dogs from rescues and shelters. Both types of dog photography have their own special considerations and I share tips and techniques for obtaining great images in both these scenarios.
You can pick up your copy of Fetching Photos, the ultimate guide to creative on-location natural light dog photography here. The introductory price of $49 is only available until May 28th at 9 AM EST, at that point it jumps to $79.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us! Please let us know where we can find you online.