If you are a pet photographer, it’s likely that what you are doing right now is photographing, well, people’s pets! But have you every looked at pet brands and wondered – I love that brand, how do I get to photograph for them?

I’m a commercial pet photographer who has worked with pet brands for over 8 years; photographing for brands like Natures Menu, I have covered luxury dog beds, high end treat companies, dog coats, herbal pet supplements, dog drying robes, canicross companies and everything in between, and I’m going to let you into how I book & keep my best pet brand clients. 

So what’s Bridgerton got to do with anything?

Well, there are two ways you can go about landing your first commercial pet brand. One is send them an email asking to work with them. The other is old school ‘court’ them. Let them know how much you like them, invest time (and sometimes money) in them, become a super fan, make it all about them. And do all this, without once asking for their hand in marriage…I mean, asking them to pay you to work with them.

Why go through all courting to get your first pet brand client?

Here’s what I’ve learned. Cold email, or social media messages, rarely work. Why? The brand don’t know you, they have no idea what you have to offer, and even if they did, they don’t know that you are the right person for them or they just might not be ready. Respect them – their time is precious, and you have just taken away several minutes of it by pitching to them out of the blue. Historically, by first building a relationship with the brands I work with, I end up work with the majority or them. This is a long term relationship, not a fumble in the parlour room.

So how do you woo your first pet brand?

Firstly, find a brand who you genuinely want to work with, you love their products or services – I’d start small, so maybe a solo entrepreneur or a startup. I put genuinely in italics for a very good reason, working with a brand who you love will excite you and that will show in the final results.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking you can work with a brand who doesn’t align with your values – it WILL show in your images. As an example, I will never do a shoot for Pedigree Chum despite the fact that it would pay 3 months worth of bills – I don’t agree with their food and I would get the ick doing a shoot. Give me Paleo Ridge though and I would be over the blinking moon – their food and every part of their ethos makes me jump for joy and I can SEE the images I would want to create for them (by the way, I have been wooing Paleo Ridge for a while 😉)

What’s the next stage of courtship to photographing for your chosen pet brand?

Engage! In the massive world of the pet industry, it’s so important that brands have engagement on social media, that they are seen.
Comment on their posts, like, share or if you see someone asking for recommendations, be the first one to tag them if you think it’s the right fit. Ask questions that you as a potential client, would like to know. Set a time in your diary to spend a few minutes every other day to do this – that is time spent becoming their number one fan.

Use your dowry to buy into the pet brand you want to work with.

If you can, buy their product or service. Photograph yourself using it or putting it into practice. It doesn’t have to be a professional photograph, but if you have the time, why not. Even better, take a few short ‘user generated content’ videos. Tag them in your posts or to level up, do a recommendation post with why you bought it and why you love the brand. Want to go all out? Do a blog post with backlinks (same as I have done for Paleo Ridge, see!) and then share that on your social media. I am lucky enough to work with The Innocent Pet Company, I loved their luxury treats so much that I asked if I could have trade prices so that I could give all my clients and dog models a goody bag with their treats in, and we have now worked together for several years.

If you aren’t able to buy it then recommend it to people you know both in passing and on social media. Word will eventually get back to them.

Be chivalrous – offer your help and photography knowledge.

A lot of pet brands will run a photography competition. If I see a brand I want to work with doing this, I ask them if they want me to send some top tips which their followers can use to take better photographs, or I ask if they would like a photographer (me) to judge. Have a think about easy quick ways you can help them.

What happens if they don’t respond to your wooing?

That’s okay, you are now on their radar and that’s the main thing. I’ve had brands who I’ve engaged with who have taken years to book me because they weren’t ready at the time, but when they do, they keep coming back because that relationship has always been there.

Don’t ever expect anything in return.

Here’s the thing, if you go into this expecting anything at all in return, you could come away feeling frustrated, wondering why they haven’t responded, why have you wasted your time when you only wanted to help them etc etc. Stop that right now.

If they are the right fit for you, they will come. If they say no – it could mean not right now. If they go with someone else – be thankful that they have found a fit which is right for them which means that wasn’t you – much better to find someone who REALLY appreciates you and your work.

If you go in expecting something, it will show and they will just be constantly waiting for the hard sell. Not the best way to build a relationship.

Popping the question.

So you have been courting your pet brand for a while, you feel like you are a good match, when is right to pop the question? Well if you are lucky, they might get in their first and ask you!

Otherwise, be vulnerable, tell them how you feel! Let them know that you love their brand, and have wondered how you would go about photographing for them. Be honest, let them know it’s not something you have done before, ask if you can test out a commercial shoot for them for a reduced rate so that you can get feedback from them.

By this time, you will have built up a rapport and they will appreciate your honesty. Come to an agreement on something which works for you both. Don’t be afraid to charge – you are already a photographer, most brands would jump at the chance to have high end images at a reduced price.

Before the big day!

So you have landed your brand! Congratulations! The ring is gorgeous. Bear in mind that a commercial shoot is very, very different from photographing someone’s pet.

Do some research on how a commercial shoot works, what you need to photograph, create a timeline of everything you want to shoot. Think about how to structure your cost, whether everything is included or a shoot fee and image usage on top. How are you going to find dog and pet models as you need ones which will be comfortable in different situations.

I am thinking about doing a masterclass on this, so if it’s something you are interested in, drop me a message!


Commercial photographer for pet brands Worldwide.