Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Making of a Pet Photography Business

The Making of a Pet Photography Business
Pets Photography Studio
was founded by Richie Schwartz, often referred to as "America's Most Experienced Pet Photographer."

After a successful 25 year career in photography in New York doing photojournalism, weddings/events, families/ kids, pets, schools, models and commercial work, Richie decided to specialize. As a former Veterinary Technician, Dog Groomer and Trainer, working with animals exclusively seemed to be a natural progression. In 2002 he joined forces with another photo studio. Their plan was to partner with other pet businesses that already had a customer base which matched a common target market, namely pet owners who shopped in brick and mortar stores. 
The business model would create partnerships with other pet businesses to form mutually beneficial relationships.

Through persistent and skillful negotiating efforts, their team was able to enter into contracts and collaborate 
 with the two largest pet supply stores in the country. That milestone was a game changer. They grew Great Beginnings Photo into the world’s largest pet photography company. As Operations Manager, Richie was in charge of day to day operations, overseeing a staff of 40 photographers taking pet portraits at 600 Petsmart and Petco stores across 30 states. These two companies alone accounted for nearly 50,000 photo sessions each year.

In 2006, Richie left that company to open his own Pet Photography business in New York using a similar business model but on a smaller scale.  Richie, pitched his idea to PETCO and got a contract that put his studio in over 80 locations in NY, NJ, and CT.

 In 2010, he had taken on the same role for Pet Supplies “Plus,” a leading supplier with more than 230 stores in 22 states. His studio has worked with other major pet supply chains such as Pet Valu, as well as dozens of independent pet businesses. Richie provides free photography for several Pet Rescue organizations. 

On a personal level, Richie has been recognized both for his photography and his contributions to the community. Richie was named to NBC Universal's Petside.com’s list of Top 25 Pet People of 2010 along with Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres, for his charity work with animals and his impact on the welfare of pets.
  • 2018 - Named Pet Photographer of the Year (NY Pet Fashion Show)
  • 2017 - Society Paws Award for Professional Pet Photographer (NYC)
  • Four time winner of Best Pet Photographer on Long Island competition (LI Press)
Richie is not only an acclaimed pet photographer, but he is an admired educator as well. He offers classes, mentoring, and coaching in Pet Photography, In Person Sales, Starting and/or growing a Pet Photography business, Marketing for Pet Photographers, Partnering for Pet Photographers and more. He is available for general business coaching and/or mentoring as well. He provides workshops and seminars both online and at various venues.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free

Reasons Why Professional Photographers Cannot Work for Free

Dear potential photo buyer,
If you have been directed to this page, it is likely that you have requested the use of an image or images for free or minimal compensation.
As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.
Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.
Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.
Please take the following points in the constructive manner in which they are intended. We certainly hope that after you have had a chance to read this, we will be able to talk again and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.
Photographs Are Our Livelihood
Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If we give away our images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, we cannot make a living.
We Do Support Worthy Causes With Images
Most of us do contribute photographs, sometimes more, to support certain causes. In many cases, we may have participated directly in projects that we support with images, or we may have a pre-existing personal relationship with key people involved with the efforts concerned. In other words, each of us can and does provide images without compensation on a selective basis.
We Have Time Constraints
Making a leap from such selective support to responding positively to every request we get for free photographs, however, is impractical, if for no other reason than the substantial amount of time required to respond to requests, exchange correspondence, prepare and send files, and then follow-up to find out how our images were used and what objectives, if any, were achieved. It takes a lot of time to respond to requests, and time is always in short supply.
Pleas of “We Have No Money” Are Often Difficult to Fathom
The primary rationale provided in nearly all requests for free photographs is budgetary constraint, meaning that the requestor pleads a lack of funds.
Such requests frequently originate from organisations with a lot of cash on hand, whether they be publicly listed companies, government or quasi-government agencies, or even NGOs. Often, it is a simple matter of taking a look at a public filing or other similar disclosure document to see that the entity concerned has access to significant funding, certainly more than enough to pay photographers a reasonable fee should they choose to do so.
To make matters worse, it is apparent that all too often, of all the parties involved in a project or particular effort, photographers are the only ones being asked to work for free. Everyone else gets paid.
Given considerations like this, you can perhaps understand why we frequently feel slighted when we are told that: “We have no money.” Such claims can come across as a cynical ploy intended to take advantage of gullible individuals.
We Have Real Budget Constraints
With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.
The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.
Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.
Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.
In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.
And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.
So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.
Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much
Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.
There are two major problems with this.
First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.
Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.
In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.
“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”
When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.
We know that is not true.
We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”
Please Follow-Up
One other experience we have in common is that when we do provide photographs for free, we often do not receive updates, feedback or any other form of follow-up letting us know how the event or project unfolded, what goals (if any) were achieved, and what good (if any) our photos did.
All too often, we don’t even get responses to emails we send to follow-up, until, of course, the next time that someone wants free photographs.
In instances where we do agree to work for free, please have the courtesy to follow-up and let us know how things went. A little consideration will go a long way in making us feel more inclined to take time to provide additional images in the future.
Wrap Up
We hope that the above points help elucidate why the relevant photographer listed below has sent you to this link. All of us are dedicated professionals, and we would be happy to work with you to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.

Author: Tony Wu
Creative Commons License
Note to photographers: You can use the above text under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Please ensure that you include a link to this page.  https://photoprofessionals.wordpress.com
 Text by Tony Wu

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is Professional Photography Really "Worth It"?

Being in the photography business for years has been an amazing journey and a great accomplishment for me. I believe that the people I meet are the best clients anyone could wish for. For the most part, my clients book an appointment, look at the images and then make a purchase according to the price list I provide and they go home a happy camper! Once in a while, though, a new client will express concerns about what they perceive to be the high cost of professional photography in general, and they wonder aloud if it is really worth it. And that is when I say to them, maybe I can help you to better understand why professional photography really is “worth it”.
Now, I don’t launch into a list of expenses that pro photographers have to cover just to stay in business. I don’t mention things like rent, insurance, licensing fees, business taxes, equipment cost, software upgrades, photo lab costs, assistants, shipping fees, travel costs, equipment upgrades, editing and retouching fees, ongoing education, and advertising costs . NO, I don’t mention any of these things; I wouldn’t resort to that! ;) But I do tell them about Sunday, October 28, 2012.
Yes, October 28, 2012, the day that President Obama issued a declaration of emergency for New York State. Schools, bridges, and airports were closed. Here in my home town on Long Island, the orders were given to evacuate immediately! A "super" storm named Sandy was headed directly at our island as if guided by some hi technological laser gun.
Hurricane Sandy came to New York the next day and for those of us that survived, our lives were changed forever. A lot was going on in the hours of that Sunday afternoon before the storm was due to land. The neighborhood was alive with commotion, yet there was a sort of calm panic. As if by coincidence (or something else) as I packed my vehicle, I looked around and noticed all my neighbors were doing the same thing at the same time. It was eerie, almost as if we had rehearsed this like the synchronized swimmers in the Olympics, or the newest young and bold dance team on America's Got Talent, but we hadn’t.
As my neighbors brought their valuables out of their homes and into their vehicles, not knowing if there would still be a house when we were allowed back, I saw something I will never forget; we all brought the same thing out of our homes!
I didn't see any Xbox console, or stereo system, I did not see any plasma screen 90 inch Super Hi Def TV, I didn't see any air conditioners nor did I see any comfy sectional sofas or fancy bathroom sinks, I didn't see any kid's bunk beds. No desktop computers or pretty Tiffany lamps.
What I DID see was that EVERYONE was loading their cars and mini vans with the family photos that they took off the walls, frame and all. They had their wedding albums and wall portraits. They had their kid’s photo albums filled with years of school pictures and Halloween costumes, taking their first steps and posing proudly on their first bicycle. And there were shoe boxes full of photos from years of assorted family occasions, even that last picture of Grandma before she passed ,and I understood. I understood. I really understood.
We know that at the end of the day, of all our “possessions”, it is our memories that we treasure most and place the highest value on. Pictures represent our memories. Our memories cannot be replaced with any amount of money or any material goods - it really is the most valuable thing we have!
I tell these “wondering” clients to keep in mind that when a photographer hands over custom prints with the images of your loved ones, these are now your “priceless” treasures forevermore. These are now the most valuable thing you own! And as they get misty eyed and give a quick sniffle thinking about what they would have done, they get it. They get it.
They really get it.
©2015 Richie Schwartz
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