Is your photography studio part of a 38 billion dollar a year industry?

Today’s blog post comes from guest blogger Bruce Hudson of Hudson’s Portrait Design & Senior’s by Hudson’s in Renton, WA.  Bruce has been in business for 28 years and specializes in large family wall decor, lifestyle centered family portraiture, high school seniors, babies and children, pets, weddings and commercial photography.  He is also co-founder of  My Studio Mentor and Bruce Tunz!  You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, too.  He is a Master Photographer, Craftsman, and a member of Camera Craftsmen of America.

Is your photography studio part of a 38 billion dollar a year industry?

Can you guess which industry has doubled in size over the last 10 years and did not slowdown one bit even during this nasty recession? It’s the pet industry! Last year over 38 billion dollars was spent on pets. Everything from high-end pet beds, bags, clothes, even fresh prepared gourmet food! This industry shows no sign of slowing down, which begs the question, are you part of this 38 billion dollar a year industry? Could your studio use another revenue stream with a huge profit potential?

During the first quarter of 2010, we decided to jump into the realm of high-end pet photography. One of the reasons was because my wife Terri had an opportunity to buy a high-end doggy boutique. Since she got out of real estate, she’s been looking for something like this to invest in. Well, she took the plunge and started her own business! It’s a cute little shop on the main street of Enumclaw, WA. Anyway, it seemed like a no brainer, we would get into creating pet portraits to help her cross market her new business, and vice versa.

As we researched we found that the pet market is wide open, at least in the Seattle area. Step one was getting some pets into the studio for some promotional shots that we could use in our marketing. We decided to have a “Pet” Folio Model Search! Basically, each client would get a free session and an 8×10 of their choice for coming in. This is a promotion that we tend to stay away from; we’re not big fans of discounting our work. But for this fun and new event, it seemed like a logical first step. We were shooting for about 8-10 sessions, but the result far exceeded our expectations! Here’s step by step what we did to market this and the results:

  • We photographed our own pets for initial promo shots and dedicated a Facebook album and a post to the pet model search. Result: 10 minutes after the post went up we booked 4 sessions, and 2 were new clients! The post had gone viral!
  • Next, we made the “Pet” Folio Model Search the feature story in our Feb. 2010 email newsletter to our clients. We also linked the Facebook post to it. Result: 48 hours after the email had gone out, the combination of Facebook and Email Marketing yielded us 24 sessions on the books.

Of those first 24 sessions we decided to make a highlight video for our Youtube channel, Facebook page, blog, and eventually our dedicated pet portraits website. Below is the video we produced:

After this video was posted we saw another surge in pet model sessions yet again! We really hit a nerve!

So, did we make any money from this? You bet! We are treating these pet portraits just like we would for families and requiring a pre-portrait consultation, even for the free model sessions. You have to understand that people need to be educated about price and your procedures in order to maximize your artist and business potential. At the consultation we went over different styles, looks, backdrops, you name, just like at a family or high senior consult. We also informed them that could invest in more than just the free 8×10 and that we developed special packages for our pet model search participants. The packages ranged from $675 to $1600, and we really tried to promote our square wrap canvas product, which complements our pet images nicely. There are a few things to keep in mind when photographing pets, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. 1. Use a lower camera angle
  2. 2. Shorter depth of field
  3. 3. Longer lens

This was not only successful, it was fun! After all these years in business, it’s fun growing and marketing a whole new segment of business. We’ll have a dedicated niche website this summer and an entire line of pet products! Now days it’s all about diversification, I think we found a good way to fill some of the voids in the business right now!

Have a great June everyone!

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