Years ago, when friends suggested that animal lover Beverly Pipes turn her hobby into a business, her first reaction was "Oh, I could get paid to do this?"
A professional photographer, she'd been happily engaging in her hobby of snapping fun, unique photos of her own brood of adopted dogs and cats, mainly for the delight of her fellow pet-owner friends and family. Aside from dressing them up in holiday attire and other whimsical costumes, she'd arrange them in creative settings and poses, showcasing her talent for capturing each pet's special characteristics and personality.
The resourceful, talented Pipes had even been able to teach her dogs Ted and Mindy to play the piano and sing -- a phenomenon captured in a photograph that now appears on her Fine Furtography website.
I recently caught up with Bev -- my longtime friend and co-blogger here at The Palm Tree Press -- to get the inside scoop on what it's like to work with our furry friends and their owners in the pursuit of authentic, priceless photographs to treasure for a lifetime.
Daria: So Bev, you've been photographing pets in South Florida for seven years now and yet initially you thought your friends were a little nutty for suggesting such an enterprise. Why did you feel that way and what made you change your mind?
Bev: "Although I was having a lot of fun photographing my own pets, it just never occurred to me to parlay that into anything other than an enjoyable hobby. My thought process was, 'Well animals are funny and cute, but who's a pet photographer? People just don't do that for a living!' It was such a novel concept to me."
Daria: But now, all these years later, you're obviously finding there is a market for skilled pet photographers. Why is that?
Bev: "People LOVE their animals and they're willing to pay for beautiful photographs of them. Many of my clients use my services for Christmas cards, so I tend to be busiest in November and December. Others want a really great shot of their pet to treasure forever, long after the animal has passed on. I highly recommend hiring a pet photographer while your pet is still healthy and strong."
Daria: Why hire a pro as opposed to taking your own photos?
Bev: "A professional (pet) photographer truly gets the best shot of the pet's personality and physical characteristics like the color of their eyes and the shine of their hair, whereas amateur snapshots might not necessarily be a true representation. If you really want beautiful, authentic memories, you should hire a professional pet photographer who can capture your pet's unique, defining qualities. I've had customers happily exclaim 'That's her! That's the look she gives me!' when they see the finished product."
Daria: So how do you go about obtaining that perfect pose and shot?
Bev: "During the shoot, I speak softly to the animal and encourage the owner to do the same. The owner is usually present to help maintain control and focus their attention. We cajole them with treats, squeaky toys and other bribes' that work for each individual pet."
Daria: Where do you do your shoots? Do you go into people's homes or do they have to come to you?
Bev: "My tagline for my business is 'I bring the studio to you.' Although other photographers don't go into people's homes, I believe it's the best way to ensure a successful shoot. Keeping the pet in familiar, comfortable surroundings makes it much easier to stage and create beautiful photographs that authentically reflect his or her personality and physical traits. At the owner's request, I can also do location shoots such as a park or beach, though they are much more challenging. What dog wouldn't prefer to run free along the water's edge instead of dutifully posing for a picture?"
Daria: What geographic area do you cover?
Bev: "I travel from Jupiter to North Miami, so I cover most of South Florida."
Daria: Any tips for owners just prior to a shoot?
Bev: "Yes, I recommend walking your pet prior to a shoot, and then giving them plenty of time to rest so they're not panting when it's time to take their picture. During the shoot, talk softly to encourage them to cooperate."
Daria: Anything else you'd like potential customers to know?
Bev: "I can also photograph families with their pets, if desired. I've been an avid animal lover my entire life and at one time, I owned as many as five beautiful pets. My two beloved dogs who played the piano and sang -- Ted and Mindy -- are now in doggy heaven, and the images I'd captured of them still bring me so much joy. I understand the motivation for wanting high-quality photographs of the furry members of your family, and I take great care to deliver excellent results."
Daria: Finally Bev, how can people contact you?
Bev: "Via my website, Fine Furtography, where they will find rates starting at $189 for an in-home photo shoot that includes three poses. I can also customize packages according to owner preferences."
Ok South Florida pet owners, with the holiday season nearly upon us, I encourage you to check out Fine Furtography and set up your photo shoot with Beverly asap, before she books up. You and your pets will be awfully glad you did!