By Daryl Conner
How can you increase your grooming business, polish your reputation, delight your customers, and have a little fun all at the same time? The answer is, by taking and publishing photos of your customers’ pets. And it’s easy.
Thanks to modern technology, you don’t have to have a darkroom and thousands of dollars of photography equipment to record clear, captivating pictures of the animals you groom. Having a high quality digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera will enable you to catch terrific shots. But you can also get some fabulous results using a moderately priced point–and–shoot style camera, or even the camera in your smart phone. And you should, for several reasons.
- Customers love to see photos of their pet on social media. If your business has a Facebook page, or a Twitter or Instagram account, posting a cute shot of a dog or cat you are grooming can get you a lot of traffic when the pet owner shares that picture with friends and family.
- Gathering and keeping photos of well–groomed pets can help you build up a nice resume of your work to show potential customers or future employers.
- Having a clear photo of client pets on hand can be useful to remember what style groom they prefer.
- In the unfortunate case of a beloved pet’s demise, you can send along a sweet picture of the pet with your condolence card. That is an unforgettable personal touch.
- A good series of “before” and “after” shots of grooming clients can be eye catching and very enjoyable to look at.
- There is no better way to improve your work than to look at pictures you took. Suddenly every little “sticky outie” or grooming error will stand out. Learn from the images and see your skills improve.
Here are some tips to help you shoot like a pro:
- Get on the same level with the animal. Except for certain situations, taking photos from above will not provide you with a good image of the pet’s face and personality.
- Fill the frame. Don’t be afraid to get up close to capture a certain feature or whimsical expression.
- Be aware of your background. No matter how adorable the picture of the pet is, if the area behind the pet is filled with vacuum cleaner hoses and dirty towels, the effect will be lost.
- On that same note, make sure it doesn’t look like your grooming post or anything else is growing out of the animal’s head.
- Some groomers have a designated space with a simple plain backdrop where they pose pets for pictures. Something as simple as a curtain or sheet will work, or you can get as creative as you wish, creating seasonal backgrounds, and using props.
- Having a place to photograph pets where there is good natural light is best. If you must use a flash, you run the risk of getting images where the dog or cat’s eyes are glowing eerily green. In this case, try to get the pet to turn their eyes slightly away from the camera before you click. You can do this by having someone else call the pet or distract it in some way so that it is looking just a bit away from the camera. If you are solo, try tossing a squeaky toy to one side just before you click.
- Feather dusters are a great thing to keep on hand. Fluff it near the pet to capture its interest, then grab the picture quick. Most pets can’t resist the appeal of a feathered wand.
- Don’t be afraid to take a bunch of bad pictures before you get one or two good ones. The biggest gift of digital technology is that you can delete the goofs and keep just the cream of the crop.
It is good manners to ask pet owners if you have permission to use images of their pets on your web site or social media pages. Some groomers have customers sign a release stating that they have permission to post pictures. In all the years that I have been taking and sharing pet pictures, I have only had one person request that I not post images of her animal.
From a legal point of view, photographs of your work are yours to use as you please, but there is no sense upsetting a customer who does not want you to display photos of their pet. I have had people request that I not use the animal’s name or the owner’s last name, and of course I respect those wishes.
If you have never tried taking pet pictures before, why not give it a whirl? Grab your phone and take a few shots of the pets you groom today. You may discover a whole new, delightful aspect of your work. ✂