Never ever have I gotten a new photography book and had every person in my family pick it up and thumb through it from cover to cover, but the new book "PhoDOGraphy - how to get great pictures of your dog" by Kim Levin changed that.
Every other page has a full size dog portrait on it while the opposing page not only has the chapter content, but often has 1-3 more thumbnail images. And these images aren't there as "window dressing", every single image is an example of what that chapter is covering with a full explanation of the "how's & why's" behind each of the sample images.
The first thing that came through was that Kim is a real dog lover, and of course this hit home with me as I am the proud dad of two miniature schnauzers, one of the ways this was apparent is Kim's emphasis on the safety of the dog when shooting outside of the confines of the dogs home.
While the book covers every topic you can imagine regarding photographing dogs, it's a quick read, I read it from cover to cover (each time) in just a couple hours (which means normal people could read it even faster).
Kim covers it all, from photographing dogs indoors, outdoors, dogs in motion, how to make use of different weather and seasons, photographing single dogs, multiple dogs, puppies... and more.
Ever see a picture of a dog and they're looking into the camera with its head cocked to one side? Kim walks you through how to capture that exact image.
One of my dogs is black and I can never seem to get a good picture of her, well Kim devotes and entire chapter, "The Black Dog", to this problem.
If you haven't picked up on it yet, I loved this book. It is well written, extremely informative and stuffed with outstanding images from cover to cover.
If you put a copy on your coffee table I guarantee that not only will every person who walks in your house pick it up, you will here things like "oooooh" and "aaaaah".
And you'll learn a heck of a lot about photographing dogs too.
After I finished reading the book I had a few questions regarding the business of dog photography, so I emailed Kim and she was kind enough to answer them:
WPT: When you started your business as a dog portraiture photographer, what were some of the successful techniques you used to market your business?
Kim: I had worked in advertising for almost seven years at that point, so I had a good background in branding and marketing. When I first started out, I made postcards and placed them at local pet boutique stores and vet hospitals in NYC. I also partnered with the Center for Animal Care and Control and the ASPCA and created adoption posters to help animals get adopted. My name was on the posters and that also helped promote my photography.
WPT: Now that you are a success, has your marketing changed, (other than word of mouth) if so how, and what works for you?
Kim: I still rely on many of the marketing techniques that have worked for me in the past. I just recently made new promotional materials for my pet and kid portrait business (i.e. postcards) and placed them at various pet boutiques, kid clothing and toy shops and vet hospitals. I also from time to time, run advertising in my local area as a reminder that I am available for commissioned assignments. I also continue to donate a portion of my proceeds from my books and products to animal humane organizations. This is a way for me to give back to the animal community and it also serves to keep my name and brand in the spotlight. For four years I photographed the ASPCA annual calendar as well as my local Monmouth County SPCA calendar. This time of year there are a lot of animal events (fundraisers for shelters) and I always have a vendor booth where I sign my books and promote my photography business. I invested in updating my website and it has really helped showcase my portfolio of work.
WPT: How did/do you arrive on your pricing, do you charge the same for humans and dogs?
Kim: I actually do charge the same rate for animals and humans. Most of my shoots are dogs and cats but in the last year or two I have been trying to promote my family and kid portraiture as well. I have focused my energies on specializing with kids and pets - which is a natural fit for me. So when someone hires me to photograph their baby and their dog, they get the best of both. I will photograph the baby alone, dog alone and them together. Most photographers tend to focus on one area vs. the other. This is an area that I am still exploring and trying to carve a niche for myself.
Below you will find some of Kim's favorite images from the book, clicking on any of the images will open them in a new & larger window.