If you love taking photos and have a deep love of animals, you might want to combine these two amazing things! But it’s smart to check the salary of pet photographers before breaking into this field. So, how much do pet photographers make?
There is quite a range in salary for this career, but the current national average in the U.S. in 2023 is $38,930 annually, which works out to about $19 an hour.
If you’re still interested in pursuing this career path, read on, as we discuss the salary for this job and a few of the steps to take toward this career!
How Much Do Pet Photographers Make?
The U.S. national average for pet photographers is $38,930,1 which works out to $18.72 an hour, $748 a week, and $3,244 per month.
Overall, the salary can range from as high as $81,000 to as low as $15,000, but how much you make depends on your location, experience, and skill level.
What Are the Top-Paying American Cities?
Sunnyvale, California, has the highest average salary for pet photographers, which is $48,560.
The next nine highest-paying cities are:
- Livermore, California — $47,312
- Santa Rosa, California — $47,033
- Cambridge, Massachusetts — $45,696
- Vacaville, California — $44,723
- New York City, New York — $44,569
- Lynn, Massachusetts — $44,427
- Fairfield, California — $44,082
- Long Beach, California — $44,031
- Costa Mesa, California — $43,905
It would seem that California is the place to be for pet photographers. Not only are the top three highest paying cities there, but seven cities out of the 10 are also in the Golden State!
What Influences the Salary of a Pet Photographer?
Several factors can influence how much a pet photographer will make.
Type of Work
This is one of the most common things that will influence how much money you can make. You will typically charge by the hour if you are self-employed and doing freelance photography. You’ll likely receive an annual salary if you’re working for an employer.
This is another significant factor in how much you can make, and it will be tough when you start out because you won’t have a client base yet. It will also depend on where you’re located, the current season (you’ll likely get more work in the warmer months), and how you advertise yourself online.
Experience & Skill
Of course, how much you can make will depend on how good you are at your job. Your work will speak for itself! This is especially true for freelance and self-employed photographers.
The more outstanding your photos are, the faster you will build a client base, which is crucial if you want to get more work through recommendations and word of mouth. When you’re just starting, you won’t be making much.
What’s the Best Way to Become a Pet Photographer?
Decide What Niche You Want to Work In
This is the fun part! You need to think about what you want to take photos of. There are plenty of choices, but it’s a good idea to specialize in an area, and it should be something that you’re excited about.
Things like small animal photography can be rabbits and guinea pigs, and small kids could be included in those, since they are typically children’s pets.
Learn the Behavior of the Pets
Once you’ve decided on the niche and type of pet that you want to specialize in, you need to learn everything that you can about this animal. This doesn’t mean becoming an expert, but having a working knowledge of the animal’s behavior will help you in the long run.
You’ll want to focus on learning an animal’s body language and have a few ideas on how to get the animal to calm down if they are overly excited or nervous. Knowing an animal and understanding their behavior will help your career in a big way!
Decide What Pet Photography Services You Will Offer
With two major decisions made, you should now decide what kind of services you’ll offer.
You can get creative here and find a service that has been underutilized. This can make your business more lucrative. The specific services that you offer can be advertised on your website so your prospective clients know exactly what to expect.
Of course, you can do more than one type, but as a new photographer, it might be best to start simply.
Take a Photography Course
It isn’t necessary to get a degree in photography unless you want to work for a photography company. Being self-employed means you don’t have to worry about education, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt. It could make you a better photographer, and you can list any credentials and degrees on your website.
If you don’t want to take formal courses, you can try something online, such as watching tutorial videos and reading books. This is vital when it comes to learning basic camera skills and how to use different lenses.
Following the basics, you can consider taking a few courses that are in your chosen field, like cat or dog photography.
Stand Out From the Crowd
Show your unique side when you take photos. It’s okay to study other photographers’ styles and get inspiration from them, but you should put your own style into your photographs.
Just be sure not to outright copy anyone. You want to set yourself apart from the rest, which will build your client base.
Invest in Photography Equipment
You can’t be a photographer without equipment. If you can afford to buy anything that you want, you have shopping to do.
But some people can’t afford all the latest and greatest, so look for used equipment; some websites sell refurbished equipment that’s like new and at an affordable price.
You’ll want to pick up a DSLR camera, and several lenses—70mm to 200mm, 24 mm to 70mm, and a wide-angle lens of 35mm or wider are best. Just start with basic photography equipment and build from there.
You’ll also want to invest in props: For cats, feather wands and other toys can grab their attention, and dogs could use treats and maybe plushies. Eventually, you’ll want to get backgrounds and lighting equipment.
Finally, you’ll want to invest in photo-editing software. There are great free options out there, but you can’t go wrong with popular software like Photoshop. It will require a bit of learning and possibly taking courses.
Consider Joining a Photography Organization
This is optional, but joining a photography organization will allow you to network with other photographers. Some places will offer courses to help improve your skills, and many of these organizations also have contests, which is a great way to get exposure.
Build a Portfolio & Website
You can put your photos on social media like Instagram, but you should also build a website. This way, you can advertise your portfolio, and clients can see how much you charge and book your services. You’ll need unlimited photo storage online too. You’ll run out of virtual space quickly!
Determine How Much You Will Charge
Deciding what your fees should be is a bit of a challenge. You can start by looking at other pet photographers in your area and seeing what their rates are.
This can give you a rough idea of how much you should charge in your location. How much a pet photographer charges in Los Angeles will be quite different from someone in Vermont. If you live in a small town, you’ll likely not charge as much as someone in a big city.
But when you’re just starting out, you’ll need to have affordable pricing, particularly if your portfolio is small.
This brief overview will hopefully get you started as a pet photographer. If you have your own pets, you can build a portfolio by photographing them, which will also be great practice.
Pet photography can be a fun and lucrative business, but you’ll need to invest in a great deal of equipment and training before you get started. Building an online presence is also essential to starting your business and getting your name out there!
Featured Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock