Pet photography business: users spend 5,000 yuan to take photos of cats and dogs, photographers bitterly haha “power for love”

Image source: @pexels

Wen 丨 The forefront of entrepreneurship, author 丨 Li Xiao Anti, editor 丨 Feng Yu

Taking pictures of children is commonplace, but have you ever heard of pet photography?

Some shovel officers spend as much as one or two thousand yuan per time on pet photography, and the expensive ones can reach four or five thousand yuan. From seventeen or eighteen-year-old students, to newlyweds, to seventy or eighty-year-olds, users of all ages may be potential users of pet photography.

Behind the pet owners spending money to take pictures of their pets, there is also a group of “bitter haha” practitioners. “You can earn about 20,000 a month in the peak season, and you may not have a penny in the low season.” Pet photographer Kecha said, “It’s hard to make money from pet photography alone, we just ‘generate electricity for love’.” ”

The consumption power and willingness of shovel officials are bursting, why can’t practitioners make money? What kind of business is pet photography?

1. A family portrait of the shovel officer

In July 2017, when Hehe (pseudonym)’s son was 100 days old, she accidentally heard about pet photography when she was about a photographer to take pictures of her child.

At the time, she had already booked a portrait photographer, but it was a bit expensive and she couldn’t photograph pets.

“Pets are also a member of the family, so I want to take pictures together.” So, Hehe finally chose a pet photographer recommended by dog friends.

Photo / Hehe’s dog

As in the case of the Hehe family, more and more pets have a place in the “family portrait”. This has also spawned a new industry – pet photography.

A large proportion of practitioners are independent photographers or start pet studios, and they broke into the industry because of their love of pets and photography.

“I had a dog at home when I was a kid, and I love photography and I can’t remember when I got the two together.” Pet photographer Dante says to Startup Frontline.

Photo / Shiba Inu under Dante’s lens

Dante worked in the pet community for 4 years before leaving in 2012 to become an independent pet photographer. Like him, because he wanted to try something new, in 2016, Kecha also left the oil industry after more than ten years of work, and with another partner, founded the pet photography studio “OneShot Image Museum”.

Outside of solo photography studios, another category of players in the industry operates in a branded form.

Liu Qingyu’s entry into the pet photography industry was a complete accident. 6 years ago, working in the crew, he went home on vacation, idle, and took several sets of photos of the family and the neighbor’s dog. The neighbor circled the photo with friends, attracting friends to come to consult, and the other party wanted to pay Liu Qingyu to help his pet take a set of artistic photos.

This experience made Liu Qingyu start a career in pet photography by mistake. “I think it’s interesting and I can monetize it by the way.” He said.

At first, his clients relied on recommendations from pet friends, and a year later, as fame slowly spread, he quit his job to start The moment Pet Vision project and devoted himself to pet photography.

At the end of 2018, in the center of Guangzhou, a pet photography studio of about 70 square meters was also quietly established. Six months later, the studio was transformed into a store covering an area of two to three hundred square meters, called “321 Pet Photo Studio”.

“We originally wanted to test whether there was a demand for pet photography and whether paying users could feed a team.” Liu Yao, co-founder of 321 Pet Photo Studio, said to “Frontier of Entrepreneurship”.

During the test, they received a number of orders, and also analyzed some molding projects in the industry. “As far as we know, a company in Beijing that focuses on pet photography may have an annual revenue of nearly 10 million yuan in pet photography business in Beijing alone, and the fans of Weibo and Douyin are as high as hundreds of thousands.” Liu Yao said.

After seeing the viability of the market, they took a store in the city center and officially operated it in a branded way.

In this way, pet photography entered the public eye and attracted a large number of pet users.

2. High repurchase in the name of love

With the entry of many players, the consumption desire of shovel officials is also stimulated.

“Our customer unit price is about 1,300 yuan, and users with high consumption can reach 5,000 yuan a year.” Liang Jiaxin, co-founder of 321 Pet Photo Studio, said.

Several other practitioners also said that their clients’ spending on pet photography starts from one or two thousand yuan, and the expensive ones can reach four or five thousand yuan.

From their money-throwing behavior, it can be seen that the status of pets has risen to the height of family members. Coupled with the short life span of pets, shovel officers also hope to leave a memorial in some way.

Some pet owners will take photos to commemorate when they first bring their pets home, and then take a group when they are adults to record the growth process.

“Many of our clients take artistic photos every year on the cat’s birthday, just like taking pictures of their children as souvenirs.” Kecha told “the forefront of entrepreneurship”.

“There was a little girl who grew up watching my films, and after she worked, she took a set of pictures of the husky in her family every year, and now her dog has died.” Dante said.

Liu Qingyu saw that some pet owners bought new furniture at home and needed photos for decoration, so they brought their pets to take pictures. There are also people who take pictures with pets for the purpose of making wall calendars.

There are also pets who are unfortunately ill and pet owners want to record what the pet looks like before treatment while the pet is in good condition.

321 Pet Photo Studio once helped an adoption organization take pictures of stray cats and dogs so that they could be adopted.

Among them is a stray dog named “Xixi”, who is in his teens and suffers from heart disease, cataracts and other diseases, “which is basically not adopted.” Liang Jiaxin said.

However, after the photo was taken, someone adopted Cissy and renamed her “Xixi”.

Figure / Xixi with light in her eyes

Later, this kind man also became the customer with the highest repurchase rate of 321 Photo Studio. “Every four or five months, he came to shoot a different theme, and we could feel that he just wanted to commemorate the different looks of the dog.” Liang Jiaxin said. Some time ago, Xixi passed away, the owner was very sad, fortunately there were photos that gave him some comfort.

In previous years, pet cloning became a hot topic. Many pet owners are willing to spend hundreds of thousands of yuan to clone their pets because they miss their pets. As with cloning, taking pictures of pets is a way to commemorate them.

Users who take photos of pets also break through age, occupation and income restrictions.

Liang Jiaxin said that the customers of 321 Pet Photo Studio are mainly women between the ages of 25 and 35. But in addition to this part of the mainstream users, the needs of users of other ages are also being stimulated.

Among Kecha’s clients are recent graduates. “They’ll save up a few months to take a set of pictures of the cat.”

“Our clients span a wide range of seventeen or eighteen-year-olds, newlyweds, middle-aged people, and seventy or eighty-year-olds.” Liu Qingyu said that even if some customers are not very good economically, they are still willing to spend 500 yuan and choose a cheaper package.

In Liang Jiaxin’s expectations, it seems that there will be no repurchase of pet shooting. “We initially thought it would be enough for users to take a picture of their pet for a lifetime.” Unexpectedly, their annual repurchase rate can reach 30%-40%.

“Many users are accustomed to taking one set a year and want to record the changes of family members, such as a pet at home to take a group, the hostess is pregnant and then take another set, and after giving birth, they continue to take family photos with babies and pets.” Liang Jiaxin said.

3. Photographer “Generating Power for Love”

Behind the fact that pet owners spend high prices to take pictures of their pets, is pet photography a profitable business?

“It’s hard to make money purely from pet photography.” Kecha said.

Pet location shooting is closely related to the season and weather, pets are afraid of heat in summer, and outdoor plants in the north wither in winter, which are not suitable for taking photos, and bad weather can not make good films. “This line is a bit like relying on the sky to eat, you can’t rest for a month when you’re busy, and you don’t have an income for a month when you’re idle.” Dante said.

The nature of the off-peak season determines that the photographer’s income is not balanced. “You can earn about 20,000 a month in the peak season, and you may not have a penny in the off-season.” Kecha said.

Kecha and his partner have calculated an account, relying on pet photography alone, each earning up to 30,000 yuan per month. “All kinds of businesses add up, that is, make do with life. We are ‘Power for Love’. In his opinion, it’s the price to pay for something you like.

During the epidemic last year, he and his partner had no business, almost half a year without income, and could not even pay social security. “I’m anxious all the time.”

For many independent photographers, the lack of brand marketing awareness is also one of the reasons why they cannot stick to it for a long time.

“Some photographers have good skills, but lack branding and marketing capabilities, stable customer acquisition channels, and build their own brands. This is the current situation for many independent photographers and studios. Liu Yao said.

“There are still many people who enter the industry every year, but most of them quit after doing half a year, and there are not many independent photographers who have stuck with it for a long time.” Kecha said.

The main reason is that pet photography is not without thresholds, but more difficult, and many photographers obviously do not realize this.

Kecha introduced that many new pet photographers have switched from portrait photography and have no experience in pet breeding. They thought it was easier to photograph pets, but after entering, they found that this was not the case.

“In the shooting of consumer portrait photography studios, shooting, makeup, retouching, etc. are all stylized work, and photographers can quickly get on the job after training.” Kecha said. However, pet photography is difficult to have a standard process, and the difficulty lies in the photographer’s guidance and control of pets.

Kecha explains that even children can communicate with them in words. But pets can’t speak, so photographers need to understand the habits and behaviors of pets, know when pets are afraid, and what state is relaxed.

“Many pet photos have no technical problems, but cats and dogs are in an uncomfortable state, and this is because photographers do not understand small animals.” Kecha said.

Photo / Kecha pat’s cat

In Liu Qingyu’s view, the process of taking pictures of pets is difficult and fun.

They once photographed an Akita dog who was resistant to unfamiliar environments and reluctant to enter the studio. They played with the dog every day after work and established contact with it, and it took nearly 5 days to shoot successfully.

Compared to portrait shooting, pet shooting has a higher time cost.

“Pets are much less flexible than people, and they can shoot more than a dozen movements an hour if they shoot people, but if animals do not cooperate, they can’t shoot a single action.” Liu Qingyu said to “the forefront of entrepreneurship”.

Although pet photography has many problems to solve, this does not hinder the determination of practitioners to always “generate electricity for love”.

4. Pet photography is becoming refined

In the 100 billion pet economy, the clothing, food, housing and transportation of cats and dogs have become hot consumption scenarios. Pet photography is still a niche industry, but practitioners are unanimously optimistic about its prospects.

In 2003, the national style photography brand “Pan Women’s Workshop” was established, which quickly opened the market with its differentiated style. Public information shows that at the end of last year, Pan Wurenfang has applied for an IPO.

“This is a sample of moving from a niche industry to the capital market.” Liu Yao believes that pet photography is similar to the early days of the Chinese style photography industry. “With the development of the pet economy, there may also be regional or national brands in the pet photography industry.”

Liu Qingyu is also full of confidence in the industry. “Pet photography is difficult at first, but the demand from users is increasing, coupled with the continuous exposure of new media, if it is done well, the industry may improve in a year or two.”

Photo / Liu Qingyu’s team helped the customer take a rabbit

In addition to optimism, practitioners are also exploring the model of refined operation.

For example, in order to solve the problem of guiding pets, 321 Photo Studio specially equipped photographers with assistants to quickly communicate with pets and gain insight into the habits of small animals.

“We’re also streamlining the shoot to make it easier to replicate.” Liang Jiaxin said.

Different breeds of pets have different preferences, adaptability to unfamiliar environments, and tension levels. According to this, they classified different breeds of pets and summarized the personality rules of each pet, such as which animals are relaxed or nervous under what circumstances, and the assistant can guide them in a targeted manner when shooting.

In terms of marketing, the 321 photo studio team also continues to launch new creative scenes to arouse customers’ desire to consume. “Every time a new scene goes live, old customers come back to take pictures.” Liang Jiaxin said.

Many friends said that Liang Jiaxin’s dog “Onigiri” looked like herself, and as inspiration for this, they introduced the theme of “God Similarity”, that is, the owner and pet do the same actions, wear the same clothes, and shoot at the same time.

Photo / Liang Jiaxin and her dog “Onigiri”

They will also launch different themes according to different seasons and holidays, such as spring picnics, Christmas, Spring Festival themes, etc.

“At present, we have accumulated nearly 10,000 users, and the revenue has been able to cover the cost and have a slight surplus.” Liu Yao introduced. This is enough to verify that pet photography is not a false proposition.

Recently, Liu Qingyu is also improving the shooting process. “The previous model was more traditional, with fixed colors, backgrounds, and clothes, and limited user choices. Now, we will set up a group in advance before shooting, create themes according to the preferences of customers, and customers can also put forward ideas, and the form is more flexible. ”

He is also preparing a customized theme package, the price is more than 20,000 yuan. Before the official launch of the project, many old customers have come to consult. “It can be seen that users have spending power and demand, and the key lies in how to make market recognition, only in this way can we make money.” Liu Qingyu said.

Under the two-way promotion of users’ huge consumption potential and practitioners’ “power generation for love”, the pet photography industry is waiting for an outbreak.