NZ pet photography market takes off

JAMIE SMALL
Last updated 15:54 14/03/2014
Kelly Wolfe, pet photography
SUPPLIED
Kelly Wolfe with two of her farm dogs, Flicka and Flight.

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In between studying a degree in communication management, helping on her dad's farm and volunteering at dog rescues, Kelly Wolfe is bringing an international trend to the Waikato: pet photography.

Wolfe said while pet photography has been popular in America for a decade, and Australia for around five years, it only started to take off in the ''untapped'' New Zealand market in the last one or two years.

"It's just something that hasn't been offered before,'' she said. ''The overseas photographers are what's shown me it could be a full-time job."

She started her business Kelly Wolfe Photography just over a year ago at the age of 18. There are a number of established equine photographers in New Zealand - including Wolfe's mentor Debbie Stevens - but only a handful of dedicated dog photographers.

"The difference is that I know dogs," said Wolfe. She said anyone with the technical know-how can take a photograph, but taking good pet pictures requires something more.

"You actually have to understand how to work with the animals."

Wolfe has plenty of experience. "I've had like 30 dogs in my life. At the moment we've got about 12."

The farm is also occupied by dairy bulls - up to 1800 over the course of a year - as well as a horse and a cat.

Wolfe got into photography in her early teens, and started pursuing it as a serious hobby when she was 16, as a way of dealing with her mother's death.

In 2011 Wolfe won several awards at the Waikato Photographic Society Young Photographers Awards, including Best Colour Photo and Best Close Up.

A pet photo session costs $100 plus the cost of prints and digital images. Wolfe said most customers spend $400 to $500 with her.

Wolfe said she did at least one session per week over the summer, as well as photographing dog agility shows and other events.

During the semester she generally shoots sessions on the weekends and edits photos in between classes.

She tries to encourage customers to purchase prints they can place around the house, but people are more likely to buy just the files on a USB stick.

"Most people do want digital files these days. They want to share them on Facebook. They want to be able to print them off."

Another service Wolfe offers is what she calls "goodbye sessions". This is an opportunity for the owner of a terminally ill pet to capture some memories before the animal is put down.

"I've had to put so many dogs down, and some of them I've never had any photographs of," she said.

Wolfe also volunteers her time to take photos for Greyhounds as Pets, which re-homes retired racing dogs, and DC Rescue Dogs, which adopts out rescued dogs in Gordonton. Around half of Wolfe's working dogs are from a rescue service or abusive home.

She intends to follow the photography career path after finishing her degree at the end of 2015.

"I really enjoy it. It doesn't feel like work."

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- Waikato

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