The Google Search that Changed my Career

Author Recent Posts Nicole BegleyNicole Begley, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She created Hair of the Dog in 2012 to empower pet photographers to turn their dreams into reality by helping them improve their craft and grow their pet photography business.Nicole has authored a book “Pet and Equine […]

Written By Nicole Begley

On February 1, 2017

It was 2009, I had a toddler and was working full-time in my first career as a zoological animal trainer and manager when I knew that I was ready to move on to creating my own business.  As the path towards photography kept increasing it’s call to me, I thought I had it all figured out.  I was going to be a family and pet photographer (since I had no idea that pet photography could be a full-time niche) and I was going to charge $175 for a session and the files because “I wouldn’t have any costs associated, so that’s all profit!”.  

I figured I could replace my current salary without any problem!  Little did I know how wrong that was!

Thankfully, when I was moving in the direction of creating this business I wanted to get a little education about it so I did a google search for “professional photography conference” and stumbled upon PPA and Imaging USA. 

That little google search has done more for the trajectory of my career then I can even put into words. 

I attended the 2010 Imaging conference in Nashville, TN as a complete newbie who had a new camera and was ready to create this business and start bringing in my $175 per session clients!  It was at this conference that I attended a talk by a photographer talking about projecting their images and the value of in-person sales.  It was at this conference that I learned that a $175 all-inclusive session fee was not sustainable.  It was at this conference that I saw the Image Gallery from the International Print Competition and realized I had a lot to learn! 

I didn't find any of this discouraging, I found it empowering.  I had a direction. 

I had a map of different areas that I needed to continue to educate myself on….and I had an organization that could help me do that. 

While I did have a handful of all-inclusive digital clients as I created a portfolio, thanks to attending Imaging USA 2010 I was able to open my doors officially in January 2011 as a full-service boutique photography studio.  I was creating artwork right out of the gate, setting the stage for four-figure sales and a sustainable business from the start.  Ironically, or maybe a bit of foreshadowing, my very first client under the new system was a pet client! 

This is a photo of PPA President, Lori Craft, Cr.Photog, myself now a M.Photog.Cr.,CPP, and my degree sponsor Christine Walsh-Newton, M.Photog.Cr.,CPP, she is the person responsible for helping me get started and succeed in print competition.

Fast forward to 2017, I am blessed to run a successful full-time pet photography business, have the opportunity to help so many other pet photographers follow their dreams, and have abundance and freedom in my life thanks to being self-employed.  I am incredibly proud that I have earned my Master of Photography degree and my Photographic Craftsman degree through PPA only 7 years after attending my very first conference.  I have also found incredible friends and mentors that will be part of my life for a very long time.

My quest for knowledge hasn’t slowed down since that first Imaging, if anything it’s even more vivacious.  I encourage all of you to seek knowledge and inspiration, no matter where you are on your photographic and business journey.  If you are looking to improve your craft of photography, may I suggest you consider competing in the International Print Competition.  You can read more about the world of print competition here, here, and here.

I promise you that it’s impossible to participate and not see massive improvements in your craft.  It has also encouraged this systems based mind of mine to start thinking outside of the box and I feel more creative than I ever have.  All thanks to that one google search in November of 2009!

Remember, all great journeys start with just one step.  The key is to just get started!

Are you ready to connect with pet photographers from all over the world?  Join us in the Hair of the Dog Community - a place to ask questions, share resources, and connect with each other.

Nicole Begley

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  1. Louis

    Great advice! Just made a decision to start my own journey. I hope to continue learning.

    • Nicole

      That’s great Louis! It’s a fun one!

  2. Michelle Thomas

    Nicole, I found PPA through a nurse colleague who’s husband is a Master Photographer. He sent me an email that had a link to the PPO Convention in Columbus, Ohio and from that link I was led to PPA. After a few months of PPA membership, the Super One Day Classes came up and I found you.You are the one who has given me the hope to change my career. Your IPS class brought a new light to my business goals and I can’t thank you enough for the knowledge that you share. I am entering my first professional print competition in March.

    • Nicole

      Oh Michelle! thank you! Good luck in your print comp! It’s such a great process and it’s impossible not to improve….no matter where you are starting from!

  3. Laurie

    Congrats Nicole; you’ve earned your success! As I gradually work on a career change too I have found Hair of the Dog and the Business of Pet Photography Course incredibly helpful in this process. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise!

    • Nicole

      Thank you Laurie! So glad to hear that you are finding the Business of Pet Photography worthwhile! There is SO much information in that course!

  4. John Gaylord

    Imaging USA was awesome and I’m glad I got to meet you at this years conference! Already looking forward to next year.

    • Nicole

      It was great to meet you too John!


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