How many vertebrae does a giraffe have? What is the most venomous spider in the world? Just how long is the world's longest house cat? Pet portrait photographer and lifelong animal lover Carli Davidson has all the answers, as she believes maintaining a true knowledge and understanding of her subject matter is an essential part of her job. Davidson describes her work by saying, "I shoot personality." True to her word, whether she's photographing the most pampered of house cats or a disabled rescue dog, her portraits never fail to capture the ebullient personalities of her subjects.
A PhotoShelter member since 2009, Carli's site affords her more time to do what she really loves: shoot portraits. She manages everything through her PhotoShelter account — from getting her images online, to marketing, to order fulfillment. Her hands full with both studio and volunteer work, Carli did not have the time to develop and maintain a website on her own. She created a PhotoShelter template website using the Nolita theme, and despite not being familiar with HTML, she still finds that "I can customize a good amount of what I want. I constantly want to fine tune my portfolio and PhotoShelter's templates allow me to do just that."
Carli is a big fan of Facebook marketing. "Seriously," she says, "everyone is on Facebook, and they are literally choosing to get advertisements from you." PhotoShelter's social media tools eliminate the extra steps in posting a portfolio update on her Facebook wall or business page, allowing her to reach existing and prospective clients quickly and efficiently. Every gallery and image page on her site includes social network buttons that allow her clients to share her work with their own friends and family.
Prospective clients may peruse Carli's best work in a series of portfolios devoted to her portrait, personal project, and event work. They can also view a breakdown of the photo shoot packages Carli offers on the pricing page she setup using one of the two blank custom pages that come with every PhotoShelter site. Carli makes use of the built-in contact form to receive inquiries from interested parties.
"When I work with animals, I am an animal. I know this sounds kind of new-age-y, but it's how I get to a point where the animals are willing to let me cram a camera in their face and pop off tons of lights all around them in an unfamiliar place."
In addition to displaying her portfolio on the site, Carli creates password protected galleries in which her clients can view the images from their shoot as soon as they're uploaded. Those clients can then order prints directly from their galleries, Carli is notified, and she fulfills the order herself. "The way I see it, the more streamlined the ordering process is, the more money they will spend," Carli explains. "Photoshelter is a pivotal tool in streamlining my business."
Carli may have never started that business if a car accident had not prevented her from preforming manual labor while training animals at the Oregon Zoo. It was then that she began to incorporate photography into her work, volunteering with zoo photographer Michael Durham while she recovered. Durham served as both a mentor and inspiration to Carli, helping her realize her work as a photographer and an animal caretaker need not be mutually exclusive. With his encouragement, Carli gathered up the courage to start her own photography business.
All great portrait photographers understand the importance of putting their subjects at ease, and it is no different when photographing animals. Davidson credits her years spent in animal care with providing her with a deep insight into how her subjects think and behave. She explains, "When I work with animals, I am an animal. I know this sounds kind of new-age-y, but it's how I get to a point where the animals are willing to let me cram a camera in their face and pop off tons of lights all around them in an unfamiliar place."
Although Davidson's revenue comes primarily from fine art portraits and commercial work, her personal projects sustain her. Carli will soon release a book devoted to the many handicapped rescue animals she has photographed over the years. Finding homes for rescue animals can be difficult enough, even without the special considerations handicapped animals present, which is why Carli's photographic contributions are so valuable. She understands the power of a "sellable image," even in her volunteer work. An engaging portrait draws more potential owners in. It also doesn't hurt that Carli is, in her own words, "totally obsessed" with her subject matter, and does not waste time on work that is anything less than inspiring. "If it's something I can't really get into," she notes, "it's probably something I shouldn't be doing!"