A Passion for Pet Portraits: Making Furry Friend Photography a Profitable Business with Nicole Begley

Nicole didn’t start her career as a photographer. She just had a love for animals and knew she wanted to work with them forever! When she finally did pick up a camera, it took her a few years before she niched down to just pet portraits, but since then, she’s created a thriving, profitable business doing just that!

In this episode, I chat with guest Nicole Begley on what got her into photography, why niching down was a scary, but necessary, choice for her business, and the mindset changes that allowed her to reach real profitability in her photography business. 

Nicole is also a brilliant educator (and teacher at our upcoming Family Photography Online Retreat), and she shares the four stages all of us as photographers go through and what we need to move forward in each stage. Plus, she shares the insecurities that plague even the most seasoned photographers and the reminders she uses to get herself through those moments of second-guessing.

This episode has something for everyone. Let’s dive in!

What’s in this episode:

  • [02:27] Nicole explains her life-long love of animals
  • [05:09] Why Nicole is a huge proponent of niching down and how niching down to pet photography elevated her own business
  • [10:49] How Nicole prepares for her pet photography sessions and interacts with her furry friends the day of the session
  • [16:35] How Nicole handles nervous pet owners 
  • [20:28] The four stages of photography business that every photographer goes through 
  • [26:09] The messaging shifts photographers need to make to move through each stage
  • [30:29] Nicole’s lightning round, including her best business advice!

Tune in to this episode to learn how niching down can help you create a thriving photography business, just like Nicole has done with pet portraits!

SUBSCRIBE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify

Meet Nicole Begley

Nicole is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She is also mildly obsessed with numbers, Monday boards, pricing, and all aspects of running a business, so much that she actually runs several brands – Freedom Focus Formula and Hair of the Dog Academy being the main ones. Her main focus is empowering photographers to turn their dreams into reality and create successful and profitable businesses. Her passion project is running her non-profit, Hair of the Dog Conservation Fund, whose mission is protecting our global biodiversity and inspiring individual action by supporting conservation projects for wild animals and the surrounding communities. ​​

Connect with Nicole

Visit Nicole’s photography website

Visit the Freedom Focus Formula website

Visit the Hair of the Dog Academy website

Follow Nicole on Instagram

Follow Nicole on Facebook

Follow Nicole on Youtube

Did this episode make you consider the other types of photography niches you could explore? Check out this episode The Power of a Niche with Paulina Duczman that shares how another photographer started their career!


[00:00:00] Nicole Begley: I think the most important mindset shift is that we are at that point selling something other than photography and we are there for service. And that is what our clients are paying for and they are happy to pay. One thing that helped me was to think about something that I was really excited to purchase that might’ve been a little bit of a strut.

[00:00:20] I was really excited about it and drop down into that feeling. And that’s what our clients are feeling when they’re going to invest money with us. They might be a little nervous about it, but they’re also really excited and they’re going to love the end product.

[00:00:36] Lisa DiGeso: Welcome to the Art and Soul Show, where we dive into heart opening chats on photography, business, life, and that messy in between. I’m your host, Lisa DiGeso, a mom, a photographer, and entrepreneur, and I’ll be sharing honest conversations and advice for photographers, with insight on mindset, entrepreneurship, and creativity.

[00:00:57] The goal of this podcast is for you to [00:01:00] be able to gain insights and strategies that will get you real results. Because, let’s face it, having a photography business can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. This is the place you can go when you need a boost of encouragement, a kick in the pants, And inspiration to pick up your camera.

[00:01:17] This is the art and soul show. Hello, my beautiful friends. Welcome back to the show today. I am super excited to dive into today’s conversation with Nicole Begley. Nicole is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She’s also mildly obsessed with numbers, Monday boards, pricing and all aspects of running a business.

[00:01:39] So much that she actually runs several brands. Freedom Focus Formula and Hair of the Dog Academy being the main ones, in which her main focus is empowering photographers to turn their dreams into reality and create successful and profitable businesses. Her passion project is running her non profit, Hair of the Dog Conservation Fund, whose [00:02:00] mission is protecting our global biodiversity and inspiring individual action by supporting conservation projects for wild animals and the surrounding community.

[00:02:09] Now, she’s been on my radar for For a while, you guys, we have so many mutual friends, so I’m so excited to dive into this conversation. Welcome, Nicole. Hi. Thanks so much for having me. I’m so glad to be here. So beyond your bio, can you share who you are and your passion? 

[00:02:27] Nicole Begley: Yeah, for sure. So I think the one common denominator there is animals.

[00:02:32] I have always been, like, I was a kid growing up, like, no Barbies. I think I just, like, cut their hair and, like, pulled their head off or something. I don’t know. I was not into dolls. Back in the Cabbage Patch craze, my mom, like, moved, like, heaven and earth to get me a Cabbage Patch doll. I was like, great, okay.

[00:02:48] I never really played with it. I’m like, no. No dolls. Give me all the animals. So definitely animals. And then along with that, just, you know, running a business and helping people create businesses [00:03:00] that help them live the life that they want to live and not have to, you know, go work a nine to five unless they want to.

[00:03:04] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. You know, it’s so funny and I never actually put that together. Is that. I was obsessed with babies, like obsessed. All I wanted was to be a mama and I had like so many dolls. All I want to do is dress them up. Oh my gosh. That’s so funny. So it kind of makes sense that I found newborn photography and you found pets.

[00:03:25] Nicole Begley: Uh huh. Yeah. I mean, quite, I have two kids, but I was like in my mid to late twenties still thinking like, I don’t know that I’m ever going to have kids. Like I’m good with my cat and a dog and a horse and like, we’re, we’re good here. 

[00:03:35] Lisa DiGeso: I love it. How old are your kids now? Oh my gosh, 13 and 16. Oh, you’re gonna, too.

[00:03:40] Mine is 14 and a half, only child, and holy Hannah.

[00:03:49] Yeah, they should have prepared us for the teen years. I could have used that book. 

[00:03:53] Nicole Begley: Yeah, right. I’m pretty lucky. I, like, I don’t like to brag or, like, make anyone else feel bad. I don’t know what I [00:04:00] did to, like, deserve, I don’t know, my daughter’s almost 17 and she’s still just, like, I’m, like, waiting for the shoe to drop.

[00:04:06] Hasn’t yet. But I, she rides horses and I ride horses and I hold the key to the barn. So like she knows that that can get taken away. So maybe that helps. I don’t know. 

[00:04:14] Lisa DiGeso: Completely. I love that. So let’s talk a little bit about pet photography because it is such a cool niche. So I have to ask though, what is the most unusual pet you’ve been asked to photograph?

[00:04:25] Nicole Begley: Mainly Not really unusual pets per se, but with my zoo world, I have done a couple of commercial jobs. Like the most recent one was the Raptor Center here in Charlotte. So we were photographing some vultures, uh, ground hornbill. Oh my gosh. What else was in there? Some owls. Castrol, like all sorts of boards.

[00:04:46] Lisa DiGeso: So neat. I love that. I love that. So I think let’s talk about being in a niche because pet photography really is a niche like newborn photography. And I think that there is such a fear when it comes to niching down and, and. [00:05:00] Usually, photographers think that if they start turning away business, they’re not going to have a business.

[00:05:04] So what advice do you have for those that maybe want to start looking at niching down? 

[00:05:09] Nicole Begley: Oh my gosh. All right. So fun fact. When I started my business in 2010, I started as a family photographer because back then it was like, well, all right, if I want to make money, I need to do like an in demand niche. So, okay, I’ll do this.

[00:05:20] But I always kind of photographed some dogs on the side. And then fast forward to 2015 where, you know, I was running a business that was very profitable, very successful, probably 50 percent families, 50 percent pets, but I wanted to grow the pet side. I wanted to start helping more pet photographers and I knew that I had to let something go.

[00:05:41] Yeah. And that for me was the families and it was the hardest decision I’ve ever made because I, I liked it. Yeah. I enjoyed photographing the families. I didn’t do anything to market it. It was all word of mouth. I had really consistent 3, 000 sales, creating beautiful artwork for clients. Like it was the [00:06:00] scariest thing ever.

[00:06:01] And it was a hundred percent the right decision, but it doesn’t mean it’s not scary. And. You know, if you’re thinking about that and you’re feeling pulled in like one way of, Oh man, I really want to focus on this. I feel like you should do that. And that doesn’t mean that you have to all of a sudden stop photographing everything else.

[00:06:19] Like there were still many families that I said, listen, I’m going all pets, but I will photograph your family for as long as you want me to. So you can, you can make that transition easy. You can say yes to things outside your niche. Maybe you just don’t put them on your website. You don’t put them on your social.

[00:06:35] You know, if you’re feeling called from one particular spot, then you become that. Master in that spot and other people looking for a pet photographer or a newborn photographer in their market are likely going to choose a specialist over someone that’s like, I specialize in weddings, high school seniors, newborns, you know, bar mitzvah, blah, blah, blah, like, and they list 10 different things.

[00:06:55] Yeah. 

[00:06:56] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah, completely. I totally agree. Now, I love that you [00:07:00] mentioned 3, 000 sales, and I’m sure you’ve continued doing that in the pet world too, and that’s what you teach your, your students. I think there’s really a big misconception about what clients will pay and maybe mindset shifts that have to occur when it comes to pet photography and pricing.

[00:07:16] So can you maybe share some mindset shifts that those that might be interested might want to have in order to get into this niche? Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

[00:07:23] Nicole Begley: Yeah, absolutely. And really these are the same mindset shifts for any niche. It doesn’t matter. Number one, I don’t care which niche you’re in.

[00:07:30] There is definitely an opportunity to have high level service and sales and serve a high level client. You know, it doesn’t matter if you are in a market that has, you know, a luxury car dealership within a couple hours drive, you don’t have to serve your like teeny tiny town. Like, is there a town an hour away that you want to pull your clients from?

[00:07:52] As long as there is some disposable income somewhere drivable to you, you can 100 percent have a luxury business. So [00:08:00] the, I think the most important mindset shift is that we are at that point selling something other than photography and we are there for service and that is what our clients are paying for and they are happy to pay.

[00:08:15] One thing that helped me was to think about something that I was really excited to purchase that might have been a little bit of a stretch, that was like a little bit of a scary purchase. But I was really excited about it and dropped down into that feeling. And that’s what our clients are feeling when they’re going to invest money with us.

[00:08:30] Like they might be a little nervous about it, but they’re also really excited and they’re going to love the end product. So just being able to believe that you’re creating this, this beautiful opportunity for them to create something that they’re going to love for the rest of their lives, I think allows us to kind of tap into that service place and stop thinking about ourselves because no one’s thinking about us except us.

[00:08:53] So we need to get out of thinking about what everyone’s thinking about us. Cause they’re not, they’re thinking about themselves. 

[00:08:59] Lisa DiGeso: 100%. [00:09:00] It always reminds me of, I went to, um, we love to go to all inclusive resorts and you know how they have like the photographers there. And so they like stop you on the beach and you get your family photo done and you do a bunch of poses and all that kind of stuff.

[00:09:11] And then you go and figure, find out how much it actually is. And your mind, you’re like, it’s like 50 to a hundred dollars an image. And you’re just like, What? And then you’re like, oh, like reality check. Like if you guys can charge this and I don’t want to knock the photographers, it’s not that great photography.

[00:09:28] Yeah. Right. Yeah. Right. But because it’s our memories and our experience, like we want to hold onto that and we will pay what we pay. And I think like. I, I remember having that the first, I think I was in business maybe two or three years and I sort of had that come to Jesus moment. I was like, if I’m willing to pay this for this experience in Mexico, like imagine the experience with a newborn or even a pet, but like we just lost our cat and like what I would have given to have those memories forever, you know, like it’s, we forget to think [00:10:00] about the importance.

[00:10:01] When we’re thinking about money, I think, 

[00:10:03] Nicole Begley: yeah, absolutely. One other point I want to make with that too, is especially when I was starting and I’d go to like these big industry conferences and like, you know, these older men that have been in this business for a long time would say to me like, Oh, how cute you photograph dogs.

[00:10:20] My pet averages were always the same, if not more than my family clients. My pet sales have been certainly the top 10 of my career of sales. So pet people will spend money on their pets. 

[00:10:32] Lisa DiGeso: They 100 percent do. And a lot of the times they’re, they’re families that have maybe chosen to have, not have children and these are their babies.

[00:10:39] Nicole Begley: Yeah. 

[00:10:40] Lisa DiGeso: Right. Like it’s such, it’s such like, I really think, cause I’m in Canada and I’m, I don’t know a lot of people. Pet photographers up here and I’m like, Oh man, this is such an untapped market. Well, 

[00:10:49] Nicole Begley: and there is such an interesting untapped market that combines family photographers and pets. If you’re a family photographer that wants to learn more about photographing pets, [00:11:00] untapped market.

[00:11:00] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. 

[00:11:01] Nicole Begley: You know, I would always encourage my families to bring their dog and when you’re able to to capture great expressions of the dog and the kids and the whole family, like, oh my gosh. 

[00:11:10] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. Winning. I’ve done a few where we’ve done it where I would just set my camera on like just blast and have the dog running at the camera.

[00:11:18] Yeah. And they are the best photos because you like, you get like the in motion like flapping of the dog. Yeah. The jowls. Yep. Yep. The ears are everywhere. So great. So how do you approach capturing the personalities and the unique traits of pets in your photography sessions? 

[00:11:38] Nicole Begley: Yeah. Well, really it’s all about getting an understanding of the natural behavior of how these and how to work with them.

[00:11:46] Uh, because most important, you know, just like with newborn photography, there’s a safety aspect, but there’s also like, how do I call them a soothing, call them a crying baby? How do I like keep the energy of the dog calm? So it’s very [00:12:00] similar, totally different. And you know, with dogs, a lot of times it comes to our pre session consultation where I’m going to tell the owner, like, listen, when we get there, I’m going to ignore your dog for a minute, you know, because I, I want the dog to come to me.

[00:12:14] So it’s not me like, Oh my God, even though I want to like scream, Oh my God. And like mush his face off, like if somebody did that to my dog, my, my dog’s people reactive, that would not go well. Yeah. So it’s letting, setting up the expectation of how it’s going to be there. And I’d be like, listen, I really love your dog, but I’m going to act like I don’t because I want him to come to me on my turn on his terms.

[00:12:35] And then I want all treats during the session really to come for me because they already love you and I need them to love me. So, I’ll start being the treat lady. I’ll make sure they’re comfortable with the camera. And then the key for getting those expressions is really have everything set up. You can have them on leash.

[00:12:52] 90 percent of the dogs I photograph are on leash because they’re flight risks or anything else. And get everything set and then you have [00:13:00] A squeaker, hunting calls, the distressed rabbit is the best one. It’s like a hunting call for coyotes or something, but, um, it’s such a random novel noise and you can make a whole bunch of different noises with it.

[00:13:11] And the dogs are like, Oh yeah. And they just immediately start to, to perk their ears and turn their head. And, you know, and as we work through the session, I just try to get a lot of different expressions, some with the mouth open and smiley and the tongue out, some with the more serious face. We try to get some of that action shot.

[00:13:27] So you talked about images with their owners, you know, kind of more what’s the classic ones where everybody’s looking, but also like more relationship ones where it’s, you know, the hands are just the legs or, you know, the owners in it, but out of focus. So. Yeah. That’s kind of how I work through. I love that.

[00:13:43] It reminds 

[00:13:43] Lisa DiGeso: me a lot of toddlers, actually. Yeah. 100%. Very similar. So funny. Now, with toddlers, sometimes they don’t cooperate. Do you ever run into an uncooperative animal? 

[00:13:54] Nicole Begley: Yeah. And really, it just becomes The toddlers and the animals are a little bit [00:14:00] different where the toddler actually can be like digging their heels and wanting to be uncooperative.

[00:14:04] Yeah. The dog, usually there’s an underlying something else going on, right? They’re scared, they’re confused, they’re just like overwhelmed. So, you know, I look at that as, alright, Let’s take a step back. What do I need to do to make this dog feel more comfortable? So being familiar with the different types of body language dogs might exhibit the I can see like oh this dog super comfortable Oh, this dog’s starting to get a little bit nervous Oh, this dog’s getting really nervous and you know, I don’t want it to like escalate to an aggressive So, you know, being able to just be familiar with, with what you’re working with there and, and using really training opera conditioning, which is a reinforcing behavior.

[00:14:46] You want to see again and ignoring behavior. You don’t anybody out there wants to get a handle on how to train animals. Children, spouses. There’s a book called Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen [00:15:00] Pryor. It’s a really easy read and it gives you all the basics of like basic operant conditioning training. It’s fantastic.

[00:15:05] Lisa DiGeso: Interesting. I’m totally gonna get it. 

[00:15:07] Nicole Begley: Uh huh. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what it’d be like. You had me at spouse. Why do I want to do this? Every time you say this word. Oh, yes. Triggered. You are conditioned 

[00:15:18] Lisa DiGeso: though. So I would think, especially with an animal, it’s important on your location selection to not be in a busy place because of all the distractions and potentially all the other animals that you could encounter off leash.

[00:15:33] So how do you work on location selection with your clients? 

[00:15:37] Nicole Begley: It depends. So some dogs can handle the really busy areas. So like I love to shoot in the city. Yeah. So. A lot of my sessions that are my favorite are more urban and a lot of people come to me for that because they like the look of that. It’s not just the normal nature stuff.

[00:15:51] But Only certain dogs can handle that. So, during my pre session consultation, that’s one of the things we talk about, like, How comfortable is your dog in new [00:16:00] places? How comfortable is your dog in busy places? How comfortable is your dog around new people? New dogs? Any sort of reactivity? Things like that.

[00:16:07] And then we’ll choose a location based on the dog’s behavior. So if it’s a dog that’s dog reactive or people reactive, like, I’m gonna go for a place that’s not very busy. Or if they’re set on downtown, like, we’re gonna do a morning session on a Sunday morning. Yeah. Because then it’ll be really quiet, you know?

[00:16:24] So it’s, it’s really just having a, a plethora of options to get. Uh, the type of images the clients want, uh, in ways that are conducive for whatever the dog needs. 

[00:16:35] Lisa DiGeso: Totally. Now, what role do pet owners play in the sessions and do they play much? 

[00:16:42] Nicole Begley: Yeah, absolutely. So we talk about that beforehand too. Yeah. And I tell them, like, this is the golden rule.

[00:16:48] For owners, it’s like, listen, do not try to get your dog’s attention because they’re like, they’re, I’ll be taking a photograph and they’ll be like over next to me and they’ll be like, Fido, Fido, look over there, look over there. I’m [00:17:00] like, you’re just causing them to look at you or, you know, they think, they think that they’re helping, you know, and they want.

[00:17:06] To their dog to behave for you because this is one of the biggest objections people have before they book a pet photography session and that is that my dog’s not going to behave and then they’re going to feel embarrassed if they feel like their dog’s not behaving. So that’s something that we talk about too during the consultation.

[00:17:22] I’m like, listen, your dog’s going to be a dog. It’s fine. I have a hundred percent photographed worse. You’re going to feel like the session’s not going well. I can assure you it is. And I tell them the rules are basically like, I don’t want you to try to get your dog’s attention. You know, if I need you to say something or try to get their attention, I’ll let you know.

[00:17:40] Like sometimes they’ll have the owner. Depends if somebody else is holding the dog or if it’s a dog that has a good stay that that could be off leash and or in a safe area to do so, then I can have the owner like walk behind me or say something or, you know, I just basically direct them and I tell them I’m going to direct them so that way if they are like or [00:18:00] at the session and they kind of forget and they’re like Fido, Fido, Fido, I just say, Oh, remember, let me try to get the attention and then maybe I’ll just redirect them of like, Oh, Why don’t you walk over here or have them do something else?

[00:18:11] Lisa DiGeso: It’s honestly, it’s so similar to working with babies and toddlers, because those are the exact same. Cause I love, I love like pose, portrait, baby photography, and even like one year old, but whenever I’m working with. A one year old, it’s always like the entire crew behind me. And so you get those pictures where baby’s over here, over here, and you’re like, no, what I want is like the eye contact.

[00:18:37] That’s the picture you want. Really, please be quiet. 

[00:18:40] Nicole Begley: Yes. Yes. A hundred percent. Yeah. That’s what I feel like makes dog photography so impactful is when you have that connection with the subject. 

[00:18:49] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. So can you share any memorable experiences or stories from your pet photography sessions that really stand out for you?

[00:18:57] Oh man, 

[00:18:58] Nicole Begley: I think one of my [00:19:00] favorite times was a workshop that I was teaching and we did it in Costa Rica and it was incredible. And so we need to find like 30 to 35 dog models for these workshops. And so we reached out to a local rescue that was run by two expats down near Manuel Antonio and they helped us organize our dog models.

[00:19:19] But on our last session, We actually went to where they, you know, had their little shelter and it was, you know, it’s just a random spot in Costa Rica, but right down the road is this beautiful river at this tropical jungle. It was like amazing. So we just took the dogs down there and we used the adoptable dogs as our models for that particular session.

[00:19:42] And so then they could use them to go get the dogs adopted and it was just, it was just magic. 

[00:19:46] Lisa DiGeso: I love that so much. I’ve been watching TikTok recently and there was a fellow that was doing that with shelter dogs as well. And just like basically just having them on a white, white background showing like their, their intake photo and then what they’re doing.

[00:19:59] And I’m just like, [00:20:00] this is Oh, it’s making my heart, like I just want to cry, I love this so much, you’re doing God’s work. Right? Yes. So great. So great. So let’s switch a little bit of gears and I want to talk a little bit about business and I want to talk a little bit about the four stages of photography business and how the messaging of what we offer has to change as we increase our pricing.

[00:20:21] So can you maybe share what the four stages are and we’ll dive into that. This is my favorite soapbox. 

[00:20:28] Nicole Begley: Basically, like I, after gosh, over a decade of helping mentor other photographers, I’ve realized I’m like, Oh my gosh, every single photography business pretty much goes through these three or four stages.

[00:20:38] You don’t have to get to the fourth. But if you’re in business long enough, you usually do want to get there. And that is like kind of starting off on level one, which is our like all inclusive, low cost digital. Cause we’re like, just trying to figure out how the heck our camera works. Right. So like to try to build a business at the same time, you’re like, Oh, so you’re like, all right, I gotta learn my craft and okay.

[00:20:57] And it’s okay to earn some money on the side. But, [00:21:00] you know, we all know that if you stay there too long, you’re going to get burnout. You’re not going to be profitable. Like it’s, it’s a short term stay only. And then you move up to level two where you’re starting to bring products into your business. And that’s a whole nother, like when you started to learn your camera, so that level of sometimes can feel like overwhelmed, but now on the business side, you know, but it’s all right, let’s, how do we start to sell products?

[00:21:24] How do we start to like, usually you start to hit your first thousand dollars sale around here? And you’re getting your feet wet with like printing and customer service and maybe some live sales and things like that. And then the goal I think for everyone should be get to level three as quickly as possible, which is what I consider the bread and butter, um, the quickest way to six figure business, which is getting to that two or 3, 000 average sale where you’re 50, 33 to 50 clients a year and you’re selling products, you’re selling service.

[00:21:54] And then that higher level, which is optional, is like the 3, 500 to 5, 000 average sale, like [00:22:00] the truly luxe space. The way the messaging changes as we go up is no one’s spending 5, 000 on photographs. They’re spending 5, 000 on an experience. And the key to starting to talk to those level three and four clients is to start to tap into their identity and their values.

[00:22:20] Why are they looking after this? Why do they want to have this photography session? You know, for a newborn, maybe it’s like, Oh my gosh, this is our first baby. Or maybe we’ve tried for five years to have this baby. It’s a miracle baby. Like You’re going to ask them, why do you want to have the session?

[00:22:36] You’re going to, you’re going to find out why, what’s important to them. So then you can start talking to them about that. You can even ask one of my favorite questions is what’s most important to you in this experience? You know, and then they can talk about either, you know, for me, it’s one of two things.

[00:22:53] Usually it’s someone saying, Hey, I just moved in a couch. I know, or to a new house. I know you specialize in beautiful wall art, and I would love to [00:23:00] get something really cool. In my living room. Awesome. Or, it’s somebody that’s like, this dog is my heart dog, she’s been with me since college, through marriage, divorce, through baby, like, whatever.

[00:23:11] And, you know, she’s getting older and I want to capture memories. I’m going to talk to those two clients differently, even though it’s the same service. So, once you start to understand that, the price objections start to disappear, and then those level 3 and 4 people are going to book you because you understand them.

[00:23:29] And you know why they’re coming to, to get the service. 

[00:23:32] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. It’s interesting. I, I’ve been on a sabbatical for the past year and I’m going to be coming back hopefully in the fall with very, like, I, I burned myself out, honestly, Nicole, and I was undercharging over delivering, doing that same cycle.

[00:23:45] And I’ve been in business since 2010 myself, like I teach, I know better, but I wasn’t doing the things I should be doing. Right? Right? Haha. Yeah. It’s what it is. So I unfortunately, like I had to stop the ride because I was just [00:24:00] like, this just needs to like, yeah, I just need a break and I need to figure out what this business is going to look like if I decide to go back and what it’s going to look like.

[00:24:08] And so I had made an announcement recently and I, I had a client, she’s like, I’m expecting and I’m doing in like October, November, and we would love for you to do our photos again. And I’m like, yeah. Absolutely. I’d love to. Here is my new pricing. And she’s like, and then I was like, you might want to just discuss it because it has changed.

[00:24:24] She’s like, I don’t have to look Lisa, regardless of what you charge, I’m going to read that. Like I was, and I was just like, because I’d been having those heart, like, Oh my gosh, like, it happens to all of us. 

[00:24:36] Nicole Begley: I think, I think a lot of photographers think just because like, Oh, we’ve been in the industry so long that we don’t have the same.

[00:24:43] Yeah. Yeah. belief challenges situations that they do. Like every time I’m having a big sale, I’m like, Oh my God, did they look at my pricing? Did they know what this is costing them? I’m going to have to tell a number, right? So like every time still. And then every time I have an inquiry and they’re like, [00:25:00] Oh, you know, we just, it’s too expensive.

[00:25:01] I have that moment where my conscious mind is like, see, you should lower your prices. I’m like, no, no, I should not. Happens to all of us. 

[00:25:09] Lisa DiGeso: Right? And it’s so funny. And it’s just like, and stand, and even just standing in that, because I did have another inquiry and they’re like, sorry, that’s just not in our budget.

[00:25:17] And I’m like, absolutely no fun. Like, that’s no problem. Right. I did have that moment where I was like, Oh no, I went too far. I went too far. It’s not going to work. Right. And then I’m like, no, just stand in this. It’s going to work. It’s going to work. Just like stay, hold. 

[00:25:30] Nicole Begley: Right. Absolutely. 

[00:25:37] Lisa DiGeso: Oh goodness. So with messaging shifts with these four stages, what are the shifts that they need to make in their marketing?

[00:25:44] Nicole Begley: Yeah, really? It’s about talking to these different stages. So like when you’re at that level one and you’re just learning your camera and you’re just like, you know, I want people to practice getting paid. Like you hear a lot of shame around like a shoot and burn photographer. And I’m like, Yeah. [00:26:00] If that’s where you are and you’re just starting that, I don’t, I don’t think that should be shameful.

[00:26:04] I mean, I just think you need to know that you can’t stay there long term because you will burn out. Mm 

[00:26:08] Lisa DiGeso: hmm. Believe 

[00:26:09] Nicole Begley: me. But, you know, yeah, there, there, it really is just about photography and it’s like, hey, here’s a great deal. It’s like a, almost an impulse buy from a consumer, like, Oh, that would be fun.

[00:26:20] Yeah, that’s affordable. Let’s do it. And then you start to move up to the level two, which you’re starting to have products. So now we’re going to talk about our products and you’ve always heard like, you know, talk about the benefits, not the features. So for instance, only mounted prints ever leave my studio.

[00:26:36] But if I said to clients like my prints are mounted on styrene with a UB coating and a linen texture, like It’s like Latin to them. They have no idea what that is. But instead, I say, hey, these prints are not like your normal floppy prints. They have a backing so they don’t bend. They have a special coating so they don’t fade.

[00:26:54] And a linen texture just because it makes it extra beautiful. So, you’re talking to them about why they need those things. [00:27:00] So, at that level, it’s a little bit more about these products. Why they might want the products versus digital. It’s like how the products are more valuable. And then when you get to three and four, That value and identity piece is not negotiable.

[00:27:13] Asking people why they’re, why they’re looking to do this session, asking them what’s most important to them in that session. And then you, then you get the values and then you can speak to those and it just makes such a, a bigger connection with them. I love that. And all of that should be on your website.

[00:27:29] Yeah. So like, as you’re at level three and four, I can hear people out there like, Nicole, their values might be different. Yeah, but you know, generally what your target client values, you know, like if I was selling artisanal chocolate, like my target client would care about, um, the single origin chocolate with the fair trade conditions of the people that are growing the chocolate, they would care about environmentally sustainable growth of the chocolate and like things like that.

[00:27:56] So what messaging pieces about what you [00:28:00] offer. We’ll appeal to that, that identity that you want to attract into your business. So for pet photographers, everyone with a dog is not our client. Like someone that keeps their dog chained out behind their house is certainly not our client. Someone who looks at their weekend and figures out what they’re doing with their dog and planning their weekend around their dog.

[00:28:18] Like let’s go to this brewery because it’s dog friendly, but we’re not going to go over here, but we’ll take the dog for a hike and then we’ll go here and there. Like that’s my target client. So me writing a website to that person looks very different than writing a website to the person that has the dog is so just a, an animal chained up behind their house.

[00:28:34] Yeah. Do you do cats as well? Sometimes, yeah. But yeah, the very few, like the, I I think people don’t have the same emotional, I love cats. Yeah. I mean, I, I will have cats forever. But I think they don’t have the same emotional connection. Yeah. And I think they also think that the cat won’t, um, participate because it is a whole different ball of wax.

[00:28:55] I mean, I, I used to when I would do cat sessions, I would basically [00:29:00] tell them, I’m like, listen, like a newborn session. Now here, like, I don’t know, it could be 45 minutes. It could be three hours. We don’t know. So that’s what I would tell them. 

[00:29:09] Lisa DiGeso: I love it. We have, um, we’ve got a 27 year old. pound Maine Coon.

[00:29:13] Oh, and he’s a Maine Coon rag doll. And they’re like, we’ve got two of them. And when I shoot at my home, um, especially outdoor sessions, they photobomb every single session. They are in everybody’s family photos. They’re so friendly. 

[00:29:29] Nicole Begley: That’s fantastic. Yeah, 

[00:29:31] Lisa DiGeso:

[00:29:31] Nicole Begley: love 

[00:29:32] Lisa DiGeso: it. So can you share a little bit about your platform, Freedom Focus Formula?

[00:29:38] Nicole Begley: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a new website and actually the podcast. So I have my podcast. It’s now called Freedom Focus Photography, but we have Over 200 episodes on there because it started as hair of the dog podcast. We just had a name change, but it has been about the same thing. It’s been about business.

[00:29:55] It’s been about pricing. It’s been about marketing. It’s been a lot about the mindset of what is [00:30:00] required to run a business. Because I find that is the biggest differentiator between people that are going to be successful and people that struggle is what’s going on between their ears. Like they’re getting the same information.

[00:30:12] They’re getting the same strategies. So I think that’s But the thoughts that we’re thinking kind of keep us behind this wall of being unable to take the action or taking the action with disbelief, so then the results don’t happen. So we talk about all those things and, um, you can check it out at freedomfocusformula.

[00:30:28] com. Love 

[00:30:29] Lisa DiGeso: it. All right. You ready for our lightning round? Oh, okay. Yeah. Let’s do it. If you like to cook, what do you like to cook the most? Oh my God. I like to cook, uh, takeout. Okay. What’s on the menu? 

[00:30:42] Nicole Begley: Sushi. Yeah. Italian. Yeah. Italian? Yeah. Oh, okay. So let’s rewind four years ago and like the world was shutting down, right?

[00:30:49] And it was like my biggest fear. I was like, Oh, I have a family of four that I’m going to need to cook for all the freaking time. And it actually turned out I [00:31:00] didn’t hate the cooking. I hated the planning and not knowing what was there and also just the rush of, you know, cause I’m working and I love my business.

[00:31:09] So I’m like, keep on working. And then it’s like, all right, the kids are home. Now we have to go to soccer. Now we have this, but now we need food. And it was, I hated and still hate that like rush and crunch of time where if it was like, I work. I can make myself a glass of wine or a chocolate martini and make some dinner.

[00:31:26] Like that was lovely. I love it. I love it. But now it’s all about ease. So take out, Costco, crockpot meals, whatever. Seriously, 

[00:31:35] Lisa DiGeso: Costco saves my life. 

[00:31:38] Nicole Begley: What did you want to be when you grew up as a kid? Shocker. I wanted to be a veterinarian. It turns out I married a veterinarian instead. I thought I was going to go to vet school, but then I found the whole zoo world.

[00:31:48] I was doing an internship at the Pittsburgh zoo in college. And, um, I was like, Oh, Oh, it can be a animal trainer or zoological, you know, keeper, but I focused more on the training side and all the keepers really trained [00:32:00] nowadays. And I was like, this is amazing. So I did that for 13 years and still love it.

[00:32:05] Like I, I, there’s times that I wish that. I would go back, but I wouldn’t actually trade where I am now for that. Just with the freedom of being able to travel. I love to travel, so we get to travel a lot where, you know, I had a certain number of vacation days, which I could never go back to. Completely unemployable.

[00:32:22] Lisa DiGeso: No, I am completely unemployable too. 

[00:32:26] Nicole Begley: Oceans or mountains and why? Oh, uh, how about option three, a lake in the mountains? 

[00:32:33] Lisa DiGeso: Ooh, good choice. Yeah, 

[00:32:36] Nicole Begley: for sure. Favorite guilty or not so guilty pleasure? 

[00:32:40] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, 

[00:32:40] Nicole Begley: definitely guilty, and definitely The Bachelor. 

[00:32:43] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, good one. Yeah, 

[00:32:45] Nicole Begley: uh huh. Did you catch Love is Blind on Netflix at all?

[00:32:48] I’ve been starting to watch that one because people have said, and I’m like, I still, it’s, it’s, it’s good, but not, it’s not to my obsessive taste. Bachelor level. I think because Bachelor has so [00:33:00] much travel interwoven with it, which actually ends up catching up on the current season and they’re in Jasper.

[00:33:04] Oh, that’s cool. I love it. And I’m like, Oh, I need to go. 

[00:33:09] Lisa DiGeso: Where do you feel most centered and happy? 

[00:33:12] Nicole Begley: Uh, the barn with my horse. Yeah. 

[00:33:15] Lisa DiGeso: I thought you said the bar. 

[00:33:17] Nicole Begley: I know. Everyone always thinks I say the bar. When I also just got Invisalign a couple days ago, so I’m still trying to learn how to properly talk.

[00:33:24] So if you guys sound like I’m slurring my words, especially S’s, it’s the Invisalign. I was not at the bar. I love it. It’s the stables where my horse lives. I love 

[00:33:35] Lisa DiGeso: that. I love that. So good. Go to song that lifts you up when you’re down. 

[00:33:41] Nicole Begley: Okay, alright, I guess right now, I didn’t think I was a Swiftie, but, you know.

[00:33:46] Yeah. Turns out, uh, pick just about. Yeah. Any of numerous songs. 

[00:33:50] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah. Yeah. I didn’t know I was a Swifty too until, like, the Super Bowl. Oh my gosh. I was watching with my in laws and, [00:34:00] and we get there and everyone’s like, who are you going for? I’m like, I don’t know who’s playing, but I’m going for Taylor Swift’s boyfriend’s team.

[00:34:05] And I’m like, he’s going to win. He’s got to win. And like, the whole time they’re like, they’re not going to win. They’re not going to win. I’m like, they’re going to win. And they won. They’re just going to watch. 

[00:34:13] Nicole Begley: That’s funny. 

[00:34:16] Lisa DiGeso: What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given? 

[00:34:19] Nicole Begley: Oh, I think probably a combination, maybe something about why this is one of my favorites too is what got you here won’t get you there, which is just like, I see so many people trying the same thing and the same thing and the same thing where you just have to shift and maybe you don’t have to shift much, but you need to shift something.

[00:34:35] And often it’s a thought. 

[00:34:37] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah, I’m completely agree. Yeah. What advice would you have for someone who’s just starting out? 

[00:34:43] Nicole Begley: Oh, this is good. Number one, don’t be. Too like concerned on your timeline like stop looking at everyone else and thinking I should be here by now or I should be further along or any of those shoulds because you are where you are [00:35:00] and that’s fine that’s your own journey that’s your own time frame and then along with that like oh my gosh I still invest heavily in education like I I am in a mastermind every year that costs quite a bit of money like I and I will not not do it like it is so helpful and So, like, just being able to earn some money, that’s why I’m so adamant that, like, you’re just starting out.

[00:35:23] Like, let’s put together something really easy, low cost, make some money so you have some money to invest in your business, not just on gear, but definitely education as well. 

[00:35:31] Lisa DiGeso: Yeah, I love that. So, where can our listeners learn more from you? 

[00:35:35] Nicole Begley: Oh, sure, yeah. The, um, freedom Focused Photography podcast. I’m on anywhere that you listen.

[00:35:40] And then if you wanna connect with me on Instagram, I am Nicole Bagley official. And yeah, various websites, hair of the dog academy.com, freedom focused formula.com, and um, HOD conservation fund.org. If you wanna check out the nonprofit. 

[00:35:55] Lisa DiGeso: Love it. And you’re actually going to be coming to teach for the Milky Way for the [00:36:00] next family retreat.

[00:36:01] So can you share a little bit on what you’re going to be teaching our students? Oh 

[00:36:04] Nicole Begley: my gosh, if you’re interested in learning to add in that furry set to your family sessions, you’re not going to want to miss it. So we’re going to be talking about all those different things that, You need to know to prepare for those sessions and how to work with the dogs and the families together because it quite literally is a different animal.

[00:36:22] Lisa DiGeso: I love it. I’m so excited about this topic. I can’t wait to have it. So I love to end my interviews just with this last question and it is, what are you currently curious about or artistically curious about? 

[00:36:34] Nicole Begley: Oh man, let’s see. I’m always curious about travel and how to incorporate still photography while I travel.

[00:36:44] Like whenever I go somewhere, oftentimes I do drag my camera and like, I’ll find a model and some of the, my most favorite images that I ever created were created like on vacation when I dragged my gear for like a week through Ireland, just for one shot that I had [00:37:00] envisioned in the dark hedges, which is like one of my favorite shots ever and repeat this on numerous places that I go.

[00:37:05] So. I’m always, always planning new adventures. 

[00:37:08] Lisa DiGeso: I love that. I love that. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. 

[00:37:12] Nicole Begley: Of course. Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure. 

[00:37:15] Lisa DiGeso: Oh, my beautiful friends. I hope you have enjoyed this conversation just as much as I have. I’m sending you so much of my light and my love today and every single day.

[00:37:26] We’ll see you next time.

[00:37:31] I wanted to take a moment to ask you a little favor. I so appreciate you spending your time with me and tuning in and listening to the show. I would be so incredibly grateful if you could take a quick moment to leave a review on Apple Podcasts. Your review helps other photographers discover the podcast and learn how to grow their own photography businesses and gain confidence to go after their dreams.

[00:37:55] It also means the world to me personally. and helps me know what content you [00:38:00] find most helpful. Thank you so much for your support and for being part of our amazing community.

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