I was going to let my short and sweet “Favorite Photos of 2009” be my year-end review but then I decided I was doing myself a big disservice by not documenting all that’s happened this year. Even though I have far to go, I did accomplish a lot in this my very first year of business.

I spent the last part of 2008 and the beginning of 2009 getting everything together for the launch of this business, and finally did so officially – by announcing it online – in Feb 2009. The rest of the month and March found us busy hitting the streets with some old-fashioned face-to-face marketing. We visited pet grooming salons, vets, pet boutiques and animal shelters. I say “we” because Dan had a huge hand in this. It was extremely hard for me to go about soliciting and making cold calls as I am normally extremely, very, painfully shy. There were a lot of nervous stammering and ineloquent pitches when talking to store owners about something as simple as leaving a stack of business cards! But was I in it to win it or not? It was time to work outside my comfort zone.

The first pet boutique I decided to was Pawsh in March, and this meeting proved very lucky as they were just organizing a second grand opening event in April, and invited me to photograph it. A TV camera came by and the back of my head made it onto the 10 o’clock news! The owners of Pawsh have continued to promote and to support my business and for that I am very thankful.

In March I also partnered up with the South End Buttery and photographed the owners’ dogs in exchange for some wall space in his cafe. I’ve had large-scale prints hanging there since April, including one round of updates. They have really really helped me drum up business. {By the way, there is a video review of the Buttery up on Boston.com, and some of my photos got the up-close camera treatment which I think is hilarious.}

Before I even had my first official client pet shoot, I was convinced to photograph a small wedding in March. I never gave weddings much thought – other than I didn’t want to pursue it! – so the fact that I nevertheless found myself building a small wedding portfolio alongside that of the pets was a huge surprise.

In April I started getting clients! My first client was the adorable 6 week-old puppy named Logan. Strangely enough even though it was the first “official” shoot as a launched business, it was also my most comfortable. All the practice the half year before on friends’ pets really paid off, and I thought it a sign that I really was meant to do this.

In May, I had a pet photography Q&A published in Gadgetwise, a personal technology blog of the New York Times. That was very. very. ex.ci.ting. And tangentially with that came a rather unenthusiastic mention on Gizmodo.com. My photos are deemed “OK.” Heh. My site hits go through the roof, I get tons of very nice and supportive emails…but no new client booking as a direct result. The NYTimes keep trying to sell me overpriced plaques of the article. I keep refusing but now I’m thinking, Why not?! I’m in the Times!

In May, June and July I started photographing more weddings as a second shooter for Lisa Rigby, and find myself enjoying it much more than I thought I would! So it’s really her doing that I’m getting into weddings.

In August I attended Cowbelly’s workshop on pet photography. Cowbelly is based in Seattle had has been in business for 6 years already. Keep up, Boston!

September to December turned out to be my busiest months. Along with an influx of pet shoots, I donated my pet session in a silent auction at the Urban Barn Dance and Harvest Supper, organized by the Massachusetts Farmers Market federation. I donated a session at another silent auction hosted by Pop’s Restaurant with proceeds going to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. There were events at Bark Place Spa and SOWA Open Studios both in the South End.

There was a NEW CAMERA.

There was also a lovely wedding, which was recently featured in IntimateWeddings.com, my first wedding feature ever! And of course I had a great time with my first engagement shoot.

The year has also been about meeting with fellow aspiring pet photographers in person: pet photographer April Ziegler of Philly, who also atttended Cowbelly’s workshop and stayed at our place, Alexis of Alexis Hall Photo, Maria Andrews of White Whiskers Photography, Abby Christensen of Lorenz Photography, and portrait photog Grace Benson.

It was also about collaborating with other artistic professionals in the wedding industry: Lisa Rigby of Lisa Rigby Photography, Jennifer Cox of Esq.Events wedding coordination services, Sarah Parrott of Parrott Design Studio paper goods, and Bryn Chernoff of Paperfinger calligraphy. She will be designing a wedding-ized version of the Fat Orange Cat logo, incorporating both calligraphy and hand-drawn elements. So excited for this!

So yes, I am officially getting into the wedding biz! I’ve just joined the My Kate Parker Wedding family as a vendor. Before you think I’m starting to become an all-purpose shooter, I plan on keeping my focus narrow.

One of my very favorite photographers is San Francisco’s Anna Kuperberg, who specializes in weddings and candid pet portraiture. In fact, I initially discovered her as a pet photographer, and it wasn’t until a friend attended a wedding photographed by Anna that I realized she was a pretty hot-shot wedding photog too! I’ve even seen some of her work on greeting cards. Ann Hamilton is another fantastic West Coaster who has made a name for herself as a wedding and pet photographer (isn’t her icon cute?).

So I think it’s high time Boston got a pet+wedding photographer as well!

And that, at long last, is the end of the 2009 year-end review. As always, thank you so very much to all the wonderful fellow pet lovers, and you the readers, for making 2009 successful beyond my wildest expectations! With the confidence and valuable experience I’ve gained over the last year, I dare to dream bigger and reach for higher goals in the new.

Fat Orange Cat Studio says hello to 2010!

Li, Dan, Bunny & Veebs

photos by Lisa Rigby