Man’s best friend gives photographer a second chance

Professional photographer Robert Ashton’s decision to switch from food to pet photography has let him re-establish himself in the career he loves.

For years, Robert thrived as a food photographer in London, taking pictures for books by celebrity chefs such as Rick Stein and John Torode and working with major supermarket chains.

But after moving in 2005, the Manchester-based photographer struggled for years to re-establish his business and feared it could be over. Robert relied on office jobs to make ends meet as commissions were in short supply.

These days, photography is his full-time job again. Business at Chorlton’s Robert Ashton Pet Photography is up ‘200 per cent’. Robert has around 40 clients across northern England, some of whom he has returned to repeatedly.

Robert also works for commercial clients, private commissions are growing and he is about to launch a new website. 

He said: “There were times when I thought it was all finished and gone. I had almost given up on being a professional photographer again.  

“I’m eternally grateful to have this second chance. Things are going very well. It feels special. I have to pinch myself – I could not be happier.

“It’s a pleasure to be working with owners and their pets. This is the best job in the world.”

Robert re-launched his business to specialise in pet photography in spring 2014, using the Enterprise Allowance Scheme as a springboard. The idea was to work with vets and other pet related businesses and hold group photoshoots.

He said: “A few years back, I had taken photos of a sweet, little old lady’s dog. She said: ‘This is a wonderful picture; you have really captured her character’. That planted the seed.”

Robert first turned to the Business Growth Hub for advice in November 2014 and things have taken off from there.

He said: “My main issue seemed to be getting businesses to engage with me. Speaking to receptionists was hard work and emails seemed to draw a blank.

“My Hub mentor told me to go in person and show my photos face to face. That advice was like a magic bullet. When people see my canvases, their reaction is ‘Wow’. 

The Business Growth Hub, part of Manchester Growth Company, continues to provide Robert with advice about marketing, social media use, business planning and client engagement.

Raja Taseen Sajjad, a volunteer mentor for the Hub, said: “Robert is a highly talented photographer and had a great idea but was struggling to make it work.

“With our specialist business support, Robert has been able to turn this idea into a thriving business. I’m delighted that we’ve helped him realise his dream.”