As a new graduate attending CPD evenings, I never thought one day I would be standing in front of a room full of vets lecturing to them.
Even when I first opened my practice, it was never a consideration. There can be no question about my passion for our field, Veterinary Rehabilitation. My goal is to support therapists and the companies which supply our needs, and to increase awareness on the value of animal rehab. I now do this both locally and internationally. Yet speaking publicly was never on my radar.
My passion for our field, however, drove me to educate. Ten years ago in South Africa, the field of veterinary rehabilitation was hardly known. When I opened my practice, I realized that if vets were to refer to me, I’d needed to work on creating awareness about the profession.
Nowadays, veterinary rehabilitation is growing internationally. In some countries it’s already mainstream, but in others – well, you might be experiencing the same things I did when I first opened my practice in 2006. There may be a complete lack of awareness, and as a result, the profession may be struggling to attain the respect and credibility it deserves.
It is only through educating and constantly raising awareness of what Veterinary Rehab is that we will get pet owners to see its value – and as a result, make huge and appreciable differences in the lives of many more animals. Becoming an educator was certainly a turning point in my own career and practice – and taking great pictures was a central part of this work.
Starting out in pictures
When I started taking pictures of my patients, I had no real clue how I would use them. I just knew that to document cases was a good idea. Then I started lecturing on Veterinary Rehabilitation generally, gradually moving onto the treatment of specific conditions. My album of pictures seemed too general – I needed to change the kinds of pictures I took. Taking relevant pictures zeroing in on specific conditions and stages of treatment started to become a key part of my practice.
I recommend taking clear photographs and videos of your patients at various stages of their rehabilitation. Most of us have access to a smart phone which can take amazing pictures and videos. We just need to use them for maximum impact.
Pictures = better marketing
There are many ways to use images to boost your visibility and raise awareness. Use them for general marketing; for your print adverts and social media posts. Once you get into the habit of taking pictures and videos, you’ll begin to build up a library of images you can use in all sorts of ways that benefit your business.
Do remember though, always to ask permission from owners before you take pictures of their pets. Privacy is a consideration, so don’t assume it’s OK. Luckily most owners are happy for their pet’s success story to be shared, and will willingly grant permission. Then you can start building up your library of great images – bringing you one step closer to creating that marketing material you have been planning.
It’s all about the visuals
We all know that social media posts are essentially visual in nature. According to The Hubspot, posts are 94% more likely to be viewed when they contain visuals. In addition, 32% of marketers say that visual images are the most important form of marketing content for their business.
I learned a few things as I started taking pictures – I’d like to share them with you so that you avoid the pitfalls and go straight to the successes.
When I started, I saved my photos under patients’ names only. Later, when I was looking for photos for my lectures and adverts, I had to go through every single folder to find relevant and good quality images. It was a headache!
A system for saving
It’s so important to save your images and videos in a way that makes them easy to find. You do not want to spend 30 minutes searching through your phone trying to find an appropriate image. And usually we take multiple images, so trying to find the best one can take forever. (I have since found out there’s a great app called Zyl to deal with duplicate images.)
I now have a foolproof system. I use my smart phone’s ‘albums’ feature to create different albums for different categories. You might have an album for good quality promotional pictures and videos to use in print adverts, Facebook ads, pamphlets, etc.
Then have other albums for images of the different species you treat. Under these, create albums for different modalities, as well as the different conditions.
If you have a specific patient whose treatment is especially interesting or challenging, and you’d like to document it, save all images and videos of the animal under the condition and then the animal’s name and owner’s surname.
Other options for saving images are:
A proper name
Naming your folders and images is key! Create an easy system for yourself so that your images and videos can easily be found.
Create one folder that holds all of your work images – create it in a place on your laptop (or one of the options above) that is easy to locate.
Now open that folder and inside this folder create more folders and name them according to the diagnosis: CANINE HIP DYSPLASIA
Now you can copy your phone images that relate to this diagnosis into this folder.
To go one step further you can re-name your images to the case you were dealing with.
Eg: Molly Jenkins-01.jpg, Molly Jenkins-02.jpg
Avoid punctuation in your file names – especially the full stop. This should only be used before the extension: .jpg
By organizing your files this way, if by chance you cannot find what you are looking for down the line, you can easily search using words that relate to the diagnosis or case.
Some tips for taking great photos on your smartphone
Clean your lens – finger smudges decrease the quality of your image.
Tap on the subject once you have lined up the picture. This tells your phone to prioritize the subject of your photo.
Shoot multiple pictures from different angles and use apps like Zyl to delete the ones you don’t use.
Don’t use the zoom. Take images from far away and close up. The zoom makes images grainy; rather move closer.
Try to get the pet’s face in the image, especially for social media posts, as we all relate to faces and expressions, even when we are talking about animals.
On social media, work at matching your captions with your pictures to evoke maximum engagement and interest. Great photos and videos and informative captions can make all the difference to your visibility as a Vet Rehab therapist – if you use them well.
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