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Lesson 2 from: Animal Photography

Rachael Hale McKenna


Lesson 2 from: Animal Photography

Rachael Hale McKenna

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Lesson Info

2. Inspiration

Lesson Info


Choose your path and never, ever stop dreaming. You've always got to follow what you feel really passionate about whatever meant happiness is the most important thing in life. So it's really, really important to do what you love in two thousand nine, I'm newly married. Finally, after I went through all my ordeals, I finally met the love of my life, who is amazing, and I was pregnant. We decided tto make a move to france, leave our beautiful homeland of new zealand well and he had already. My husband had already left the hell he's english, so he'd already been traveling for many, many years, and we meet in new zealand. But we decided tto decided to move to france to have a new little adventure. And this this is just a few slides of just our life in france was I saw idyllic everyone like you picture this magical, idyllic life in france, and it is like that. But it's it's amazing, we had we've had the most incredible time. My husband is a very, very talented builder who written in between...

our projects, he renovated house and everything and he's done an amazing job and it's, a daughter, was born in france and grew up in france and but now we were actually just made the decision to move back to new zealand purely for family reasons I've decided it's time for me to hear back and be closer to my family and charlie so start school soon, so I just think it's it's a great great place to be too broke to raise a family and also way, having spent five years in france and weigh just spent six months in new york last year during them working on the new york dog book, and then when we got to back to france, it was like jumping off a treadmill with full speed sort of like going who where is everybody? I think it's the most incredible place toe bay and we're hopefully keeping your house in france for now anyway, so we'll be able to go back from for holidays and things, but I don't think it's where we want to be to actually live. Yeah, and now the new york dog is probably my last book for a little while, so I've been doing them nonstop for the last sort of twelve years or so, so I sort of like feel it's it's timeto have a bit of a break from throwing all that money into but publishing and we need to I need to start getting back into doing more editorial, working commercial work and of course developing finally have having time to develop more time for private commissions and actually creating those beautiful images for personal clients but I certainly do not regret our time in france we have had the most amazing time so the fast past five years have bean speaking traveling france I worked the first book I worked on was the french cat, which was amazing and then then of course the french dog followed on and then last year I worked on the new york door, which is jack was just released this week here in the u s so it's a very, very exciting time for me I've got to head to new york next week to do some pr for it to promote a little bit more and and also also during the time in france actually had a fantastic experience of developing a book called lunch in provence, which was completely away from babies and animals where I got to work with the michelin star chef for six months and I did a book are basically on the lifestyle of provence but also in conjunction with a beautiful restaurant in limbo to provence called ost eligible money year and it's a two michelin star restaurant and so it was but it's basically a lifestyle cookbook which I did, which was so much fun to do for you there's a change but I was always working on the new york dog at the same time as well, so I sort of was juggling two books on at once during a period of about six months, which was challenging, but it was it was great fun patience it is honestly, if anybody ever seed, what do you need to do for animal photography? This is the number one priority if you don't have patients, forget it. Yeah, because animals can sense if you're if you're anxious if you if you really pushing them to get something they won't perform for you, you've got to be really calm taking time and just being incredibly patient sometimes I've been known in the past to take hours to take a short I've waited seven hours for kate to go to sleep. I've gone back three days running to capture an image of which is in the one hundred one cataclysms is there's an image of tha lula, a black kit with a di monte, nicolas and she's lying back was actually in my assistant's arms and she had velvet over my assistant and the cat was lying back and all I wanted was this kit to this look like absolutely beautifully elegant and just really laid back she had a complete editor, this cat she was houdini should escape from everywhere, but anyway I had toe had to be really, really patient with me the first day I should do it but then she just like get really egg roll on just like no I'm not going to do it so then we went back the next day and this was like an hour and a half drive from the city we had to go each day I went back to try again finally on the third day we got to lula to relax in my assistant's arms and while and naturally my assistant at the time was just tickling her nick underneath the fabric and she interlude was like going like this with their claws and I've got this magical short I'd like I've always wanted this image to be uses a big billboard for like a jewellery company of something it just the most beautiful shot of this kit hits another one I can't I can show you but but it's yeah she's disc lowering the air and she's got this gorgeous expression on your face and a little di monte collar and things and the clause you can see the claws against the black is just yet doesn't mean what I'm really really proud of the image of three days to get it was a cz well with it so that's what I'm saying patience is a virtue when it comes to animal photography yeah here we go it's henry uh henry is it's amazing? I've already cried so I sort of feel like I've got that rush of emotion coming but henry was my first my first little baby he was a chocolate brown newfound hman and the most he was like my son he would just went everywhere with me and it's funny I remember when I first got him I rang friends and some are calling your boyfriend but and they're like oh my god finally kind of boyfriend on then that come to the cabaret royal and come to the studio something in ah introduce henri and that I r it's a dog eyes that here what else you need dog is the perfect companion so but anyway henry for steven and a half years it was my muse my inspiration he's I had him I I'll tell you how I got henry I had this when I was when I was first like problem in the foot within the first months of during my animal photography so after I'd done the pig image and I was creating of my personal collection for the publishing company to let you take and try and get turn on to licensing companies and things but anyway hey I came up with an idea that I wanted to photograph a newfound and happy on a coil of rope because you know I'm for sea rescue and that sort of thing so I had this idea so I went toe went to a breeder and see khun you bring some puppies and for me to do this photographic shoot and they see and that's all year, sure, but what we need one into the street and I said, I have scheduled for saturday. Can you bring it up again? That's it all? We're going to a show. We were going to take this one popular if we're going to take it with us. But if you want to take the puppy for the weekend, then you're sure you can use it for the show. As soon as she said that, I knew there's no way that puppy was going to be going back, and he even had his name before eva picked him up. Yeah, henry miller. I was reading a book by a nice. Now that the time talking about the passionate relationship between henry and june and henry miller was miller just happened to be my grandmother's made a name which never even got continued on in our family. And so it's sort of there's all sorts of things which came into the equation of how he never got his name. But he sure did live up to his name because his nickname was so henry hippopotamus hump a lot. I always had a way never were in the pack, I was just tell me what don't bend down and tie your shoe lace because you have one hundred sixty pound dog on your back for them sickens it was here he was terrible in that regards, but when yet when I put him in front of the camera, he was a amazing he was just magic he well, he was meant to be my dog, he just every single image I took of him, he he just gave me another aspect of his personality. He was incredible I never asked for asked himto d'oh do anything for me, but it just I don't know how he did it, but every single image accord of him if you see if you look in the books which I've created and see the images of hemery, didn't you just see that he's just got the perfect expression for that shot? No, no way we're in tune in sync with each other and he just knew yeah, the had this thing when I made the decision toe leave the rachel hell brand is I lost henry when I was during this that that difficult period and his images we're part of the ones I lost so it's your body got these images two look it because they're the only ones have got over a mil yeah, thankfully have struggle the copies of the books I've gotten him near term but there's thousands of images home I don't have any more we're not thousands that would have been a bit much to put him through that much work for little guy he was with me for a while he was with me for seven and a half years sales you know, I don't think it's quite thousands, but hundreds of images of him anyway. So this is it. This is henry with his first birthday party with his best friend's locations in who were gorgeous and just him out I used to when I walked with them, I always had a camera with me. I had my grandmother's old broli fixed one means camera and that used to go everywhere with me. So a ll these little shots you've seen when we shot on my my grandmother, my hand me down camera from my grandmother, which was a rolling flicks, which I still empty your door and I would use it if I hadn't had a really awful accident which do happen and police my assistant at the time, but she put the bag down on the wrong side of the car, and when I was backing out one day the car drove over the bag with my roly flicks camera in it, so unfortunately announce it is an art monument to old piece on my book case it's a little crooked looking so unfortunate, I tried to shoot with that. Now everything would be totally out of focus, which could be quite a good picked for at pieces, maybe, but not quite the right we're not quite the right look for during this time, so when I am when I yeah, when I'm out walking with haven't got a dog of my own at the moment, that's one one thing I'm really, really looking forward to one out when we finally get settled back into life in new zealand as toe finally get a dog again, and so I'm sure I'll go through the same stage of being out and about and for having a camera with me all the time and it's capturing those those moments out on just out in the wilderness with the pits, which I love as well and truly, I looked after henry had a best friend called george issue, who was another new family, and whenever I used to have to go overseas for doing pr for my book releases and things george's owner ray would was wonderful should look after henry for me in any way they've decided to go away. I'm one stage they didn't often go away, but anyway, I looked after george for them for two three weeks I think it was me but anyway during that time I made them a little handmade book which was hand written by me and it was it's called a few days with george and it was the most precious thing for them and it was great so I just did exactly what I did with henry I was out when we're out in about two captured images on the rolling flicks off george and henry together and george by himself and things and I just put together this handmade book for them which is something really, really special to do for that I can't promise that if I looked after anyone else's dog that I do it I'm a little bit busier now than I thought I was back then but it was an amazing it was an amazing thing to do for somebody and I just get so much joy out of creating things like that for people with it's such a fantastic thing to do but he made talking going back to my inspiration henry wass an incredible inspiration for me that was often quickie little moments he did which gave me a fantastic idea for another shoot I wanted to do and it was it was just it's always fantastic to have animals around you if you do this sort of thing to actually give you inspiration to come up with your ideas for the for the shots I'm notorious for keeping workbooks as well. I have workbooks for everything, and fortunately we decided I've got the confirmation on during creative live after we had picked up our stuff from france to go to new zealand, so my workbooks are in a container on the ship on the way to new zealand at the moment. So thankfully, I did have some photographs of some pages within my workbooks, but I'd love to have shed with do the studio ordinance, my workbooks, you could have looked for you, but unfortunately, I don't have them with me, but I do. Whenever I'm working on a project, I'm always I've always got work books on the go, and I'll write down all my ideas, and even when I'm doing, when I went back and what else we can protect, you held the wretch ohio granddad always have pages and pages of lists of ideas and it's quite interesting to go back through them, actually and think, oh, that one time came about administration should do that idea, or there's, lots of ideas, and they're still, which I'm sure I will work with in the in the future. Yeah, this particular page is my ideas page for the french kate actually s o it was listing all the, oh, the inspirational ideas ahead and it's funny that with the french kid it was more about capturing the animals on location so even though I came up with ideas that was more for things for me to keep keep an eye out for enter teo make shuriken like try and capture speaks of france when I was photographing for anything so but I still had these ideas which well, I suppose my wish list of what I wanted to capture but of course you can force an animal to do something on location you capture what you see but it's interesting when you read through my ideas and then look at the images within the french kit actually, some of the things which I did manage to find while I was through the travels of france was was really was great and yet this is another another page this page here when you get the the few by the course you'll get the key notes will be able to read all these a lot more clearly clearly and things that anywhere this talks more about thing like inspiration like texture and just certain and colors all that's the stuff is very inspiration for me often look through magazines and pull out magazine pages stick them into my journals just is inspiration, I'm no I don't like tio copy images but you do get did you get a lot of inspiration by looking at looking at other photographers images as well it is in through through magazines and things, and I think it's almost impossible these days to be a hundred percent original because nearly everything's being done it's it has really, really hard tto come up with the quintessential original idea, but but I think if you develop an idea and then created in your own style thin, it can be original to you on that regard, so just keep it don't feel bad if you're if you're looking at other people's, we can think how this would be a fantastic type of shot to create if I do it and this particular way, I could put this little twist on it or something that there but it's, just make sure keeping keeping mine people's copyright and things like that don't ever try and copy someone one hundred percent it's it's one it's disrespectful for them is a photographer, but but also just yeah, but there's nothing no harm and using it as inspiration. Yeah, often often when I'm working actually with the animals when I make them, the name might inspire me for something like I remember photographing new found one once for the green cards and his name was corduroy and so I had I made I often make all my own props as well. Thankfully, my mother taught me well toe so so I can I'm great with my hands and things haven't gone toe up at school and during sculpture and all that stuff in and make the sort of thing all sorts of things, but anyway, I made him a corduroy het, which was a play on his name. So he had this really gorgeous corduroy head and his name was corduroy, because on the backs of the greeting cards, we always had the animal's name. It was really important for me to personalize that that I'm animals so that they could actually tell it was someone's pete, which was on the on the greeting cards and things um oh, sorry, sorry. Towboat inspiration actually, it's a profession, I have your cat book and I have it by the front door. And when I go to the shelter, I look through it and it's an inspiration to just so down and become because that's what I get from your images, the soulfulness, but also its very peaceful so because when you work with shelter animals, it can be a little intense and, you know, they have any cats or dogs, and you sometimes think that I got to get moving, but really it's about patients, and if you want to get an image like that, you have to just take a breath and calm down and that's why do I have it by the front door and just flip through it and I go, okay? This inspires me and actually have a picture of a cat with pearls that was inspired by our dentist that's that's that's really? Really. Thank you for sharing that with me. Because that's really nice toe. I've never had someone told me that about my one of my books before that. And that's a really nice it makes me feel really good. Yeah, a bible our ugliest well, that's gorgeous. Thank you for sharing that with me and that makes me feel really good. Thank you. Yeah. Anyway, back in tow, get back into the floor in in in india is in another but I have another page one of my workbooks from just talking about ideas and things so it's all excuse me frog again, but going back to going back to the inspiration I like. I've been inspired over the years by so many photographers I think I come from a generation where, like the likes of bruce weber, any liebovitz is still going incredibly strongly today, she's in a phenomenal photographer that petric dimaggio earlier remember, remember when I was at school even might have been when I was at school looking at through one of his books and seeing in a photograph of an elephant, a baby elephant, he's got on a a studio sitting against teo campus background on the elephants up on its hind legs, sort of almost like a show welcome, but I remember that image just being such a huge influence in inspiration for me, for what I've moved on to do in the in the future, and this is how he said he was a fashion photographer. Many did there, but it was one of his animal images which really inspired me tow go down the path of creating really isolated studio environment images of capturing character of off off the animals in the end didn't expose that the magnum photographers dorothy elaine and the merrier and mark elliot what all those photographers have been huge inspiration from a over the years, just just the ability, even though the more documentary style photographers I just think the the emotion which they get within the images, just incredibly inspiring. Let's um, yeah, I am, I must say, in my photography, even even today, I'm a realist. I don't use a lot of post post production on my images. I try and capture the images within the camera, um occasionally, like when I worked with, say, a a dog with a kitten on its head, I've had an assistant holding the kitchen with a hand behind but always in those doesn't since it is not as long as you make sure that the am is behind the animal, you can retouch it out animal fear is really difficult to keep the aging right if you're trying to remove something but it is possible but it's another another reason why I love the fact that I used that shallow depth of field was often and they're instance the the hand will actually be out of focus so therefore the food which is interfering with will be slightly soft anyway so it makes it much easier to remove something that in post production but so idea it's a bonus that that's part of my style is the shallow depth of field but yes so it's no good I felt myself went completely off track then of what I was talking about that something good but so we've really got yeah another page so this is great when you get to get a copy of the key note you can reach through all my ideas and my crazy stuff sometimes she was reading through some of thinking how the hell did I come up with those providing is that's not realistic? You're not going to do that and it might be one of those ideas which means that ever came to life here but not inspiration in what books I really do and carriages keep workbooks, because it's offensive. Fantastic thing just to write down your ideas, even quote, to come across which inspire you. My books there have always been filled with with quotes, inspirational animal quotes and things that there. And then it really helps me when I'm shooting to actually come up with ideas as well. If I work with along with the publisher toe, actually see what things are going to be included in the book. It's. Great toe help with coming up with ideas and things like that.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Black on Black
Photographing Kitten and Puppies
Shooting for Licensing and Publishing
Working with Adult Cats
Working with More Challenging Animals
Shooting on Location - The French Cat - The French Dog
Taking an Idea and Working Through the Process
Ways to Get Started in the Animal Photography Industry
Rachael on Location - Kelsey Creek Farm

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This course was definitely worth the investment - both time and money. With about 15 hours worth of video sessions and amazing bonus handouts - Rachael provides some really useful, practical tips that you can apply straight away regardless whether you're just beginning your photography journey or are a seasoned professional. It was great to see Rachael at work in session - especially her techniques used to calm and quieten her models if needed. She had a potpourri of helpful suggestions such as remember to take both landscape and portrait shots (if possible), know your rights to take and use images - don't assume, be extra vigilant with cleanliness especially around kittens and puppies who may not have been fully vaccinated, keep kittens and puppies isolated in pens or cages if not in their own environment as they're escape artists etc. Her extensive experience with licensing agents and publishing houses was insightful ... and not for the faint-hearted, so it seems! Thanks Rachael for taking the time to share your know-how, tips and techniques and giving us a peek into your world and workflow you follow to produce awesome animal shots.


I loved this class! I don't I tend to be a "pet photographer" but I do want to be a "Pet friendly" photographer! I have gotten lots of tricks and tools to use while photographing occasional clients pets and my own! ( I have a horse, a pony, bunnies, cats, dogs and ducks) I'm super glad I watched the class live and I'm even more glad I bought it so I can re- watch it whenever I want :) (The shoot with the mini horse, dogs, chicken, duck and people was awesome! It loomed like my family picture would look if my husband didn't say "no" on occassion! lol)

Rebecca Potter

Love, Love, Love this course... Rachael is so down to earth and inspiring and I enjoyed all the hands-on shooting which shows you how patient you need to be for this type of photography. Truly an amazing course... Thank you.

Student Work