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Awareness of Your Own Energy

Lesson 22 from: Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

22. Awareness of Your Own Energy

Next Lesson: Directing Subjects

Lesson Info

Awareness of Your Own Energy

So when we started with Judy, she was super sweet and pretty easy going and fun and snorted and she's great. And so there was no level of, she wasn't timid. She was kind of a go with the flow type of dog. And so my energy could be a little bit more playful and I didn't have to worry about how I was moving my stuff around. I didn't have to worry about too much in regard of how she was going to react to things. And then we had some of the cats. You saw them, it was like my energy has to be a little bit quieter. I have to be more settled. I can't, I'm not gonna open up a reflector and pop it open with no awareness and fly around my attention getting toys if they're not responding to it. I tried some toys with Phoebe and she wasn't interested so I'm not gonna wave, try to over do it. I tried a few different things, tried some variety but I had to really respond to that as well. And then when it comes to the people, when we were photographing with Grant and Meg and Sol, it was like, I neede...

d to have a different energy to adjust to Grant. He's a two year old. So maybe I talk more like a baby, I don't know. I don't do that intentionally, but there's this kind of adjustment to the energy in the room. And I think you probably saw that shift a little bit. So there's that constant adapting too. I need to keep it up and I needed to keep it up for Meg to make sure that she knew that it was going okay because I'm thinking from her perspective, how does that feel? She's got a two year old and a dog and there's people and there's all this going on and what's her expectation. And so I'm trying to get out of myself and go into what she's feeling like and make this more about them and their experience in addition to taking photographs. So thinking about what they're going through and so really directing, making sure she's aware of what we're doing, and encouraging her as we went along. So that was a really important part of dealing with that specific scenario. Do you guys have any questions? You do? Okay. Oh, I wanna talk about the mental focus part. That's just a big deal for me and I don't know if any of you, do any of you get stressed out on photo shoots? Yeah? Okay so I'm gonna talk to the person that doesn't. Yeah, right? So what do you run into? What are some of the juggling acts that you feel like your, what are some of the walls you're hitting when you're having shoots. I always have all these great ideas and I go through posing the night before. And I'm like, okay I wanna do all these things and I'm really excited and they're gonna do it this way and I'll instruct them to do it this way. And then they get there and I forget all of the things that I planned for and I kind of get nervous and just overwhelmed in a way. And then I overcompensate for trying to cover my nervousness and it's just like-- How do you overcompensate? I'll show them the pictures of what I, because I'll take screenshots and so I'll show them and then I feel like I get, I probably hide it well, but I feel like I get less easy going because I'm nervous, but I'm trying not to be nervous. So I'm like, just do it this way and show them the picture and then instead of just being like, oh let's just see what's going on and let it flow and stuff. I get more, just do it this way and I'll show them the picture on my phone. That's interesting. Well I'm so, thank you for sharing. I'm so glad others feel stress as well. It's good to know. So do you keep notes? I don't on paper. I'm more of a visual, like I said, screen shotting the pictures and stuff that I feel like I wanna recreate or posing that I wanna recreate. But I don't take notes like I saw that you did. It might be a good idea to keep notes or take screenshots of, you mean from past shoots if that's what you're talking about. Maybe print out little thumbnails for yourself. Or if you have ideas from other photographers that you wanna try to do. Print out thumbnails and put those in your bag. Make it like a contact sheet, little grid. So do that. One thing I think we need to do as photographers is give ourselves the freedom to, to try things and have it not work out. And some of that comes with the wording that you use. And so saying things like, hey I'm thinking about this. I don't know, it's kind of an idea I have and I don't know if it's gonna work, but what about this. And then see if it, does that happen to you? Okay, so it may not work and that's okay, but what you're doing is you're setting it up for like it's playful. It's an experimentation, let's try it. And if it doesn't work, it's not a reflection on them doing something wrong and it doesn't mean you don't know what you're doing. Because you have to be organic with what you do. We're in the moment, we have to react to what's going on in the moment. It's a really important part of how we can be creative and how we get surprises in our work. Like oh, I just noticed you did this. Oh, could you do that again. And so what's you start with that posing and you have some ideas, the observation of what really happens can generate other ideas. And if the more you think out loud and communicate with your clients about that process, the more freedom you have to mess it up or to not know what you're doing and just to, I don't know, what about this. The other thing when it comes to, and we'll talk a little bit more about that with directing, is when it comes to maybe not having an idea in mind is saying, hey would you mind if I step in for a second because it's hard for me to explain, I don't know if you go through this, but it's hard for me to say, okay put your arm there and how are you gonna fit with this animal or this person. How do you guys fit together? And for me, because everybody's different, right? Small dogs, big dogs, cats, people. Small dogs can be held and big dogs can't and so you're constantly thinking about, how are you guys gonna fit together because you want them to kind of look like they like each other and they know each other. So I'll often say, let me, can I get in there and I'll just, I'll sit down and I'll be like, oh yeah I wanted to do this, oh this feels totally weird, that's not gonna work. And just be open to that not working. And have a little bit of a playful, playful experience with it. So it kind of let's you off the hook and I think it could help you with your nerves a little bit. So you don't have to go in there no everything and everything will not work out. But having those starting ideas will help, but give yourself some freedom there. I have another comment for you, Norah, from Susan Doe Photos says, I really try to make sure that they are having a great experience, that I'm giving them that great experience. And for her, that has to be her focus. But when they get stressed about how the pet is doing, then that's probably the most stressful for her. And I know we talked about that a little bit. But how much are you thinking about focusing on the clients having an incredible experience themselves? It's a really important part. I don't want them, I don't mind if I walk away from a session and they're exhausted and they need a nap. That's part of the deal. I think it's okay. I've been photographing my dogs and I needed a nap afterwards. It's kind of a, it can be an, involve a lot of energy and that's fine. But it is important for people to feel confident after you walk out the door that you got something good and that they had a good time. And that can involve effort and that's okay. I don't mind them having that effort there. So I try to just cue into them. If they're, if I see them stressed out and looking miserable then I'm gonna take a break and just be like, okay they need attention now. I'm really gonna, what is it that they're going through? Is it that they're not happy with what I'm doing? Is it that they're frustrated with their dog? And try to figure out what that issue is and then work with what that issue is. So if it's their dog I'm gonna encourage them that it's going fine or that maybe we need a break. This is how it goes for everybody because that is so true. I'm not lying about that. It's part of the process so I'll just try to tune in to what they need in that moment so the experience can be really good. There's so many things going through your head. It really is just, and I think perhaps that comes with experience, but also know what all of these things are that you have to be considering. Do we have anymore in the studio audience of things that are super stressful or mental challenges while you're doing the photo shoot? Yeah, great. So one thing that I've found is really difficult is photographing toddlers and puppies when everyone's moving a lot. And I saw, like yesterday, you did a really good job of capturing that movement or trying to capture it. What are some tips on how to take advantage of that movement and keeping everybody, maybe the toddler is looking, but the dog's running around. What are your tips for that? So I would say eliminate one of the variables that, for example light. Make sure that that child doesn't have to be, the child and the dog don't need to be in spotlight somewhere. So have the freedom within the space that they can move. And make sure that you have enough light to work with. When you're gonna be photographing that, like a two year old there was just no, like lay here, put your arm here. If Grant were five, we would have an entirely different session, right? And acknowledge that when you're doing it and you can set up expectations that, hey this is gonna be kind of a more active shoot. They're gonna need to have that, we're gonna need to be moving around, changing locations a lot. And maybe literally running around like we did with that, with the tripod, when I set up on the tripod. Because I was thinking, man he is not gonna stay still, what can I do? And that was one solution. So the other solution is you might be shooting a lot faster and you'll get a lot of bad images that don't work, where they're awkward moments. It's very hard to control multiple faces at once because you're look through your frame, you're looking at your composition. You're looking at what's the dog doing, trying to get the dog's attention. And you're looking at the person. And you're looking at the kid. It's like who am I trying to attract. A lot of times, if there's a parent involved, I might just say, your job is this. And I mentioned this a little bit later, it's like you'll see in this video when I'm shooting there are some moments that we go through that. You'll see in a couple of clips where I am kind of giving people jobs. That helps me. If you have an assister or helper, you could be like, okay your job is this. So you're a director, right? And then sometimes you just gotta let it go and just shoot. Let them run around and see what you can get before you try to get them in a more controlled space. So does that help a little bit? Okay, good. All right, one more before we go to the video because I know this was similar for me, was getting stressed about not getting enough good images. And so much so that you're over shooting and so, and have too many images to choose from. So how do you sort of manage, okay I got it and I can move on. What are the things that you do for yourself so that you don't just keep going and going in the same position? So over shooting is honestly a problem for me. I tend to overdo and it's something I recurrently try to work on. In the space you'll see that call to action to shift gears, especially with kids or even people, they just start to get a little bit restless, so might have had a really good idea of trying to get something to work and you'll just shoot and shoot and shoot until you get that. But play off of their energy is part of that call to action for me. And also, just, I've started to have kind of a limited, like okay I'm gonna stick to around this much time and per session, then keep it within a range. Now having said that, if I'm shooting more lifestyle images where there's action going on and I'm having to shoot a little bit faster. I'm not saying I'm on the motor drive the whole time, because that's not really worth anything to me. But if I'm shooting a lot more, there may be some more images and then I guess the key is to become faster at picking out the ones that I want and setting a timer for myself. Great, thank you so much. That was great. Sure. So up next we're gonna talk, we're gonna review the video where I'm at the Gayman's house. So we've done the scouting on the location and what you're gonna see here is me working in the spaces. We're gonna be working by the window area and also in the stairs that I scouted. So you'll see me giving positive feedback and trying some new things and moving on to keep the energy flowing. You'll see me kind of making that call to move on to different space and kind of know when, when the space isn't working anymore or my idea wasn't working, which you'll see. So I had an idea and it didn't really, didn't really work technically or physically. So we move on from that. I love this, I love this right here. So gonna grab my stool up here. We'll keep Grant there for a minute. And yeah, the petting under the chin is super sweet and I'm gonna get up here. See if you can get him closer, her closer to you, sorry. Red is your color, Sol. So I'm gonna try. So I'm struggling a little bit with the light here, so I'm gonna try to reposition myself so I can get some better light on them. Sweet. Get in there, get in there, get some love. Yeah, that's sweet. That's sweet. Bob, you just look at her. So sweet. Wanna give her a treat? Come on. You gonna take her for a walk? Can you put that on her? Come here. Are you gonna take her for a walk? Sit. Sit. Sit. Look. You gonna put that on her? Can you put that on Sol? Do you want my help? Go outside? (chuckling) Okay, you wanna hold? Oh, good job. Where you going? You're gonna stand next to her. Go stand next to her for minute. Can I have another treat? Oh, you wanna give this to her? Don't let her go. Say come on, Sol. Come on, Sol. Come over this way. Oh that's good. Good? Yeah, you're doing a good job. Come here, Sol. Can you sit? Yes, that's good. Can you give Sol a hug? Can you give Sol a hug? That's good. Do you think she know it's there, oh she found it. She's so smart. I'm gonna see if I can get Sol to lay down there. Sometimes I have ideas in my head that are like, an idea that I really wanna do, but they're not gonna work out and I think this, her looking out the window with Grant is not gonna happen so I need to move on to something else. Okay so we've had the chance to work in a couple of different areas in the house. And since Grant's energy is kind of shifting we want Grant's energy to shift a little bit, so I think physically shifting from inside to outside is gonna be my best bet. If I take time to set up lights, it's just gonna take more time and I honestly don't think at this point it's gonna be work the time to do that. And I think we'll get better images if we change the energy for Grant. So we're gonna do that now. So these are some that I pulled that I liked their interaction here. Just some sweet, sweet interactions. You know, I mean they're okay, but it was a struggle location but that was a good, a good example of like I called out, it's like okay that was my idea. I had this vision at the bottom of the stairs in my head was Sol sitting and then Grant giving me just a sweet hug. And they weren't really interacting in that way. You saw him pat him. It was like, give him a hug and he just touched him and went on to something else. And it was like, okay, let it go Norah. Just let it go. That's not gonna happen. So that was a good example. I took another note. So that engagement was just kind of limited. I also wanna point out that Sol was very treat motivated and I don't use treats on every one of my sessions. I actually use treats as a last resort for lots of my sessions just because a lot of dogs can get overly excited and stimulated by the treats being around. But just as a comment, I didn't get to do a lot of my noise making or attention getters, because Sol doesn't really respond to those. So yeah, those were just some moments there. I think what's, again, so fascinating to see you sort of constantly moving locations and changing up who is involved in sort of this flow as, you have to be reacting so, so quickly. Wondering why you chose some of the images that you did include in that slide show? What was it about some of those images and I also wanna let people know that we actually, later in the class will be seeing all of, a full gallery of the images of the Gayman family, both from their home on location and what we did in the studio as well. So be sure to stay tuned for those. But maybe, yeah, some of the images you chose there. Why did I choose those to share? Well I just really like, I loved the one's with John and Sol by the window. There was just this sweet intimate moment there and I just was thinking about, they've had Sol since she was a puppy and she was their first child. And just thought this is kind of sweet moment to have the two of them together. So I really liked that moment. Just the one of her looking up at him kind of longingly was very sweet. So I was happy with the light quality there and everything, so that was kind of choice, a good choice, those are my choices for that. And then the stairs, it was like, I wasn't unhappy with what I got entirely. I feel like for what it was, I got some usable images. For example, if they were gonna be used in an album, those images are kind of more story like. So they're not necessarily wall portrait worthy, but I felt like they kind of sweet moments. And you know that they're, that family is gonna remember when that picture was taken. When they look back at that moment, they're gonna remember what it felt like to be at the bottom of that stairway in that moment when he was just this big. So that part, I'm not gonna trash those for that reason. I think they have meaning and value. Do we have more questions in the studio? Yeah, grab a mic please. And stand. So you talked about giving the families a break and giving the pets a break. I wonder if sometimes you need to step away and have a break yourself to collect your thoughts. That's an awesome question. Thank you for asking. So yes, I need a break and sometimes I will, here's what I will do when I need a break. I will switch my camera gear. I'll go to my camera bag and say I need a five minute break and just call it out. Like, hey I'm gonna take five minutes to regroup, get some equipment together. There's nothing wrong with thinking. There's nothing wrong with needing a moment. If I'm really kind of stressed, if something's not going right and I feel like I'm losing, I'm losing the session a little bit, I might excuse myself and use the restroom for a minute and just, literally just take a few minutes to regroup and breath and think about kind of what the next steps are and not focus on what's happened before. But focus on what's happening next. So absolutely, it's really important to take a break and there's nothing wrong with it. So call it out if you need it. And you don't have to say, I don't know what I'm doing. I'm getting stressed out. Just call a technical break and that's okay. Yeah, thanks. So when you're, I noticed obviously when we were, when we were watching that video that you were talking through a lot of your frustrations and I know that was part of, oh I'm not getting this with the light, I'm gonna try this. And it thought that was part of the video, but in an actual shoot would you, how much of that would you share with the client? How much would you hold back to keep them comfortable, but also kind of understanding what it is you're trying to get? That's a really great question. So. You know when you look at the back of your camera, which I try not to do a lot. And I was pretty good about it so I was proud of myself. Look at the back of your camera just to make, so you're looking at the back of your camera. You're checking your technical stuff and you're checking to make sure you got the shot. Perhaps you're looking at focus, those kinds of things. So if I do that, I'm gonna, I'm just gonna communicate with the client to say, or the subject, just like, hey I'm just gonna take one minute to make sure I'm okay with my settings. And communicate that, I'm not judging what's going on here. I'm not saying you're not, I'm not, I'm including them in that process. So I'm communicating that. So anytime I do that, I'm sure to call it out. When it comes to lighting and exact like, I'm gonna put a modifier over here. I don't necessarily call those things out. But I will say, here I'm thinking about putting some lights outside. It's a little dark in here so I'm gonna take five, 10 minutes to set some lights up. And then, oh there's not enough light in here. I'm actually gonna need to make some adjustments. So I will call that out so they don't think I'm ignoring them and just messing with, there's a disconnection when I'm messing with my equipment. So wanna make sure they know what I'm doing. Not to the level that they really care about my F stops and shutter speeds. But to where they feel like, oh it's not because I'm doing something wrong or it's not working. Because I feel like that's something that can go through their head when you're messing with your equipment. But yeah, I communicate a lot with my clients, and maybe too much, I don't know. But it seems to work well and I feel like it just keeps us connected in the process. Yeah, another question, Jen. Thank you. When you were talking about looking at the back of the camera, sometimes what we're seeing isn't necessarily what the client sees when they look around. You could be shooting and based on your lens choice it might look amazing, but if you looked at it with a normal eye, it doesn't. Do you even feel, or do you ever share off the back of the camera just to kind of, because sometimes I could feel if somebody's like what the heck are you seeing here? And they start get frustrated because they don't really, I don't know, maybe they don't see the end result. So do you ever share off the back of your camera just to kind of get someone to relax a little bit? Yes, I do share the back of my camera. I try not to make it a huge habit, but depending on the situation, it might call for it to dispel stress or concern just like you're saying. So if they feel, if I'm getting that sense that they're not trusting that it's working or that we're getting some good imagery then I will, I'll share a couple. And say hey, this looks great, what are you talking about? You look fantastic. And then they'll be, oh wow. They're really surprised. And then, and a lot of times with kids I'll show them. It's kind of a tricky one because once you start sometimes they wanna see every image. But if it's the only thing I can do to get them engaged with me or participating with me, then I will do it. Just like the red balloon with Grant. It's like, I had to pick my battle there. That was actually kind of a cute, ended up being kind of a cute accent to the session. But if he were a little bit older and more engaged with what was going on, I might say hey, would you look, wanna look here? And I've actually given my camera to kids before too and that I feel like has gotten me some of the images, it's bought me a lot of time and a connection and an engagement that I wouldn't have had otherwise. But it's not something that I try to really promote because it can slow down the process. And also if I decide to edit that one out later, I really don't want them calling out, like what about that one shot? That starts to get complicated when it comes to the editing, but I will do it for sure.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Norah Levine Book Coupon Code
Norah Levine Resource Guide
Pet Packing List
Pre Shoot Questionnaire

Ratings and Reviews


Norah is really great and I learned a lot watching her. Even non-pet related things, like how she's continually trying to better herself were really inspiring to me. Since watching this, I've learned to take every shoot as a learning opportunity by evaluating what went right and what didn't, and thinking of what I can do next time to do better. I liked the way she showed interacting with animals in a way that doesn't stress them (well, depending on the animal there may be some level of stress anyway I guess...) too. Great class.

Chelsea Beauchamp

So inspiring! Great information on both family pet photography as a craft as well as the business side. Norah obviously knows what she's doing and has tons of experience, so it's a good chance to hear/see what it's really like to take this on as a specialty whether it's the focus of your work or one of many parts of your work. She focuses not just on the mechanics, but on the personal side of working with people and animals. You can tell she's passionate about what she does, too. It's only been one day of class and I already feel totally inspired!

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