Integrating Animal Photography into your Business


Lesson Info

Commercial & Editorial Work

So the commercial and editorial work, we talked a little bit about this before. So if this is kind of a, you answered all those questions before and came to the conclusion that this is something that is interesting to you, there's lots of large companies that work with animal imagery. And you can connect via ad agencies. Usually working with teams of people collaborating. Typically the larger commercial scale projects you're gonna be working with trained animals, and models, and people that really know what they're doing. I'll show you pictures of a dog that you could ask to do anything, and it would do whatever you wanted. So there is that added value there with the bigger budget projects. Because their usage is bigger, you can command a higher creative licensing fee. You're kind of fulfilling their concepts and playing a role. So it's a very different experience than working with a commission portraits or even the stock photography. It's a little bit less organic. You don't really ha...

ve the opportunity to be like, what about this, and go off, you really have to stay on target with them. The smaller scale commercial work is more of my experience. Over the last few years I've done some work with some smaller companies, and you're often directly working with the client, so you're not necessarily working with a team of people or working with a creative director. So it kind of aligns, with me it's a little it of a stretch, but it kind of aligns for me in the sense that I'm still working on an intimate level. I still have a little bit of creative freedom. And I'm working with real animals and people so that is challenging but also something I'm used to. They're typically a little bit lower budget, and your fees are gonna vary depending on the company that you work with. And they may have some concepts in mind that they want you to fulfill. And you might have a little bit more opportunity than with a larger commercial company to do some more organic things and spontaneous aspects. So I just wanna share a few of the projects that I've worked on. Hopefully that will be helpful for you to see. Just kind of get your brain working with the opportunities and the options for you. And this is something that you can approach on your own, you can go after these types of jobs and get some experience with them. So this was a pet supply company. I love the pace of these projects, they were intimate smaller settings. So this company in Austin, they're really great, and named Tomlinson's. And they have a bunch of stores. So I photographed the family behind the scenes in the warehouse. And then they wanted to illustrate their core concepts, their core values for their company. So the owner approached me and asked me to do that, and so we collaborated on that. Like, how could that happen? And so we got to, I think I did about... Maybe five or six shoots. So it was a little bit slower pace. I wasn't doing it all in one day, and I kind of got to say this is a parameter in which I think it'll work, and luckily we could make it aligned for both of us. So with the capital behind. So we had some really great clients of theirs and they ended up being the models. And that worked out really well. So this is just some from that. And one of them was, they do a lot of work with rescues locally, so we did that. Another company I did is a product that's this pretty awesome ball launcher. It's an automated ball launcher, and so their objective was to have lifestyle imagery that featured the product. I'm not a product shooter, but I did take some product shots of this product as part of the package. But I was interested, obviously, in working with the dogs. So the objective was to do these, to create a library of images and we did a lot in three days. We did three full day shoots, it was 12 hour days, three days in a row. So it was an intense project to say the least, but we covered a lot. So they had hired local people. This dog looks like Shrek to me, I dunno, this dog's funny. We did some interior shots, so we'd rented a house and did some shots there. We did three locations, so studio, interior location, and then exterior location. So that was pretty wild. But fun. I've done a fair amount of work for doggie daycares. They're such a great resource. And if you can build a relationship with a great doggie daycare, I think it's a great way to stay connected with the pet community. So, yeah, so this is illustrating the day in the life of the doggie daycare. And the company was called Santa Fe Tails, I thought, how could I do that? I had a few people standing on the wall, and this is a little bit cropped but you can see all their little tails and so it was fun. But it was just, you know, the freedom for me was, how do I create this? I wanna create imagery that shows all the different aspects. So I wrote a list down and when I talked to them about it, and said what do you think about this. And it was really fun. Just getting a sense. They have a bubble machine, and so that was a fun aspect to it. It's pretty overwhelming to shoot in a doggie daycare just 'cause so many animals. It's kind of chaotic, but a joyful chaotic level. And so that's creatively challenging for me, to figure out how to navigate through it. 'Cause you know, you get down low, and everybody wants to come up in your face, and it's crazy. But that was a really fun project. He let out all these tennis balls. Yeah that was a really neat project. And then we have all of, so I go hired to photograph for them to use images for marketing, and then they also made large prints. So all of the prints are now in the doggie daycare. So I think that's really rewarding, and some of my favorite stuff to do. So vet clinics, I've done a few vet clinic projects. They do not close therapies to close for these project, and so it's kind of chaotic. So you have to really work fast. I'm working typically pretty light in terms of equipment and gear. And just show the different aspects of what the clinic offers. So here I was on a tripod just to get some movement. And just show different services that they provided, so acupuncture for dogs. So yeah, the smaller scale commercial work. I'm sure every one of you has businesses that focused on pets, that if you approached those businesses with some ideas, and you were proactive and creative about it, that they would think about it. 'Cause imagery is hugely impactful for their marketing. And good imagery, yeah we can all take pictures with our phones, but really quality imagery it's a rarity for them. Also editorial. I haven't pursues a lot of editorial work. Lately, I've done some more with just people stuff. This was an animal sanctuary. And I didn't have an assistant that day. I used to work by myself all the time, I didn't have an assistant at all. But it was like, I wanted to show just this massive amount of dogs that she had. There's a lot of fun to see your imagery in print. It's definitely not the avenue for making tons of money, but it's really good to the have the feedback of your work, and have an assignment of fitting your work with text for example. It's just a really good opportunity to navigate around that. So I've done a little bit of that type of work. And you know, this is a children's story illustrator, but she had a cat so I'm gonna definitely include the cat. Dog specific magazines, a lot of you might have something in your area that's pet a specific publication. So I've done some work with that. And if you're curious about getting into that, make sure you have a portfolio that shows examples of your work, and approach them with it. Talk to the publisher or contact them, and say, what do you need to, who do I need to contact to get started with this, I'd like to put some submissions in. You know, there are pet specific magazines that you can apply to and see if you can get your work into them. This was a shoot with Ali MacGraw. She does a lot of work with the shelter, so it was just an illustration of that.

This course is fantastic. Norah is incredibly open and so easy to listen to and understand. The course is comprehensive from start to finish covering all aspects of a pet photography business. I especially loved watching the live shoots. Getting to see her process on location was priceless.
-Jo Wilkens

Pets play a large part of every household, be it the best friend or first “child.”  Yet capturing their personalities is often more difficult than just a click of the shutter.  Instructor Norah Levine’s photographs are often defined by her clean compositions and authentic moments shared by people and their pets.  Now you can join Norah as she shows you the basics of pet behavior and how to get animals comfortable with the camera.  After this class, you’ll be able to capture great images of pets AND learn how to to incorporate them into your family photography.   

In this class you’ll learn:

  • How to incorporate pets into your family photography.

  • Gain an understanding of animal behavior and key body language cues.

  • Build a business model that allows you to appeal to commercial, private and nonprofit markets.



  • This course is pleasant, and contains fundamentally sound information. My issue (and the reason I can't broadly recommend this course) is due to the fact that there is a lack of detail with regard to technique and mechanics - specially, those which could benefit an intermediate to advanced amateur photographer who would target this course as a helpful stepping stone toward starting an actual business. There's a lot of pleasant discussion relating to "energy" and "approach", but there is very little specific instruction toward using your space and equipment to create and sell high quality pet portraits. This is, simply put, a "feel good" course. You'll enjoy the flow and experience of this course, and you'll like the presenters, but you're not likely to come away feeling as though you've acquired a resource you can consult in order to put it all together. I felt as though I had attended a high-school club meeting full of good friends, rather than an enlightening, information filled course taught by a strong expert in the field. Buzzwords such as "organic", "creative", "in the moment", "freedom", and "emotionally true" populate the landscape of this course, unfortunately, things never really get down to business in a way that seems to matter.
  • 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.
  • 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!