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Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Lesson 21 of 31

Finding Your Favorite Spots at The Location

Norah Levine

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

21. Finding Your Favorite Spots at The Location

Lesson Info

Finding Your Favorite Spots at The Location

Finding your favorite spots within the location. What does that really mean? There are times when there's lots of considerations in that. And one of those is light, right? So it seems like a priority, and I talk about it a lot because it's a real thing and you need light to take photographs. So when I'm considering light, it's "What are my subjects, and what are my goals?" "How many subjects am I working with?" "What types of images am I trying to get?" And we'll talk about this a little bit more later, but if somebody wants, for example, an album, and their goal is to have more of a story of their relationship with their pet and their family, I might shoot a little bit differently, I'll have that in the back of my mind, perhaps, as I'm thinking about the light in terms of what's required. So if they want a large wall portrait where they're all looking and in focus and sharp, and lots of detail, I might need to bring a light in, I might need to be outside, I'm going to have to consider...

that as I'm thinking about those spots. So is there really enough light? That's the quantity part. And then the quality of it, is it nice? Do I have to do something to this light to make it work for me? So there's a lot of modification that might need to happen. Sometimes I might need to put a silk up in a window that maybe it's too harsh, so I might spend some time fixing that, and putting just a diffusion material in a window. Just to make the light a little bit softer. I might bring some large foam core reflector it's something I bring with me all the time. It's really cheap to buy a big piece of foam core at an art supply store and lean it up against a ladder, a wall, you can clamp it against things. So that's kind of a basic piece of equipment when it comes to light that I'm gonna be bringing with me. So I'm thinking about those things during the shoot, and all of those, you know light is a huge impact on what I'm gonna do. Yep. I've got a question. With regard to light, do you ever shoot from outside looking into the home? Sort of - From outside looking in? Yeah. Yeah, I mean doorways and windows and things like that. Sometimes you can get really creative with shooting that way. One light setup that I love lately, is where if the space is kind of small, and putting equipment in starts to get kind of cluttered and can maybe just not work for all spaces, so I've loved putting lights outside and then I'll put a skrim or a silk up in the window and then I'll shoot through that, kind of emulating the sun, and that can give a really nice, natural quality of light and then that shoots through the window and then I will put up a foam core reflector in there, and it just really feels like natural, natural light. So that's one thing that's kind of great. So if the home has a sliding glass door or something, looking at that stuff when I'm in the home and that's kind of a great way to set up my light and not have to change it, cause that's another consideration that I'm making is how much time do I have? How many different spaces do I want to photograph in? And how much time do I want to spend setting up lights, and taking them down, and moving them around? And I've got to really prioritize and make decisions about that. If I have an assistant, I may have them set up in another room so that can get me a little bit more options there, but if it's just me, I've gotta make the call to choose the priority and usually the quicker the setup, the better but I tend to use really broad light sources, it's not the only way, you can make dramatic, I've seen gorgeous dramatically-lit pet portraits. And it's just my style tends to be more kind of light and airy in that way, but you can do anything that you want in terms of the style of your light. It's great to be creative with those things and thinking more as well. I have a few more great questions I love questions, yeah. before we move onto the next part. Can you tell us again, this is from Jennifer Verge, what it is that you are using to diffuse light on the windows? Sure, so you can buy official photography-related equipment. So I think Matthews makes silks, Matthews brand makes silks that are like a one-stop so it's cutting out one-stop, you can buy them in increments, so half-stop, one-stop, quarter-stop. I think mine's a one-stop diffusion, so it means you're losing one-stop of light in order to get that softer look. So I'll use that, they're more expensive then you can get something called Ripstop Nylon which is awesome and you can get that at craft stores that sell fabric, I think it's used in camping material and that's a really great resource, it's cheap and it frays at the end. So I had somebody sew it for me because I'm not a sewer, but you can just stick that up, or use some gaffer's tape outside and it works great. Yeah, and so usually shoot through a couple of umbrella's maybe one, maybe two, depending on the space I'm trying to fill, and have those on stands outside, and then if I can tack the diffusion material to the window, I'll just do it directly to the window. Or I can do one of those background stands, which is just more equipment, more to set up, so if I can just attach it to the window, I'd rather do that, so yeah, that's fun. Another great question, thanks for all of your questions everyone, what happens if your favorite spot is not the clients favorite spot, but has the best lighting for you? Do you have a way to kind of talk them into why you're doing it there? Yeah, that's kind of a delicate conversation, and that's true of clients ideas in general. I've had clients say, "Oh I would love pictures in this." And I'm thinking to myself, "You're not going to want this picture." But at the same time, I have to take their ideas and I can't dismiss them completely, and so I might say, "Oh that's a really great idea, we might get to that at the end. If you're okay with that, I want to try this first." And if we can get to it at the end, I might take a couple of shots, and if we can't, then it usually kind of falls away. But my goal and my commitment is to get the best shots, and if I can do that in a tactful way, to just say "Oh that's a really good idea, but you know what, actually it's just not quite enough light." Or "It's just there's something about it that's not quite working for me." But if we can get to that, and I have time to set up a light there, I will. So just acknowledging them for their idea, and then explaining why it may or may not work, if it's just a technical issue, they completely understand. That's okay. I think that's great to go technical, because then if that's not their area of expertise, then they're like, "Oh yeah, you're the expert." Right, yeah, you're the expert, you're there to work through it for them so they get what they want. I like to collaborate with people, and have people give me ideas for what's important to them, and I have some people say like, "Well you're the expert, I don't care." But some people are like, "Oh I'm so glad you asked." And they love being involved in the process, so I'll get a little bit of both, So there's a little bit of finessing involved when you're working with a clients ideas. Alright, one more great question. Do you ever ask to see these "off-limit areas" the basements, like if there's a closed door and you kind of think that there might be something there that could be good? Yes, I ask to see the whole space. If I'm in a home, I ask to see guest rooms. I ask to see everywhere, if they're okay with it. They might make decisions like, "Oh, you don't want to photograph in there." But maybe there's a corner that is beautiful and the light is gorgeous and there's something really simple and amazing. I want to see what all my options are first, so I always ask to see. Awesome, thank you. Sure. And you know, compositional elements as we're shooting I'm always thinking about good frame. How can I frame things? I'm looking at lines, I'm looking at color. And considering all of that, I can bring my real big girl camera with me too to the scouting, and look through it and see, you know, start to get ideas for framing and during the shoot, right before the shoot, even if I have scouted, I'm gonna look through my camera make sure that I'm happy with where everything is and I might move things around and get kind of situated before I'm actually gonna start photographing. And maybe I find a corner of a room, a part of a room that I really like but we need to move something away, and that's okay, just ask permission. And I always put everything back after the shoot. I'm always considering composition, and I think that's really an important part of my imagery. So setting your priorities before and during the shoot. Think there's this concept of, we talk about planning, I make my notes, I did my scouting, make my notes, have my pictures on my phone. That's my plan. And for me, that's how I have found is a valuable way to work. It also shows that I'm the expert when I walk into the house, because I have somewhere to begin. I don't walk in and say, "I don't know what we're gonna do." I mean, I don't know, what do you think? I have to kind of come in there with a little bit of a starting point. That doesn't mean that I need to know everything that's going to happen, and that's part of the process. And people understand that. So having a good idea is at least a starting point for me. An important part. So at the end of the shoots, I'm always looking at, what did I want to get, and what actually happened. And I re-evaluate every shoot that I do, in my head. I used to get really upset with myself after the shoot that it wasn't perfect. And that something went wrong. And now I go into every session knowing that something will not work out the way that I wanted it to. And that will be a learning opportunity. And I will take that forward with me to the next session. Hopefully I'm not learning the same lesson every time. That's where I try to get better with that. So during the shoot, it's really important to think about your energy as you're going through the shoot I know a lot of people have mentioned, "You look really calm." That is an integral part of your success as a pet photographer, because of the way that the people are reacting to you, and the way that the animals are reacting. So what does that energy like and how are you going to manage? I've had some challenging clients. I've worked with people that kind of didn't seem like they wanted to help me succeed in it. And I have worked with people that are amazing, and I appreciate all of them. Because I've learned from it. So the only thing I'm responsible for is my energy that I'm bringing to it. Because I have a job to do and I know that my energy is gonna dramatically affect it. So how am I managing that throughout?

Class Description

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 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.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Norah Levine Book Coupon Code

Norah Levine Resource Guide

Pet Packing List

Pre Shoot Questionnaire

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



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!