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Fine Art & Personal Projects

Lesson 18 from: Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

18. Fine Art & Personal Projects

Next Lesson: Working on Location

Lesson Info

Fine Art & Personal Projects

You know, if you have an interest in it, this isn't a fine art specific class, but fine art, for me, has been a way of getting away from the computer. I kind of got a little bit burned out of working with the computer, and it gave me an opportunity to work with my hands again, so I've been working with some wax stuff and incorporating animals and collage and some painting in there. It gives me some freedom to explore, and I've done some commissioned pieces from that as well, and it's just another avenue. I don't know where it's gonna go exactly. I donate some of the sales to animal welfare, so it kind of helps me continue to support the animal welfare community and that makes me feel good. So, if you're thinking about different avenues, things that you can offer your clients, this could be another avenue if you have any interest. And it's certainly something I could offer my clients. So, lastly, I think, is just talking about the animal welfare collaborations and personal projects. Thi...

s is not an intentional part of my business model, but it's something that I really enjoy and find fulfilling. It was a way for me to get lots of experience and understand the behavior, as we'd talked about before. If you're working with animal welfare, there's adoptions, helping the animals get adopted, specifically through the shelter, online, and also just projects in general. I did a project as a kind of a marketing piece, so animal welfare, even though they may be nonprofits, they still need to market themselves, right? So we did this image, this book filled with images that really spoke to the positive aspects of what the organization was doing, and that was really fun. This was at community outreach, they would bring dogs there, and their foster care program, so I really enjoyed making images that would convey the concept of what was important to them. I've collaborated with animal welfare groups who are doing marketing projects using their clientele, and then they'll make ads from it. This was a mobile adoption van that they did a fundraiser so you could buy a spot on the van and they would transport the animals to different shelters, so we did a whole series of studio shoots for that. Some images that are used in advertising, so even though they're a nonprofit, they do need images for advertising as well. And that's fun. And some of these projects are... Some of these projects are paid, some of them are not paid, but they're projects that are really aligned with what's important to me, so I make decisions about that. I don't volunteer absolutely everything I do, but I try to be reasonable and offer what I can, that works for me. So, let's see. Let's talk about personal projects just real quick. This was a big project for me that was very personal, and we'll talk about it a lot more later, and was honoring the bond between homeless people and their pets. And it was a great creative outlet, and was really about creating awareness with the photography and I'm definitely gonna share more about this project later. So, as I'm evaluating new opportunities, things come in, like, "Maybe I'll do that." I don't know if any of you have that, but like, "Oh, maybe I should do this. "Oh, that's good." It's like, shiny, sparkly, squirrel. (laughs) (audience laughs) So I have that, you know? And so, when I have these things that come in-- So you see, I was doing editorial and stock, and there are a lot of things that I have going on, and as new opportunities come in, I really have to base my decision on what I know now with my top priorities in mind. And so five years from now, I can look back and say, "Well, why didn't I do that?" You know? It's like, "Well, it wasn't aligned for me at the time." So, does this opportunity challenge me? Does it stretch me creatively? These are questions that I ask myself. And I can literally have a list, when something comes up, to look at this. Does it offer me financial opportunity? Are there additional opportunities after? Is there an opportunity to help other people? Is there an obligation to say yes? You know, sometimes I say yes to things, or I used to find myself saying yes to things because I felt bad if I said no, so yeah. Those are all things to kind of think about as you're moving forward with these types of projects. I had one question that had come in from online from Christy Chelsea, in newborn photography there's often the first year package. Do you do that or have you seen that done? Would you recommend the puppy package? So sort of at the puppies, dogs, different stages or any animal? Yeah, it can be great. It's a great idea. I've seen people do that. I feel like the only reason I haven't done that is because I have been doing other things, you know? I think it would be great. It would give people a call to action and an incentive to work with you again after time passes with an animal, I think it's an awesome idea, so yeah, go for it. Great, thanks for sharing that as well Yeah. For everybody out there. So you had talked about moving from Santa Fe to Austin, and question from Frolic Images, what sort of adjustments did you have to make? A lot of people start a business when they move to a new market, was there anything that you wish, also, that you had done differently in that transition? Yeah, so one thing that I chose to do, which I feel like held me back from moving forward in Austin was that I traveled to Santa Fe to keep working with some of my clients, and that was just a personal choice for me, was like, let's see how long I can go there a couple times a year. So I maintained-- I worked very hard to build my business in New Mexico, and moving was a big deal. It was like, "Oh man, I gotta start over." Nobody knew who I was and it was just a different environment, so it was a little bit overwhelming and things I wish I didn't do, I can't say that I wish I didn't go to Santa Fe, but I think it's important for me to acknowledge that traveling back held me back from moving forward, so there was that-- But it was a decision. I knew that it would, so I had to look at the market as a completely different market though, and that was one thing I regret, is holding onto it. It's not like my experience before, you know? Starting business is not the same as starting it five years ago, and I needed to really kind of adjust to that, and so there were some learning curves there, but just a different clientele. Most people-- for example, one of the biggest things was, I was really used to going into people's homes in Santa Fe and then when I came to Austin, everybody was like, "Oh, I wanna go to a park." Like everybody. I was like, "What is it with the parks, "they wanna go to a park?" And I love going to parks, but it offers different challenges. It was just a different twist on what I was used to doing, and so I've had to kind of educate people on what-- You know, I still try to get people to go to their homes, but I've gone to way more parks then I ever did in New Mexico for sessions with pets, so it was just completely different and I had to acknowledge that it was gonna be different and treat it as a different animal. Let's see, this question had come in earlier when we were shooting. When you're shooting with animals and families, what is more of a priority for you? Do you find that the family, or-- The question really is, do you find that the families are hiring you for the sole fact that you are a pet photographer and that is the main focus? Or are they hiring you for that fact that you can bring the animal into the family portraits? I think being a pet photographer is a help to me when it comes to getting work with families and that they see, "Oh, she works with pets." That it is that kind of-- Helps with that decision-making and they will hire me because I do have that experience of animals and they know that it'll be included in their sessions, so absolutely I think it contributes to me getting the job with a family. Alright, any final questions here? Yes, grab a mic. Lens choices. You were using your 24 to 70, is that your go-to? Yeah, I use my 24 to 7-- I'll tell you why. Now there are things I wish I could do differently, you know, I wish I could shoot with five different lenses-- It's really like-- I feel like there's enough to juggle, and so I tend to use my 24 to 70 a lot, and the reason for that is, a lot of times I need to have proximity to the pet, and so I feel a little bit-- When I'm physically far away, it limits my ability to maybe hold a treat, kind of-- You know how I was giving the treat to Saul? I was reminding her that I had it there. But once I had to go back further to shoot a wider shot, she just forgot about who had it, and so that distance, I feel like, can become a hindrance. So I like to use a shorter lens for that reason, you know? And fixed lenses are great, I just tend-- I feel like I can do more with that range in a shorter period of time without having to move as much. So once I plant myself and the dog is planted, or the cat, I can get a lot of variety with that range as opposed to having to physically move. You know, I'm already doing enough moving around, I feel like it means me getting the shot over not getting it. But I like the 70 to 200 too, I use that a fair amount, but I have to just understand that I'm not gonna be able to have that proximity. And there's just something different about our longer lens and the engagement, and that, for me, with the people, it feels a little bit separated. So I find that I'm getting more intimacy, more connection when I'm physically closer to someone. It's not the lens, it's just me being close to somebody. 'Cause it's kind of awkward when you're really far away, and I think that shows in the images. Alright, well I have one more question for you for today. We have a whole day tomorrow as well, but-- 'cause you and I talked about this over break, which was, do you have a disclaimer in your agreement that states a procedure if the animals do not cooperate? Do the clients still pay the sitting fee if you are unable to get the desired shots, because that is a very common occurrence. You know, you're not gonna stay there for 24 hours, what do you recommend, what do you do? It's a good question and something that I've gone through over the years and tried to figure out. Really the answer is I will shoot until the client is happy, and I feel like my saying that to somebody makes them relax about it and their energy changes, and I will have a better experience in the shoot, and just knowing that they can-- Look, if this doesn't work, I'll come back. We'll do some more, you know? And I have that opportunity. It's not a wedding, right? So I have that opportunity to do that, and I-- Somebody was asking me how many times that's happened to me and I feel like it may be a couple of times that I'd called them and said, "Hey, I'd like to get a little bit more." If my goal were to get one image, I wouldn't need to do that. But I really would like to get some variety and have some things for them to choose from, so I feel like just letting the stress of it all having to work out that day, letting that go for them, is helpful. But yeah, I don't have an official disclaimer anywhere, but wardrobe choices and stuff like that, if you chose to wear your hair a certain way, I mean, that I feel a little bit hesitant about, but behavior of animals and how they cooperated, no. I'm gonna try to give you what you need, and that's my dedication as a photographer and as somebody that's providing a custom service, so, absolutely.

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!

Student Work