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Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Lesson 10 of 31

Live Family Shoot: Couch Set Up

Norah Levine

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

10. Live Family Shoot: Couch Set Up

Lesson Info

Live Family Shoot: Couch Set Up

We're gonna be photographing people with pets and looking at their interactions, options for posing, and how to navigate our way through that. We're gonna be working with the family in the studio here. So, like I mentioned before, this is not necessarily a typical setup for me, but we're gonna make it as comfortable as we can for them and more living room like for them, so I've got some props to help me out with that. In terms of my approach, I'm gonna set my priorities. I'm gonna be looking again at my lighting decisions. And so the first group of people we've got is Meg and her adorable son, Grant, who is almost two years old, and their dog Sal, who's a black lab. And we worked with them in the shoot footage you'll see later in the course. So I've got three subjects to consider and as I'm thinking about that, I'm thinking about the lighting I'm working with and I'm thinking about how I want to get all of them maybe in focus for some of the shots, not necessarily for all. And in order...

to do that in this environment, in this room, I'm gonna need to introduce a studio light. So if I didn't have that light, I would be able to adjust as best I could. But since we do have some lights, we're gonna take advantage of that and work with some lighting. We're gonna do some test shots. I've already done a couple of test shots before, so I'm ready when they come in. And as they come in, I'm gonna get comfortable with them and reacquaint myself and let them get used to the space first. Our goals are here like I want to get a group shot where everybody is looking at camera. 'Cause usually when I do group images, I would like to have everybody looking at camera ideally. And then do a shot where they're looking and interacting with the pet, and just general interaction shots, kind of organic things that come up. And then something with maybe just Meg and Sal together, and ideally something with Grant and Sal just together as a couple there, and then something completely unplanned. My notes here for them in terms of, I worked with them before, I do know that Sal is very treat motivated and didn't really respond a lot to my noises, but it doesn't mean I won't try to see if things are a little bit different because of the different environment. She's a really demeanor to her, so she's a pretty relaxed dog and so I know that I'm gonna probably be using treats a lot in this situation, so let's bring them in. Hi, so starting out like I'm just gonna let him come into the space. Hey, bud, he may or may not remember me. Hi, he's got a balloon. Let me see your balloon. What color is that? Is it red, it's a red balloon, yeah. Hi, Sal, hi girlfriend, hi. There's lots of stuff to sniff around. Hi, Meg, how are you? Good to see you, awesome. (Grant babbling) So you've got some extra treats, right? I did find one in my bag from the other day, so I have one leftover. An old squeaky too. So we'll get some treats going. How's he doing today? He's pretty good, he hasn't quite had enough, so it wasn't very long. So we'll see what this Sal thinks. We'll see how he actually is because-- Okay, so he hasn't had a nap? No. And he's almost two, right? He's two tomorrow. Two tomorrow, yay, birthday boy, awesome, okay. So we'll just see how it goes. Don't worry about it. We've kind of set it up where we're gonna see what we get. We'll try to get you all together first, I think. We'll try to go for that group shot where everybody is looking, and then we'll just adapt as needed. Okay, that works for me. We've got the couch here. I thought he might be interested in hanging out on it, so we'll start there. I'm thinking maybe Sal would go up on the couch too. Yeah, she's slept on this couch before. So we'll start there. I'll get a couple of treats ready in my bag, and then your focus, I'm gonna give you kind of Grant will be your focus, and I will worry and I'll have Danielle help me wrangle as needed. So he'll be your focus for us, correct. And then sometimes when, 'cause a lot of times you can, you know if I'm making a squeaky, just try to keep your eyes on the camera, if we're going to do that. Okay, I know that. Everybody does it, it's totally fine. I like (mumbles) too, like whatever you doing like ahh. Everybody does it, but yeah, it's just a good thing to point out. So okay, let me get some treats. I'm gonna have you hold on for a minute. Do you want to give Sal a tuna treat? Thank you, hi, buddy. Is it your birthday tomorrow? Yeah, well, they tell me two. You think every day's my birthday? Yeah, exactly, 'cause it should be. Would you like to give one of those to Sal to eat? Yeah. Okay, it's like a parade. That's okay. You're already chewing. Do we have water for Sal as well maybe on hand? I don't have any. We'll probably have somebody get some, just water, in case you need it, so awesome. Well, I'll have you, Meg, have a seat right over here, and however your adorable little man will cuddle with you. We're just gonna have to be somewhat organic about it. So if he will go on your lap, that's great, but no need to absolutely do that. And maybe you could sit kind of casually, I think crisscrossed, I think we'll have you do that first. (Meg and Grant speaking faintly) I'm gonna put this aside. Hey, hey, Grant. Why don't you come over here? And I think the balloon's a great prop. Hey, so we'll have to move that bag, Danielle, if you wouldn't mind. Hey, so I'm gonna shoot a test here. Did you see that? Did you see that, do you see the magic light? Yeah, where's the light, where is it? Oh, oh, oh, did you see that, did you see it? Oh my goodness. So Danielle, if you can get Sal back up on that couch that would be awesome. And then what I want you to do is keep physical contact with Sal when she gets up there. Just kind of keep a soft grip, kind of a soft, yeah. It may or may not, it might take her a minute. Come on. Hey, Sal. Like what do you want me to do? I'll jump over it. (Sal barking) Up, up, up. So do we escort her tush? She's okay with that? Mm-hmm. Oh, so see if we can guide her. I'm gonna give you a couple of treats as well. See if we can guide her onto the other end. Hi, hi. There you go. Farther down? Yeah, I think laying down or sitting up would probably be better, but we'll deal with what we've got there. Good, and then once you've got her there, if you can scoot over a little bit towards, I know it's tricky. Yeah, perfect, yeah, good. And now I'm gonna take over as treat giver, and kind of let her know I'm here. Yes, ma'am, thank you, awesome, okay, good. So I'm gonna have you guys look at the camera first. Right, okay, so I'm gonna have you do that first. What's this, what is this? (toy cat meowing) Want a treat, look. What is it, what's that, a kitty cat? Is that a kitty cat? So I'm just gonna remind you that I've got this treat here. She's doing good, okay, good. Yeah, you look great. Stay connected with her. I'll let her adjust, that's good. And if she will get closer to you with her face. Her face? Yeah, we'll do that, but I'll take a couple of shots here. (toy cat meowing) (camera shutter clicking) Aww. (Grant babbles) Lights. Lights. Good job. And then since I've got a couple, I'm gonna check my exposure here and adjust a little bit. That's good, and let's see, I'll take a couple more here. That's good, really kind of lean into her. Hey. Hey, where's the kitty? Have you seen the kitty? (toy cat meowing) You have a kitty. Want a treat? (blowing raspberries) What is that, that's a broken balloon? Good. Cookie patrol. I think what I'd love to do is have Sal sitting next to you. Sitting, okay. Yeah, sitting up next to you, so we'll see if we can make that happen. You're such a good girl. Can you sit? (Grant babbling) Here, you might have to give her that. There's the kitty. Good. Good girl. Here, can you get that? Can you move a little bit closer? She doesn't really like-- Okay, then maybe you could scoot over there. Yeah, I can do that. Yeah, that's perfect. Yeah, good, she's doing a good job. Can you stay sit? Can you sit? Yeah, that's good, you stay, you stay. And maybe put your arm around her that way. Yeah, that's great. (imitates dog whining) Look, want a treat, want a treat? You want to see to the magic light. That's the magic light. Good, maybe give Sal a kiss, that's good. What, yeah, I saw it, I saw it. You're such a good boy. And then maybe let's see if Grant's willing to stand right in between the two of you, so it might be cute. Can you stand? Is Sal sitting or standing? Laying down would be okay. You're taller than Sal, can you stand up, no. Sal, you stay, and Grant you can stand, okay. You know like how we stand on our couch. Oh-oh, you lost a shoe, we lost a shoe. Okay, maybe we can go shoeless. Yeah, that's okay. See, look. Over there, yeah that is mama. Pretty, I'm pretty. What are you saying? I'm pretty. He's kind of a narcissist. He's says I'm pretty, you are pretty. That's cool, stay, good, okay, awesome. You're pretty. Like this? Uh-huh. You want to give Sal a hug? You give Sal a hug, can you pet her? Can you pet Sal? Here give me the balloon for a sec. Can mama take the balloon? Stay, okay. That's a risky move, mom. (laughs) Can you give Sally a hug? Can you give Sally a hug? Yeah, oh, can you give a hug? Oh, that's so nice. Bup. Bup. Does Sal have soft fur? Where's Sally's fur, can you pet Sal? We'll get it. (faint speaking) Good job, buddy, good job. Let's try to get Sal to sit, I think that would be awesome. Can you sit up, so good. I'm gonna move her collar around, that's good. Can you stand, buddy, can the birthday boy stand? Has anybody seen the birthday boy? Who's the birthday boy? Where's the birthday boy? Can you try to stand for me? Let me see how tall you are. You're taller, please stand, please stand. It might be a good opportunity to get a shot of the two of them together alone. Okay, ready, ready to stand up? Ready, we're gonna see how tall you are. Good job, okay. Whoa, you're tall, you stay, you're tall. (Grant babbling) Ah, boo. (laughs) Where did Grant go? Oh, that's brilliant. He's gonna pop it on his face. Hey, buddy, can you stand, can you stand? Please stand up on three, two, one, stand. You're gonna pop it. Oh-oh, oh-oh, where's the light? Is it gonna come on? Oh-oh. Oh-oh. Lookit. That's good, okay, good. All right, bud, well, why don't we try standing again? Can you try standing again? There we go, there we go, whoop. That was cute. I know you want to break that. I don't want to have you breaking it. Get rid of it. I don't want that to pop in your face. We could have you maybe sitting here and having Sal sit next to you. Okay. Yeah, let's try that. We'll see what happens. That's okay, she's been so good. We're gonna bring Sal all the way over here, yeah. And then kind of the idea is that maybe Grant will follow. We gotta move forward with things and then see what happens. There you go, up, up, up, up, up. Come here. Up, up, good. Yes. Turn to Sally. With that, does the light have more direction over here? Yeah, it would probably be better over here for space wise. Can you just jump over your brother? Can you come here for a minute, come here. Can you go see Miss Norah? Come here. Go see Miss Norah. Kiss the balloon, kiss the balloon. Okay, over here. Great. Closer? Ideally, yeah, but if it's not gonna happen, it's okay. Stay, come on, I'm gonna move your bum. Momma's gonna move your bum. Yeah, and if she'll sit, she's amazing. Isn't she so good, ready? Yeah, that's good, and you could put your feet inside there maybe, yeah, mm-hmm. And then you can love on her from there. Yeah, that's good. Let's tuck your hair, pull your hair back for me. Yeah, that's great. I'm gonna give her a treat, okay. Yeah. Follow through, good, excellent. That's really sweet. Hey, Grant. Hey, Grant. Here, why don't you look at Sal for this one, yeah, and give hugs, yeah, that's sweet. What's momma doing, is momma hugging Sal? I love Sally, I love Sally. Let's see. (toy cat meowing) The light went on. Can you play peek-a-boo behind Sal? Can you say peek-a-boo? There we go, peek-a-boo. Oh, that was good, nice. Okay, that was good. We're gonna give her a two second break while we move this couch. I think we're gonna try something a little bit different. Actually, let's see, I'm changing my mind. Hold on a second, sorry. So let me have you sit on the couch there and I would like to get, since she's there, yeah, and just kind of get some more, just the two of you there. Move over, bud. We love you. Just to give him so we don't want to ask anything of him for right now, so yeah, that's good. (toy cat meowing) (Norah imitates dog whining) That's pretty mellow. That's good, give you a treat. Did you get breakfast today? She did. Yeah. So I'm gonna turn the light off for a couple of the shots, and try to get some natural light shots here. Good, so you can just love on Sal, there you go. Poochy, that's good. That's good, and just maybe you can put your cheek up against her, yeah. Be careful with your hair. Oh, that's sweet, look. Come sit. Okay, look. Can you give your momma a kiss? Okay, give momma a kiss, give momma a hug. Aw, that's good. Okay, I think we're ready to move the couch over a little bit. Where would you like it? Let's move it that way. Just completely out of the way? Actually before we do that, maybe I could do the tripod idea here, yeah. So he likes to run, right? He does. Grant, okay. So I was thinking we would try something where I get Sal to sit on the couch and then maybe you guys are kind of running around just to shake up the energy a little bit, and so you might be blurry. I'm gonna put it on the tripod and just try it. It may or may not work, but I think it would be worth a try just to shift up the energy. That is mine. So I'll just get my exposure right. You want to run and maybe take his socks off if you're cool with that. Here's your up, down, over. Up, down, over. It'll go lower, right? Yeah, you want it lower? Yeah, I'll lower it. Do you want the couch to stay there? I think so, we'll just try this. I'm gonna go fairly wide. Maybe lower it, no, this is okay. You okay? Yeah, I'm gonna tilt it to the side though. Should I level it for you on the front? Yeah. Norah, what is going through you mind right now? You're maintaining calm, but there's so many factors and things that are moving around. Yeah, so I mean it's a lot to juggle, right? There's like a two year old who's an amazing little guy but he's not so much interacting with Sal yet just 'cause that's his age. It's totally normal and typical. So really what I'm thinking is how can I juggle Grant's energy as well as incorporate Sal into the images and so I'm thinking of what I can do. So if I keep doing the same thing and expect different results, it's just not gonna work. We gave that other sequence a good try and I think we got lots of good images from it, but I'm gonna switch gears. Sal's drinking some water, so it's a good break for her. And while she's doing that, I'm setting up a new sequence where I'm thinking maybe Sal can be the one stationary and then mom and Grant can be running around together and have a little bit more freedom to run around and just show some blur and just have fun with that. It's kind of just a creative option. It may or may not work and I feel like it's worth a try. So we're gonna do that next. Awesome. So first I'm gonna get my exposure set up before I involve Sal at all or you guys at all. So I'm gonna take a second to do that. So I'm gonna shoot at about a 30th of a second. I'm thinking that's what I'm gonna start with, and that's gonna give me more potential for getting Sal still, since Sal's not really a super active dog. It'll give me that potential, so I'm trying to find a sweet spot with the exposure and ability to capture Sal still. So I'm gonna start at a 30th of a second here, and I'm gonna keep my focus on Sal. So it's gonna work, it's gonna be amazing. Let's just put it out there. And I'll take a couple of test shots. We're not going over the top of that. I want to make sure that I'm happy with my frame first. Is someone sniffing me? Okay, and so I'll probably need Danielle to help me with the couch situation and help me with Sal on the couch. So, this is steady, right? I'll give you a couple treats. She's going off camera. And I know that Maggie said that Sal doesn't really like being on that crack. (speech drowned out by Grant screaming) Yeah, so I looked at her maybe on this side. There's a little bit more light. If we can move this, it would probably help with the quality of light just a little bit. So we'll put Sal over there, and laying down is fine. Do you want her to face this way or this way ideally? Like her butt end can be anywhere, probably over here. Butt in the crack. Oh, no, over there. Okay. Water break. And this isn't something I'm gonna spend a ton of time on. It's just something to try real quick and see how it shifts the energy. We don't have an expectation of Grant, and it's just kind of a different sequence. She's fine, you're fine. Okay, so Meg, you're gonna need a nap after this. I know. So I'll just ask you to try to see if you can get him engaged and run around to capture them. And then, Danielle, I'll have you try to get his gaze over here. Is everything okay? Yeah. All right, and probably sit seated. She looks a little slouchy, so maybe in a sit would be probably more ideal. (faint speaking) That's good, and she may not do that, that's okay. Sit. Okay, ready? Ready. I'm ready when you guys are. Momma's gonna run, momma's running. You're fine, stay, stay. Momma's running, get momma, get momma. No, you gotta go this way. Get momma. Grant, Grant. Stay, Sal, you're good. And try not to separate too much from him, Meg. This way. Choo choo, choo choo. This way, come on. You want the balloon? You gotta get it. Get it. You gotta get it, come on. One more round, that was good. Okay, that was good, great, excellent.

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!