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Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Lesson 12 of 31

Live Family Shoot: Single Family Member

Norah Levine

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

12. Live Family Shoot: Single Family Member

Lesson Info

Live Family Shoot: Single Family Member

Pets are our family and it doesn't matter what that looks like for your family, and it kind of goes beyond the large group shot. It's like there's only so many full family group shots that you need in a given session too, and so my preference and my love is focusing on the individual connections and those individual relationships. So even if I'm photographing a family of five I'm still gonna separate it out as much as possible and really get that connection and focus on those individual relationships. Hello! Come on in! Buckster, your famous! Hi Chelsey, thanks for-- doing this (faint speaking). No problem. That is a stick if I've ever seen one. That is a stick. He likes big sticks. (faint speaking) so yeah! So I forget my cheat sheet, but tell me about Buckster. He's an Alaskan Klee Kai. He's extremely smart. He is hyperactive. He loves to play. He has a fear of over the head petting. He's not really a cuddly dog, but he'll respond to treats. He responds to play. He loves to...

play. He loves dogs. Does he like to be held? By me, yes. By you, okay. And I can hand him to other people and he'll be held. Okay. Okay, okay. Yes, he does. Alright, and what about heights? Does he go on things? Chairs, tables-- Yes. He's very cat-like. He will jump on anything. (faint speaking) on a table. He'll go on the table. He'll go on the back of the couch. He'll go-- Okay. Anywhere you tell him. He likes heights. Okay. How fun! Okay cool. We'll finish sitting up, and we'll let him kind of (knocking) roam around a little bit. He's so cute. He so cute. And yeah, I'm gonna try a couple of different ideas. Oh, good job thank you. So, actually think a... The pillows. Yeah. Yeah, we can have them. The pillows are fine. Yeah. (whispering) So he's pretty treat motivated right? Yes, very treat motivated. Here (faint speaking). Hi. (faint speaking) Maybe we could take, maybe the collar off. Yeah, if you're comfortable with that. Of course. Will you come to me? Mama. Good. Norah. Yeah. There's definitely a question that had come in about when do you leave the color on versus take the clear off? Is there a method? I generally prefer to take the collars off, unless there's like, if it's really bright, or shiny and new, or something that's really important to the pet parent. Maybe it's really special or unique. And in those cases I'll leave the collar on if I feel like it's adding an eliminate of color, contrast, you know, something like that. But otherwise, I like the naked dog pictures (laughs). (faint speaking by man off-camera) Yes, that's great. Now we're friends, now we're friends. And then maybe we'll get that table scooted over a little bit. To use it. Yeah, we're probably gonna use the table but not in this particular shot. (rattling) So, I was thinking, it would be cute to have you sitting, just hang out here, and if she'll go up here with you, that would be really sweet to kind of get you engaged there. And the closer that you can get the better. So your face is together. And I probably will use a fill card here. So if we could get maybe a ladder and a large fill card. I don't know how Buckster with the fill card. (faint speaking) okay. (faint speaking by Chelsey) (mumbles) what about noises and stuff, toys? (faint speaking by Chelsey) Okay, good to know. (faint speaking by Chelsey) Yeah. He's not afraid of noises. He will respond-- Okay. So good to know. You want this right about here you said. So we're gonna be about seeing it from this side, yeah. I'm over here. Is that gonna work for everyone? Yeah, and maybe a little bit closer to her. Yeah, so. So do you have nicknames for him? Snort. Snort, isn't it funny how we always end up with nicknames for our pets. Now all I need is a camera and we're good! Sweet! Did you want the ladder as well (faint speaking)? No, I don't think I need it. I just wanted that. Maybe we could pull that fill in even closer if you could. So. And that table is actually in my frame. Yeah, sorry. (rattling) So I'm just gonna get dialed into where... I'm just gonna take some test shots before I tell them what to do, but so far (mumbles). But... (camera click) Let me get my exposure right. We're a little dark here. So (laughs). Oh, that's cute. (faint speaking) (squeaking) So I'll have you look at him. I love the way you were just engaging with him and playing. That was really sweet. The hard thing about when you're engaging is making faces. We all do it when we're playing with our animals, so just try to focus on just smiling and being present with him versus making, you know, talking so much. Does that make sense? Okay. (faint speaking by Chelsey) (camera clicks) That's cute. Good. So I'm gonna make a squeak and have you look at him. Great. (squeaking) Ooooo! (camera clicks) And get real close to him if you can. That's good. Get cuddly. And maybe you could put your arm around, yeah. Perfect, sweet. (faint speaking) Ooooo! (squeaking) Cute! Good. That's cute. So the next one, I have you kind of get your face in there close. It would be really cute to have like nose to nose. Was he doin' like the touch? Yeah, that's what he does, to the touch there Yeah, okay. So he could do a touch and I can grab that shot. That would be great. (faint speaking by Chelsey) So wait till I'm ready. Yep. Touch. (camera click) He does it so fast. (faint speaking) give me kiss. (faint speaking) (camera click) (Norah laughs) Give me kiss. (Nora makes gibberish noises) (faint speaking) give me kiss. Come here. (faint speaking) Give me kiss. (kiss smack) (camera click) And you can love on him, yeah, just be with him, yeah. Who's here? (squeaking) (Nora laughs) I know, it's too much, right? That squeak is a little bit too much, so. You're so good! You're so good! So let's have you sit. Come around here and sit on the edge of the couch, facing me, yeah. And then I'll have you hold him if he'll let you. Come here. Buckster, I have a treat too. Hop up! So just be sure to kind of keep your grip kind of relaxed, yeah, and since he'll fit on your lap that's perfect! He can just be sitting on your lap for a couple of shots, or even standing is really cute. He's so tiny (laughs). That's good. (muffled squeaking) (camera click) Oh that's great. That's good. (faint speaking) awesome. (laughs) Is this the relationship (laughs). That's how it's gonna be. He can sit there, that's cute. Pound it. No. Pound it. No. (camera click) That's cute. If he'll let you be kind of close and snuggly with him, that would be great. Yeah, I'm gonna get in a little bit closer. (camera beeps) (camera clicks) Awwww. That's sweet. Nice. Yep, you can look at me for a moment. Yep, that's perfect. Let me just check my exposure here. Yeah, that looks great. And just keep your face when you go next to his face, keep your face a little bit forward so I can have you in the light. I might move around a little bit too. Oh he's so good! That's sweet. (camera beeps) (squeaking) (camera click) That is good! And then then get on level. That's good. And just with your hand, I know we wanna pet, but when we pet we do like that kind of claw ends up, so just keep it soft, and yeah, perfect. (camera click) Ohhh, the baby. (squeaking) Ooh, the baby, that's good, perfect. (camera click) Nice (squeaking) Ooooo! (squeaking) And you can let him down and run around for a second. We gotta take breaks. We'll do it in spurts. So that's good. Awesome. (faint speaking) a little round there. I think maybe next we'll do, let's see, even just right here by this brick wall, would be cool if you were holding him up there. Buckster come here, Buckster. Maybe come, let's pull this, perfect. Let's actually, let's actually, I'd like to see him on that table, since he will. So let's do that. So we have just a few minutes left, so I'll just grab. (faint speaking) camera. Sure. Yeah, so I'm thinkin' if the couch is moved up. (scraping) Yes, that'd be great and I'll move this guy. So I love these pieces of foam core. I have these giant pieces of foam core I bring with me to my locations and they're really great and easy. They're really cheap so they make for great reflectors. (metal scraping) Hello! Yeah. That's perfect. (faint speaking by woman off-camera) Yeah, let's put the couch back a little bit further. You're amazing! And so we have some options here. Buckster! Sometimes it helps me when I'm trying to tell people, like get ideas for posing, to like be there myself, so, it might be cute, 'cause it's pretty deep here, if we could get Buckster on the table here, and have you kind of like engaging this way. So your body could be over here. Let's try that! Alright. (faint speaking) hop up, come here. Another camera. That cute. (camera beeps) (camera click) Yeah, and you can like nuzzle 'em and maybe if you can kind of, it'd almost be like you're sniffing his ear, you know. Like, don't put your whole nose in his ear, but like, you know, sniff him. Yeah, that's good. (laughs) (squeaking) (camera clicks) And you can look at me (faint speaking). You guys look so cute. (camera beeps) (camera click) (squeaking) (camera click) Perfect. I'm gonna get (mumbles). Oooo! (squeaking) Oooo! (squeaking) Great! Good. Thank you. That was good, really good. Thank you. I think we're good. Yeah. So, you need anything? I was just gonna say, let's see the pictures! Okay sure! We could do that. (faint speaking by man) Yeah. So Buckster, needless to say is amazing. (audience laughter) Yeah, so I really liked, we have the sidelight coming in, and it just made like, I like to keep the lighting really... I like to choose lighting that gives me freedom to move within the space without having to readjust my lights all the time. Because that just takes up my energy. It takes up the animals energy and the client's time. So that's why I feel like natural light is a really good way to go. So we had some fun interaction shots here, and I'm making a conscious decision to try to get his attention when I wanted it and made sure that I was directing Chelsey and letting her know what I wanted in the situation, like where to look, because we all need to be directed. So, they had a really sweet playful relationship and that I'm hoping shows up in the images, and I think it did. I love the brick background and I thought it really helped Buckster stand out. And I'm getting some in between shots and that's totally fine. And here, like sometimes she looked at the camera, and I wasn't really ready for her to look at the camera, and so my focus was on Buckster and I would prefer it to be on Chelsey in some situations, so that happened a couple of times, but that's okay. And we've got our little cable in the background that I probably would just retouch out of there. But these are sweet, sweet moments here. This, I had a little bit too much shadow on Chelsey's face, so I was trying to find a way to get kind of in the front. And even though they're interacting and she's lovin' on him it's like I still want him to be engaged and kind of perked up. So I was using the squeaky toy to do that and just navigating my way around each scenario. Yeah, and that last little section's kind of fun. I wanted to back off a little bit and just show the scale, 'cause sometimes when I photograph so close, you don't really get a sense of the size, and so Buckster is so tiny, I just wanted to get that feeling, that sense of (faint speaking) images. So that's why I chose that arrangement there. So, yeah, lotta fun! I have one question that so many people have asked you, and what is the belt that you wear to keep all of your little (faint speaking)? This is a fancy belt from Home Depot. (laughter) Probably like five-dollar item. So anything, I have my bag of tricks which holds a ton of stuff, but having something right near me to access with treats is a huge help, to have everything right near you. It doesn't have to be a photo specific dedicated piece of equipment, but this is just something, like a painter's pouch here. So, easy. That was a lot, right. It's a lot to juggle and I just wanted to kind of mention that it might seem like I'm totally calm and cool and collected on the outside, but inside, I'm thinking about the client expectation. I'm thinking about what's next. I'm thinking about what's happening in the moment. So it's a lot of things to consider at once. Some stuff that went right, some stuff that went wrong. It try not to spend time thinking about what just went wrong so I can move on to have the opportunity to do something great and just be ready for the next thing. So it's a lot. It's a lot to juggle. I just want you to be aware of the fact that even though it looked like I'm super-calm, because you have to be for your clients, and for the animals, you really have to be calm on the outside, but that there is like an internal dialogue going on in my head about, is this going okay? I mean, there's judgment. There's also the technical things I'm thinking about, and there's kind of judgment of like is this gonna work. There's a lot going on in there. So I just want you guys to know that, that's happening for me. So if it happens for you, if it doesn't great, but if it does, it's totally something that's normal but you can work through it, so it's great. Since you guys were patiently here in the studio so that we could keep sort of the space with the fewest people for the animals, any final questions about what we just did in that session. Go for it. So, I noticed when you were shooting in there that you used a lot of furniture, and when you go into people's homes do you take any special precaution because I've had an animal have an accident on the furniture and like fortunately, they were super-cool about it, but is that something, that you can put like blankets or anything you would do to prepare or what would you do in that situation? If something were to happen. Yeah, I mean I almost-- But for (faint speaking). Had a heart attack when this dog peed on the couch, and it was just kind of like, you know, what do you do-- Yeah. Is it your fault or is it, you know, I always ask permission before anybody or before a dog goes anywhere. Okay this is what I'm thinking, is it okay with you but, as far as I mean, especially (faint speaking) talking about business, is that like a liability thing and insurance thing, oh my God it just happened thing? It's an interesting question. It's not something that I've really given a ton of thought to in terms of being nervous about it happening. I kind of feel like if you're gonna do newborn pictures, like the baby might pee, like it's kind of part of the process, and I really would take it on a case by case basis, so judging who are the clients I'm working with? Do I get a feeling like they might be really stressed out if something happened? Are they very protective of their furniture? 'Cause sometimes people are like, oh they're fine, they're allowed anywhere. And if they're gonna let them do that on a regular basis then it's no one's fault if something like that happens, and most people, I think will be really understanding. So, I mean if there is a client with really high-end furniture, for example, I might bring it up, okay, this might happen, if that's okay, you know, just if you're willing to risk it. It's kind of on them, you know, but wouldn't wanna take the fun out of being to have freedom to move without the home, but some people, say, "No, the dog's not allowed "on the furniture.", and in those cases, obviously, you respect those things. But, yeah, I wouldn't not do it moving forward 'cause you had that one incident. I mean, that sounds like a pretty rare occasion too. But, yeah, does that answer your question? Okay good. Any other questions about what happened? So that situation was definitely kind of rushed. It was like we we're moving from one group to the next. In a normal situation, for me, I would spend a couple of hours with them and maybe not in a studio setting, but I would have more kind of flexibility in time to really work ideas. Like there were some ideas if I had more time, I would've done, but we were kind of limited on some of the time, so but for what it is we wanted to give you lots of different types of animals so you could see how we work through each one of those.

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!