Skip to main content

photo & video

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Lesson 20 of 31

Making The Session Personal & Comfortable For Pets & People

Norah Levine

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

20. Making The Session Personal & Comfortable For Pets & People

Lesson Info

Making The Session Personal & Comfortable For Pets & People

So, when it comes to doing the session, why is that intro time so important? That time that you walk into the space and start engaging with your clients. As I mentioned, I have the list here so I always review my list right beforehand, make sure I remember everybody's names and that I've just refreshed with the information that I've discussed previously in the pre-consult appointment, or phone conversations, anything that we've had leading up to that point. So it's your first impression, your first, second or third impression, and everybody's excited, they're anticipating what's coming. They invest in these, these sessions cost them money, so they're invested in it both on a financial level and just on an emotional level. They want their pets to do well and they wanna get great images, so that first impression is really important, where I go in and I kind of keep it easy. We chit-chat and, sure, in my head I'm thinking oh, when am I gonna start? I have that stuff going on back there, b...

ut I have to keep it enjoyable and relaxed for them so their energy stays relaxed, so the pets are comfortable, and we just start things off on the right foot. So, I wanna talk a little bit about ways to make the session personal with the client. These kinds of opportunities can help you when it comes to sales, but also feeling, kind of for the experience as well. I think it's really valuable to have moments and even if you're in the studio or something, some kind of item or environment that really could be looked back upon years later and kind of incite a memory. So it brings people back to these moments of oh, remember that couch we had, or that chair, or that painting we had on the wall, like some kind of memory that has the power to pull us back into that moment of our lives. 'Cause our lives shift and we move, and the dynamics of the situations change, and so there's, I think, a huge power in the ability to make our sessions personal and incorporate, when possible, personal elements in the home and things that are personal to the client, as well. So some of those things like hobbies and interests, so getting to know your clients. These pictures are for your clients and I love the animals and I want the animals to enjoy the pictures, too, but they really are for the people, so if there are ways to make these images incorporate their interests, if they like hiking with their dog, and things that they do with their dog or their cat, that's really valuable. So I'm always asking questions about what the people are interested in and what they do, because that all adds in to what the possibilities are for me as a photographer and can help me generate ideas, as well. So it helps me bring out some details that maybe will be of interest to them and showing home accents. I don't care what kind of home you have, or an apartment or anything, there's always an opportunity and a way to make something special for somebody and to really show what their situation is and what their style is. And here's a couple examples. He had this tattoo of a dog paw and he was really proud of that, and we were in an apartment and he had his puppy there, and so that was something that he really valued this image for that reason, was just kind of a connection that he had, had gotten that tattoo for in honor of his dog. So that was a fun way, kind of an example of a personal element. Now these things don't always present themselves, but where they're possible, I'm definitely gonna for it. This is a situation where, when I was scouting, I walked around the house and I think there were a bunch of newspapers in this box and the woman collected antiques and she also was a quilter. And so those kinds of questions, asking her what she was interested in, and noticing things as I was walking around the house. I actually don't think she told me she was a quilter, but I looked around and I pointed out, oh, did you make that, and I'm asking questions, I'm really being engaged. Noticed this by the couch, full of newspapers. Oh wow, that's really interesting, and she told me a story about it. And so, no, it's not directly related to the pet, but it became a prop that I didn't bring from my car and put in the kitchen. It was something that was already there and that was, sure it was lucky, but it was also because I was paying attention to what I saw as I walking around the space and having conversation with her. So there's an antique of him giving the stink eye. (audience laughs) So this is an example where there was a, I think it was the grandfather's chair. There was actual, personal connection to this red chair. And so I had to photograph the dog in the red chair and this photograph was that much more meaningful to the clients for that reason. I love it when that happens. So it's important with your pets just to constantly have this awareness of energy during the shoot, and you'll see in the footage today, and also in the footage from the studio shoot, where you have to pay attention to what they're doing and how they're responding to the situation, and make sure that you give them lots of breaks. And when you're giving those breaks, it will give you more longevity for the sessions. So even though it seems like you're stopping a lot, it'll get you further and give you more opportunities to create more images. And also stopping and playing and loving on the animals. Unfortunately, my job is not to love on animals for two hours, but it's part of it. I need to really engage with them and give them attention as much as I can throughout the session. So, take care of them. Yes, ma'am. A question on that, a little bit more. Like you do you know, exactly, when to take those breaks for the kids or the animals? Like what are some of the signs that you look for? Is it a gut feeling? So sometimes you can pay attention to the animal's behavior. So if, for example, you're trying to get them to be in a space and they don't wanna be in that space, they don't wanna be in that space, and you start noticing them yawning a lot, or shedding, or those physical behaviors that we talked about. Maybe they are shaking a lot, you just see them trying to de-stress themselves and I'm noticing those behaviors, I'm specifically speaking to dogs at this point, but you can see it with cats, too. They'll lick their lips and just look unsettled and if they continue to look that way for a period of time, some of it is intuitive of saying you know what, I've tried what I can try for now, and I think I'm not gonna get anything great out of what's going on currently, I'm just gonna try to give this pup a break or the cat a break and then come back to it. Sometimes I do hear comments, too, from the pet parents. So if the pet parent's involved, I'll hear comments either under their breath, or maybe not speaking to themselves, of like, oh, I think he's worried, or I think he's really stressed. And I'm gonna pay attention to that because I hope I would pick up on that to my intuition first, but sometimes the pet parent might say something and that's my cue to say okay, sure. We can take a break. 'Cause I've gotta be responsive to them so that the people are comfortable too, because if they're stressed, their animal's gonna get stressed and I also want the overall experience to be really positive. So hopefully that answers the question. Absolutely. And that's exactly it. Do the pet parents also need those breaks because they're stressing that their pets will or won't perform. And so being able to pick up on that is huge, as well. Yes, I think that sometimes they might use it as an excuse for them to get a break, if they're feeling stressed or tense, and that's totally fine, if they need a break too, that's okay. So there's a lot, there's that anticipation there. I will say, there are times when, I don't know, I've taken like three frames and somebody's like oh, I think they're done, I think they're okay. And it's like, well look. In those moments I have to step out of my, I have to put my courage coat on and say hey, you know what? I totally agree, let's take a break, and if you're up for it, I've gotta push a little bit more, and if you're okay with it, it seems like she's okay, if you're okay with this, after a break I would like to take more, because I really wanna give you as much as I can. My commitment is to you, and they're hiring me for a product, a final product. And in order for me to be able to do that we're gonna have to kind of stick with it. And so I might take time to say that, those kinds of things, and also say, it's okay, it takes time. It takes patience and really just let people know, especially ahead of time, what to expect. And then throughout kind of navigate that and encourage them as we go along. Right, I mean I think we have to remember that we are the ones who need to be educating our clients. We are the experts and that's what they're looking to us for. Do you ever get those moments of the kids in tears, throwing tantrums, do you kind of push and capture those before actually letting them off the hook? Funny you should ask because actually that was exactly the scenario we had and we'll see some footage of that and how we navigate through that. Because it is part of it and if I stopped at every point when it was easy to quit, I would have nothing. I would have a few pictures to show from every session. So, yeah, I have to push through.

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!