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Pet Portraits: Dogs, Judy

Lesson 7 from: Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

7. Pet Portraits: Dogs, Judy

Lesson Info

Pet Portraits: Dogs, Judy

So we're in the studio now and like I mentioned before, a studio environment isn't my typical go to location, but we've set this natural light studio up more kind of along the lines of a living room space. So, as I mentioned before I'm gonna try to get a variety of images and normally I'll try to get maybe 25 to 40 images to share with my clients. And what we're gonna do today is talk about my expectations and then what my goals are for the shoot, and then go through them afterwards, kind of dissect the shoot and see what happened. So, starting out I'm gonna talk about, I'm gonna consider what the lighting decisions are going to be. And you know what kind of light I'm gonna be working with, am I going to be able to work with natural light situation or am I going to need some extra light, like a studio light? I'm gonna try to keep it really simple for this first setup and use natural light. It's pretty bright in here, and that'll just give me a lot of freedom to move around quickly and ...

get lots of great pictures of Judy. I'm gonna set my priorities here, that's something I talk about a lot and it's really important to me. It's like priorities in terms of my shutter speed, where my shutter speed has to be in order to stop motion, if that is a priority for me, what the lighting is looking like and mainly my main priority is making sure that Judy looks good. So, that's gonna stay on the top of my list. We're gonna do some test shots of the location before I put Judy in there just to make sure that I'm really ready and I don't wanna waste Judy's energy by getting test shots, 'cause I know, have some limited energy on her part. So, I'm gonna be going to set my priorities and I'm gonna try to get some closeups here. I'm gonna do a full body shot, maybe get some details as well and something that kind of shows the environment around as well as something unplanned. Because no matter how well I planned, I think sometimes the best shots are the ones that aren't planned. So, let's meet our dogs. We've got Judy over here. She's ready. Oh, I wanna talk about, as I mentioned before, when I have my pre-consult meeting with people I ask them about their dog. Tell me about their dogs interests, and I know what I've learned about Judy, I've got my notes here and I refer to them right before my shoot. So this Judy over here is a pug, she is gorgeous, she loves snuggles, scratches on her chest, and treats. She dislikes brooms and vacuums, so we'll keep those out of the studio for sure. And I asked about words that might get her excited and so I've got those are you hungry? Do you want a treat? Are you crazy? Are the three words that Judy's mom has told me get her kind of going. So, I know she's very treat motivated. So I've got that in my notes and I've got some treats in a little pouch here so I'll be using those. Yeah, so I've had a chance to kind of get to know her a little bit, spend some time with her. She's settled into the space and sniffed around everything, gotten to know the smells and I've interacted with her a little bit. So that's important to kind of give that time for her to settle into that space. So I've got a few ideas for her. I love her coloring and I'm just gonna get started and as I come up with some things that I feel like are worth noting I'll definitely shout them out to you. All right, girl. What do you think? So first I'm gonna use the treat to kind of get Judy to connect with me and kind of remind her that I'm the one that has the treats, so she knows that I'm kind of an important person to be around, so I'll let her know that I have them. We brought her bed in here, which I can definitely do some cute shots in, and I actually might start with that since she's already there. I'm shooting tethered today. So, I don't normally shoot tethered when I photograph pets and that's because a lot of extra wires can kind of get in the way. So I like to keep things really simple, but for today's purposes I'm gonna shoot tethered. (camera beeping) (shutter clicking) So I just kinda shot a quick test to get my exposure right. (tongue trilling) (clicking) And she's sleepin'. Hey dog, come here. Hm? Sit. (humming) Oh that's good. (exhaling) Cute. (tongue trilling) Cute, so I wanna make sure I reward her so she doesn't go all tell her friends that I'm a scammer. Okay I'm gonna put my camera down and get her. Maybe Danielle if you wanna get kind of get her over there into that chair. I wanna give you a treat, just so I can stay situated. Thank you. So I'm gonna have her hop up. I like this colored chair here Up, up. and the white background, so I'm gonna get her up there. Up. Come on, up, up. Come here, up. Yes. Good girl. Good. Perfect, yeah. Good girl. Excellent. And now I'm gonna reengage with her and let her know that I have the treat. Sit, yes. (growling) Good, whoop, and that's okay. She's gonna pop down a little bit and we'll do this a couple of times and she if she's stay. (grunting) Up, up. Up, come on. I love the noises. Yes, stay. Stay. (camera beeping) (tongue trilling) (whistling) Yes, good. I wanna keep her up here for a few frames, play around with the composition. Sit. Stay. Yes. Good. (camera beeping) (deep exhaling) Yes, what a good girl. Sit, sit. Oh, thank you. Good, let's go, up, up. Up, up. Danielle I might have you-- Want me to help you-- Yeah, thanks. Up, up, up. Good girl. Sit, sit. Sit, good girl. Yes. So she's doing great. I'm gonna try to get her a little bit kinda more perked up. And I'll try a couple different things. (honking) (whistling) (sniffing) Good girl. Okay, that's good. That was great. So not every dog reacts to every noise the same way, and I just try a lot of variety. So I'm gonna mix it up. The key is being sporadic and really trying to give her a lot of variety. And I wanna give her love in between the pictures and make sure that she's havin' a good time. I think she's good, so. That's good. So I'm just gonna get a couple more shots here and then I'll move on to kind of a different look. Actually might, Danielle, I might have you turn the chair around and I think she's gonna be okay with it while she's on there and if she's not-- Want me to turn this way? Yeah, let's turn it that way if you wouldn't mind. Stay, stay. You want a treat? Let's have it totally angled. Maybe I'll try for a profile shot. Okay. So I'll have you get her-- Yeah, I'll put her up right here looking this way. Yeah, that would be great and then I'll have you with a treat. Can I have a treat? Yes, you may. Thank you, okay. So we try to get a profile shot here. Up, up, up. Up, up, come here. Come on up. Up, up, up. Good girl. She's got great sound effects. Stay. Oh that's so good. Stay, stay. Good girl, stay. Stay. Stay. Great, okay give her a treat Good girl. Good girl! That's perfect. That was good. So a lot of times I'll start out pretty wide and then I'll move in and try to get as much variety while she's in the same spot just to break it up a little bit. So that was good. Okay. That was good. The other thing I like about having a chair is that it kind of contains, contains them a little bit more. Kind of, this is a big room and a big space, so it gives them kind of a place to just be. All right. So maybe I'll change perspectives a little bit and if Danielle you could get me a ladder. Okay. I'll do that. So I'm gonna try to do as much as I can within, with just this one. See how I can get as much variety as possible with just this one chair and one space. You're being so good. Her little tail's waggin'. Yeah. Can you sit? Whoops, oh shoot. What's that? What's that? (humming) I'm gonna hold the treat right by my lens. That's good. I'm gonna increase my ISO just a little bit, look. (clicking) (mimicking whimpering) (honking) Yes. (deep exhaling) Perfect. That was good, cute. Awesome, so I'm gonna give her a little bit of a break now just as I regroup I'm probably gonna move to a new spot and give her a little bit of a break just to be kind of chill out for a second. So, good job. Come on, okay. Good. So let's see. I think for our next trick, I think she might sit. Sarah, she'll sit on that ottoman, don't you think? I think she would, so. Where do you want the ottoman? The ottoman, I think we're gonna do that with against the cool metal background. So let's do that. Get setup there. About right here? Yeah, let's bring it out even more. Yeah, I wanna blur the background a little bit more. So. Yeah. She's doin' good. And she might need some water, too. Give her a minute. She's also got her bed there. I think this is a good point to kind of talk about the flow of the shoot. Like I don't know what I'm gonna do at every moment of the shoot. So, I have some ideas and then I kinda have to let it flow a little bit, and I think that's okay. I feel like part of the stress can be this need to go from one thing to the next thing, to the next thing all the time, and it just doesn't work like that. So if you find yourself in a situation where you're in a shoot and you're a little bit stressed out or you need to regroup yourself and just kind of collect your thoughts, and it's totally okay, and it's a really good excuse to give the dog a break and let them do their own thing for a little bit and so it's just a win-win for you to regroup and reconnect with what you wanna do next. So, while Judy has had a moment and I have as well, we'll do our next thing; I'm gonna have her up on this ottoman and it doesn't always work. My visions and my ideas of things that I wanna try, they don't always work and I'll give it a good try, but I have a feeling that she was pretty comfortable on that chair. So, I have a feeling she's gonna go for this, but we'll see what happens. Treat. (clicking) Come on. Yes, good. I'm gonna give her just little bits of treats, 'cause she's a tiny girl I don't wanna overwhelm her with treats. Do you think she'll jump up here? Yeah? Up, up, up. You're amazing. Up, up. Yes, okay sit. Oh, good. That's good. Unlock my camera, make sure I don't trip on the cable. Stay. Thank you, perfect. Stay, look. (humming) (mimicking whimpering) (clicking) (sniffing) Gotta check my exposure. (deep exhaling) Oh, she looks so good. Oh, you blinked, you blinked. Oh, you're being good, you're being good. (clicking) (humming) Want a treat, want a treat, want a treat? Are you crazy? Are you crazy? Are you a little crazy? Oh, that's good. Awesome. You a little bit crazy? Oh I like her little snaggle. Good. Perfect. Good, okay, that's good. Lay down, can you lay down? Can you lay down? Lay down. Lay down. (grunting) Oh, she wants to get down. Up. Lay down. Lay down. I got nothing. Lay down. Yeah, that's good. Stay, stay. (growling) Are you growling at me? Stay. You crazy? You crazy, are you crazy? Want a treat? Yes, oh that's good. Perfect. What's over there? What's out there, who's here? Who's here? Someone here? (humming) That looks great. (camera beeping) Wanna go for a walk? Wanna walk? (humming) (mimicking panting) Awesome, cool. Great, oh good girl. Good girl, okay. Good, okay, up. That's good. Awesome. So she's doing really, really great. And I realize not every dog is gonna respond to the same things. Not every dog is gonna sit when I want them sit, and so, and that happens and it's fine. So, but she's doing great, so. Can you talk a little bit about the different squeaky noises and those tools? People would love to know what those are, where you get them, that stuff-- Sure, so I have acquired a collection of noise makers and attention getters over the years, and it's basically just an opportunity to offer variety because dogs and cats will get desensitized to things pretty quickly, so I need to have a full bag, like an arsenal of tricks. I think the biggest thing is my mouth and the noises I can make with my mouth, because that frees up my hands for other things, but otherwise the squeaky toys you can buy squeaker replacements, they're I think by a company that makes them is Kong makes them. But you can just buy a pack of those and have those. I find that using toys in general kind of gets them more engaged with wanting to get the toy itself and can become a little bit distracting. But, I also use, let's see what's in here. I use, so here's the squeaker, the inside of the toy replacement, so they're really great. And one thing I really wanna stress is that if you use one of these things or anything that you're gonna do, you have to do it really sporadically. So if you squeak and squeak and squeak and squeak, the dog's just gonna get disinterested and desensitized. So, you wanna use it really sporadically. And one thing that I've found is hiding it behind my back and bringing it out kind of creates, generates a sense of interest that can be really effective. I also have, you know I buy these indestructible toys for my dogs and they destroy them in about five minutes and so the inside of these rubber chickens work really well. And rather than bring out a giant rubber chicken on my shoot, it's better and easier for me to put one of these, put the inside of the rubber chicken (honking) noisemaker in my mouth while I'm shooting. So that's really effective. I also have these little, I might use this a little bit later and use different toys that make noises as well. So just gather, build your own collection as you go along. Awesome, well before we bring in the kittens, can we have you take a look at some of the images and let us know what went well, what you would do differently, that would be amazing. Yeah. Thank you. Well, Judy was basically a rockstar. So, she did such a good job. I think what I felt like in this room was nice to have a space for her to be kind of contained, like I said. On the chair was a really good spot. I'm kinda, so I really like the way that the green chair gave her a lot of contrast, so that was really nice. I noticed sometimes just offering the treat didn't get quite the reaction that I was looking for, so it was kinda more of a straight on look, and I really wanted to get her that curious look expression on her face, and so I found making the noises definitely worked and trying different things with the noises made her respond differently. So I was really happy with that aspect. So I just played around with some of the composition. Let's see, what didn't? I took the opportunity to kind of do a simple, a simple profile. So that wasn't something that I had planned on doing while she was in that chair, but it was something that kinda popped up once I noticed it happening, then I planned on, I kind of made it happen with the help of Danielle. So, that was good. And she got a little bit of distracted. There was some noises outside. There is some construction going on and I think there were some moments where there was some distraction. And that happens too if you're in homes, it's definitely less likely to have kind of external distractions, but and it can be a bigger deal if you're like at a park or something for example. There's lots of extra external distractions. So, yeah, and we got some blinking shots and some kind of stink face shots, but I think she looked beautiful and I was really happy overall with how that went. So, she was a stellar subject. So Norah we have some questions that are coming through as well about Judy, and so the person asked this dog Judy has a pretty short distance between eye to nose. Do you adjust the aperture to start depending on the length of the snout in general? Or do you start shooting pretty wide open and then just focus on the eyes? So, can you talk a little bit about how you approach settings wise and focus wise? Sure, so my approach in this scenario I wanted to especially with like the metal background, I wanted a limited depth of field. I wanted that background to blur out and become a little bit more abstract. So my priority when I talk about setting priorities, it was like that was a priority for me over making sure that her muzzle was in focus. So I was focusing on her eyes. I always focus on the eyes unless the intention is to highlight a detail. So, there were a couple shots in the end where I was focusing specifically on her muzzle and in those cases the shallow depth of field, I'll have to find those a bit later, but it was an intentional choice there. But, I don't really overthink the focus. If it's really important, for example, if there's a muzzle that has a lot of great detail, I mean I might really shoot at a you know, larger depth of field to make sure I get all that detail that I want. But, it's not always something I overly analyze when I'm doing it. So if, a question had come in, if Judy hadn't stayed there and been such a rockstar, what would you do if she was kept running around the studio and would it be the noises? Would it be, I noticed that you didn't actually like walk over and ever pick her up and put her somewhere. Yeah, I didn't have to pick her up, but I certainly would have as long as it was okay with Judy's mom. I would check in first and communicate is this okay if I pick your dog up? 'Cause some dogs are not okay with it or they have sensitive hips. So if Judy wasn't interested in being where I wanted her to be, I think the best thing I would've done is kind of given her some space to get comfortable within the environment and then if she were really nervous I would wait until she would settle into a space, and then I would photograph her wherever she would settle, and that would be the best case scenario. It's just, you know, I gotta deal with what comes to me and it's not always ideal. Sometimes, you know, it's less than ideal lighting. Sometimes it's not the background that I wanted, and it's at the point the priority shifts from the background that I had in mind to just making sure I get some decent shots of the dog in their environment where they're comfortable. If I chase them around the room and I corner them, it's just gonna make things worse and I'm not even gonna get any shots at that point, so.

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!

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