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Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Lesson 6 of 31

Pre-consultation: Getting to Know Your Clients & Their Pets

Norah Levine

Integrating Animal Photography into your Business

Norah Levine

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Lesson Info

6. Pre-consultation: Getting to Know Your Clients & Their Pets

Lesson Info

Pre-consultation: Getting to Know Your Clients & Their Pets

Pre consult. So I wanna talk to you a little bit about what my workflow is and how I approach dealing with new clients as potential new clients, as well as new clients. So it usually starts, I get a lot of emails and phone calls but most of the time people will send me an email. I try to respond really quickly to people just to let them know that I've received their message and it's a priority for me to communicate really well with people, so that's really important. I definitely wanna focus on the value and the experience. So when somebody calls me and says, how much do you charge for this, you know, I try to focus on, well, what are you looking for? And get to know them a little bit and steer it away from the price conversation right out of the bat. Start talking to them about their pet a little bit. Ask some questions like, how do you have to photograph? Are you gonna be included in the photograph? Set up the expectations of what I would do. I'm looking to basically photograph a por...

tfolio of you and your pets together, so this isn't just a one snapshot and I leave, so you're gonna be getting, you know, I'm investing my time to get you lots of variety. We'll talk about location a little bit, what their expectations are, then I'll share the investment over the phone. I share all my pricing stuff with my clients right off the bat because I don't want there to be any surprises. I wanna be really transparent about what's involved. I feel like I make these rules and I've had this workflow of step one, do this, step two, do that, and I think it's really important to generate a flow for yourself so you don't veer, so it's just easier for you to say okay, when somebody emails, I will respond to them within 24 hours and if they don't email me back, I will follow up via email one time, or call them and follow up and just kind of get yourself into a good system so you're not reevaluating what you do every time. But then it's gonna have to adjust based on clients. So I sometimes have people call me and their in a big hurry and I kind of tell. So I'm not going to keep them on the phone and ask them 50 questions. I might wait until I meet them in person to get to know them and their situation a little bit better. That interaction initially can really vary on the person and sometimes I never hear back from people. I'm sure a lot of you, if you're already working in photography already experience that. I definitely follow up at least a couple of times and initially, just keep it kind of low key. I don't send anyone a questionnaire initially because I feel like it's not very personal. Although, it would be easier for me to have a form fill where somebody fills it out online, I feel like that's an opportunity for me to start to develop a relationship with the client and that's important for both the experience of the shoot, as well as, the sales really. So I keep everything very personal, not that I don't communicate by email at all, but I try to keep things as personal as possible. I kind of just get to know their needs and ask questions over the phone and once they've booked, I'll send them information about the expectation, like here I'm gonna do the shoot and after the shoot you're gonna be getting images online and we'll talk a little bit more about my process later in the course so I can get very specific about what I do after the session. But I let people know, here's what you can expect. The shoot takes a couple of hours and we really do this and don't worry about it if your animal doesn't perform. We will make sure you get images that you're really happy with or we'll do another shoot. So I kind of dispel that concern that people might have and then we set dates. I get people to commit to a schedule and then I send them paperwork, just have a process that I've kind of honed over the years to figure out how to set things, keep things flowing with people, keep people committed to schedules and really set the whole thing up for success. Encourage people to not reschedule, encourage them to get excited about the process and start collaborating with me as the photographer and get excited about the shoot. So the process kind of starts when we start interacting. I will do them over the phone but for the most part, once this client has booked a session, I will go to their home and use that as a scouting opportunity and an in person planning meeting. That's really the time for me to talk about wardrobe, expectations. I can ask them questions about their pet and that's really when I dive in to finding out their relationship with their animal, really get to know the things, words that get their dog excited, are they treat motivated, what's their temperament and really get to know those questions. I don't usually ask those questions on the phone when they're booking the session, it's really afterwards. I try to stay really positive about everything, dispel their concerns, build confidence and get them excited about it. Also bring my sales information and kind of go over with them what I do and what I offer. Just so, I think people have a hard time reading things in email sometimes so I really just show them and answer their questions and meet their pet. It's a great time for me to see what the temperament's like and what my interaction is with them. So I think that's a huge part of my process is meeting those people and animals beforehand. One of the biggest questions that has come through is about what do you do with pet owners who are overactive in your session? So a lot of owners maybe, perhaps, thinking that their helping, but maybe perhaps, actually harming the process. So perhaps they are, you know, they think that they know the best. How do you manage that scenario? Yeah, I think the biggest thing is to have those conversations ahead of time. Because it saves you from having a moment where you're trying to do something and their being overbearing, I don't know what you call it. They're excited and they want to help. They're intentions are always really good. So I've learned that preparing them ahead of time and saying hey, so sometimes, I'm gonna be working by myself and if the dog's really engaged with you that might be great but sometimes we might need to take a break and I might actually, if you're okay with it, have you step out in the other room and see if the interaction can shift a little bit. I have to be very, very clear while I'm communicating with the pet parents. I think that's a huge part of it is saying, this is what I need you to do and I'm gonna try to get their attention and really direct them. It's a huge part of the success of the shoot. Setting that up ahead of time is a key element. Cause otherwise, you're in the middle of it, you don't want to say, can you just back off? However you say it, you don't want to offend them, you don't want to hurt their feelings, you don't want to make them feel upset about it. So, setting that up ahead of time, I think is a really important, just sharing with them the process. Look you can not think of every single thing before you go into shoot but as you gather the experience, you'll start to make notes for yourself. I have notes, it's like, oh next time for dog shoots, okay, I'm gonna read through those sometimes and just refresh my memory in case I need a refresher on how to interact with people and things to set up with a client ahead of time. And I just want to point out to everybody who is watching that the questionnaire that is part of your process in interacting and setting up these shoots with your clients and doing that ahead work is included as part of this course when you do own it, when you purchase the class, as well as, some other bonus materials but that is super comprehensive and Nora, it's exactly what she does. So it takes you through all of those questions that you want to have in place the answers to before the session. Now, one of those questions on there, you mentioned that you do, do some scouting. Do you have any tips for people if you're not photographing in the studio or in their home but say out in a park or on trails or what have you in terms of what to consider? Sure we're gonna talk a little bit more about photographing on location but for the people that are doing the parks and trails, I think scouting is a really valuable thing. I used to show up on the shoots and expect myself to evaluate the shoot, make a decision, talk to the client, interact with the pet, like all in the same moment. I feel like that's a lot, right? It's like, why do I need to do that to myself? So, scouting is an opportunity to, whether you're photographing in a home or not, is really just kind of get yourself in that space of what's my approach because as soon as you get out of a car at a park and you meet your client, even if you're there a little bit early, they show up, there's this interaction and then there's an expectation that you start, right? It's like, there you go. So for me, picking a couple of locations within that spot is really helpful and I always take pictures with my phone ahead of time and I review them before the session just to kind of get myself mentally into the space of what my plan is. Yeah, I think that's a big part of it. Great tips. Maybe one more question before we go to our break and then our photo shoot with our animals. This is from Sally who says, when it comes to dogs with a high level of energy, do you recommend engaging them in play sessions before photographing or do you photograph them at play and then work them getting to strike a particular pose? I think it really depends on the client's goals. To be honest, most people don't end up putting, like if their goal was a wall portrait, for example, most people will not choose a play or interaction shot for that wall portrait, unless it's something that they tell you they really love about their pet. Unless they may be an agility dog or something like that. So most of the time, people want portraits that a little more, not formal but a little bit more posed. So I would have the owner take that dog for a nice walk beforehand and then if I felt like I needed to engage with them and get them into kind of into a more settled space, then I would definitely do that but I'd try to get, I'll encourage an owner to take the dog for a walk beforehand and that information comes out in the pre consult when I ask questions. Or maybe I saw the dog and I can see, wow this dog's really high energy. You might want to take him for a walk beforehand. I don't want them going to doggy day care beforehand and coming back and sleeping the whole time. Even if a dog is high energy, I want to capture their personality. I mean, we have a younger dog today that hopefully we'll get to be photographing and that's gonna be, you know, I don't want to pretend like that dog is ten years old. I want to definitely show that young element. We just want to contain it enough to make it workable for the pictures. So Nora, what an incredible, packed first session that was, I think the animal behavior part is so important. I highly to continue to watch that again and continue to learn about animal behavior because like you said, that is the key to getting these beautiful portraits. Let's talk about our next segment or the next two perhaps of the photo shoots that we are going to do as we move over into the other photographing spot. So, what are we gonna see you do? Yeah so, first we're gonna photograph dogs. So we're gonna do solo dogs in the studio and then we're gonna do some solo cats and kittens. That part will be, it will be interesting and it will be fun. There will be lots of opportunities for me to talk about maybe what my expectations are. Initially, what I want to have happen and then I'm gonna try to focus on the process as much as I can. I might talk to camera a little bit to share what I'm thinking as we're doing it. But if I don't, don't worry. We'll go over it afterwards. Normally, I want to end up with my clients in a regular session, I usually try to end up with a minimum of 25 images, 25 to 40 images that I want to share with them. Today's gonna be a little bit more of a mini session environment, just so we can hit on a lot of learning points and we'll review the experience afterwards. We're gonna talk about what works, what didn't work and some things that I didn't know where gonna happen cause there will be plenty of that, I'm sure. Before I got into shoot, you'll see me when we go into the studio, is I will review the notes from my pre consult interactions with the clients. After I've asked all those questions, I literally keep notes and I will write down, okay this is who they are and it's not that I'm shooting such a high volume that I forget who they are but it's really good to get into that space of like, okay are they treat motivated, are they toy motivative, are they nervous? You know, get myself in that space. So I will be reviewing my notes for everybody that we work with and I'll be considering, as I'm photographing before the shoot, in general, what the client expectations are and what their goals are. I'll take opportunity to connect with the pet and pet parent at first, if they're around. Most of the time, I'm just gonna be working with these solo dogs individually but we might have the pet parent on the side, if we need them.

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!