Viewing Fusion

Including Pets in Your Portrait Business

Saturday, July 1st, 2017


Including Pets in Your Portrait Business with Norah Levine

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Pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family. They’re certainly part of mine. Pets are often included in day-to-day activities, brought along on vacation and some pets even go to work with their pet parent. Each year, Americans spend a tremendous amount of money on pet food, bedding, toys, daycare, veterinarians, boarding, training and grooming. Pets are a big deal.

Including pets in your portrait sessions is a smart way to add variety, additional income and a hearty challenge. While I am not suggesting that every portrait photographer needs to become a pet photographer, including furry family members in your work is a fun way to expand your offerings.

As a portrait photographer, you should always look for reasons to give clients a “call to action” for scheduling a session. This article gives some call-to-action inspiration.

Behavior (Yours and the Pet’s)

Before I jump into some of the ways you can filter pets into your portrait business, a note about behavior.

No matter what you do, pay attention to the animal’s behavior—how it is reacting to you, your gear, lights and the general situation. I won’t dive deeply into animal behavior in this article, but use good judgment. It doesn’t matter how incredible your idea is—stressing an animal or putting anyone in danger is not okay and won’t get you a winning photograph.

When I photographed a dog with a family recently, I quickly learned that the dog was terrified of the lights (the owners had never used flash around the dog before, and weren’t aware of this). While I was disappointed I couldn’t continue to use my lighting setup, I had to adapt and move on with the shoot. Adapting is a large part of photographing pets.

Pets and People

People of all ages are often calmer in front of the camera when they have their pet with them. Focusing on their beloved animal allows them to forget about the camera and let their true self shine. Self-conscious individuals often relax and children often forget about overposing for the camera when Fido is near. While adding pets to any type of photo shoot can add a layer (or three) of complexity, it’s well worth the effort.

Maternity Sessions

I always hear from new and expecting parents that their pet is their first baby. Documenting this transition professionally and creatively while their first pet baby is still the only “baby” in the house can be valuable. During this time, there is a lot of emotion and excitement involved in the shift in family dynamics.

Your client may not initially contact you about including a pet in their maternity session, but you can make the suggestion (also add it to your portfolio), and they just might be thrilled about the idea.

Not all of the images in your session have to include fur babies, but you’ll be glad to have more options for your client both from a creative standpoint and in sales. Consider photographing the whole family together, looking at the camera and also engaging with one another and their pet.

Create images where the pet is engaging with the momma-to-be’s belly. Hide a treat in the expecting momma’s hand or ask her to connect with the dog or cat using special words or sounds to capture the pet gazing at their momma. (You can also ask your assistant to give you a hand with the attention-getting.) These sessions can be a lot of fun, and the couple will look back at these images with fondness.

Newborn Sessions

I love photographing lifestyle images of families as they welcome their new precious baby into their lives. Your clients are in the midst of a huge adjustment in their lives, one that many couples want to creatively document. Since pets in the family are adjusting to the new addition, including them in the session adds a layer of challenge, but if the situation is conducive to it, give it a go.

I have seen many photographs with both babies and dogs, and they’re quite sweet—but they make me nervous for safety reasons. I prefer to include pets and newborns in more of a lifestyle situation where I am not holding my breath hoping that the dog doesn’t accidentally knock over or harm the baby. I love dogs and cats, but they are animals with instincts and a level of unpredictability I’d rather not take chances with.

If you decide to closely pose a pet and a newborn, clearly communicate with the pet parents. Have a spotter on hand (preferably one of the parents) to keep a close eye on the pet’s behavior.

Another solution is to ask Mom or Dad to hold the baby and have the dog or cat positioned on the floor, couch or bed. The pet may be super interested in the baby or not at all. Where possible, encourage physical connection of the pet parents with the pet. Including pets in the frame on any level tells the story of this family and this chapter of their lives.

New Pets

New-pet photo sessions can apply to families with young children, couples or individuals adopting their first dog or cat. When a new pet arrives, a bundle of new memories is created that deserves to be captured by professional photography. You can document the day of adoption or arrival to the home, or have a session just a few weeks after the pet has had time to adjust. This is a very special time, another valuable call to action to keep in mind in your portrait photography business.

First Pets 

All pets leave their mark on our hearts, but first pets are a huge deal. This can be your client’s first pet as an adult, or an elderly pet with whom they spent their childhood. These animals have been there for them during their formative years, and the photographs from these sessions are like gold to them. This is an excellent reason for a portrait session.

Children Sessions

Pets are often like siblings to children. If you already specialize in photographing children, adding a pet to even part of your session can add a layer of sweetness and value for your client. Photograph the pet and child playing or cuddling together, or engaged in their favorite activity.

Depending on the age of the child, you can encourage interaction with their pet. Make it a game. Ask them to tell the dog a secret or offer the pet a treat if it sits. If you ask them to handle the pets in any way, encourage soft, gentle movements so as not to scare or annoy the animal.


If you photograph stock imagery, consider using pets in your work. So many households own pets, and pet imagery resonates with them. You can create playful images of pets individually or pets being involved in everyday life. Pay attention to the commercial imagery you see that includes pets.

Attracting the Work

We all know by now that we need to show the kind of work we want to get hired to create. If you want to start including pets in your portrait business, start generating imagery that demonstrates your ability to do so. You may try it out and decide it isn’t your thing, but if you are an animal lover and are up for a challenge, consider these and other ways to expand your portrait client options.

Adding Fifi to the mix may require an extra hand and will likely lead to some new skills. Practice till you’ve learned how to conquer the challenges of working with lighting, composition, directing, camera settings—and a dash of fur.

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

5 Tips for Underwater Photography

Saturday, July 1st, 2017


5 Tips for Underwater Photography with Michael David Adams

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the July issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

I have always had a great love and appreciation for water in all its forms, whether it’s the vast ocean or a calm inviting sea. My love for the tranquil visuals of water led me to underwater photography.

In 2010, while honeymooning in Croatia with my wife, Viktorija, who is a native of the beautiful coastal Mediterranean country, I had my first taste of underwater photography. A childhood friend of hers who is a scuba instructor and underwater wildlife photographer took us out to one of the many beautiful offshore underwater locations of Croatia.

It was at an ancient shipwreck right off the coastal town of Omiš, where my wife spent a lot of her childhood. We were free-diving in water that was 10 to 12 feet deep. It was easy enough to get to the bottom with the aid of a weight belt. A completely new world opened up in front of my eyes, and new photographic concepts came rushing to mind that would not be achievable without being submerged in water. As I stood on the bottom of that sea, with schools of fish swimming around me in the crystal-clear Croatian waters, I knew that this experience would be life-changing and add a new level to my photography and career.

My Underwater Setup

Equipment and lighting issues are always the two biggest questions I get about underwater shooting.

There are lots of different methods. I shoot underwater with the Nikon D800E and a 24–70 lens. I prefer zoom lenses because they allow you to change your perspective quickly. In the underwater environment, I find it works best for me if I’m as flexible as possible. In an instant, an unexpected movement or body position might look incredible at a different angle or lens perspective, and since you can’t change lenses, it’s best to have as much coverage with your lens choice as you can. I stay away from very wide-angle lenses because they distort the body too much. Wide lenses might be better suited for open-water situations rather than controlled pools, where I do most of my work.

If you are just starting out and have a small budget, the large Ziploc-style bags can be an option. But when you are ready to make a serious move, it’s time to invest in a hard case with more precise controls.

I use an Ikelite housing with an 8-inch acrylic dome. The larger dome is great for less distortion overall, especially toward the corners of the frame. It also improves or removes color aberrations.

The Ikelite housing is nice, as it affords you the opportunity to see inside the case to be sure everything is okay with it and that no water is leaking in. I look forward to upgrading my system soon to the Aquatica or Subal cases. The internal gears are precise and effortless. Another great quality of the Aquatica case is that you can change the strobe port adapters for your lighting cables to accommodate different lighting systems, making it more versatile for multiple applications and environments.

When it comes to lighting, I keep it simple. I have a few Ikelite heads that I use underwater, and if I need any extra lighting topside, I use Profoto, which I also use for studio and location work.

Underwater Photography Technique: Style

Flowing material is one element in underwater fashion photography that is always inspiring to see, as it is in studio and location shots. Achieving beautiful billowing fabrics underwater is challenging. I do a few practice runs with my models first to see how the material acts underwater, and then decide the best course of action.

Underwater Technique: Lighting

Remote sync/radio triggers do not work underwater, so you’ll need a comprehensive set of cords and adapters to make all your lighting work the way you want it to. Always make a plan and diagram for your lighting well before the shoot. Test all adapters, cords and strobe heads before your shoot, and check all rubber O-rings for any wear.

Underwater Technique: Execution

Another thing to keep in mind is the physical dimensions of the pool you are shooting in. You need enough room when working underwater, especially if you have multiple people down there with you. Pools that are 10 feet deep work the best for me. With a proper depth, the models have plenty of space to get their bearings and enough mental space to do the things that are asked of them. You will want to have some crossbars or a sturdy truss over the pool, or, if you’re on a budget, the foam float noodles will work, so the models have something to hold onto between shots to conserve energy.

Underwater Technique: Communication

It’s very important that you communicate clearly with your models before entering the water. They need to know exactly what you expect from them before making the plunge. Once you go underwater, a funny thing can happen to your brain. It’s easy to forget everything you were thinking about before you broke the surface, so take it slow and talk through your goals. I do breathing exercises with the models before we go under so we are in sync. Having everyone use oxygen equipment makes it easier, but then you need an even higher level of communication.

A Word About a Few Collections

Snow Drop is a series from my Story-Teller project and something of a collaboration with New York-based fashion designer Morgane Le Fay. These are the latest images from my underwater collections.

The series explores the story of what is now more commonly known as Snow White, but in this collection, I have gone back to the original fairy tale entitled Snow Drop from Grimm’s Tales. My vision and concept was to show Snow Drop when she was rendered unconscious by the Peasant’s wife (the Queen incognito) who poisoned her. I portray her state of mind and awareness of her situation.

In “The Witching Hour” she is having an out-of-body experience, floating above the forest where she had been poisoned. We see the gown from Morgane Le Fay floating with all its beautiful layers. In “Lucid Descent,” we see her consciousness during the same moment, knowing that she had been poisoned, and is portrayed submerged under the surface of the creek running through the forest (the water symbolizing the barrier of her consciousness); as she sinks deeper into her mental darkness, she’s more awake and aware than she has ever been. It highlights the details of the delicate garment.

Heavy Like Rain is a series focused on the lone silhouette of a woman in stark black-and-white contrast. We can feel loneliness and solitude, but at the same time, we can interpret these images as displaying power and confidence. This series highlights jewelry as the fashion element, from necklaces to belts and full-arm bracelets and cuffs. It also plays with the elements of air bubbles and how they can assume the role of adornments of the face and body. They define the shape of the body, as if it is encrusted in jewels. I played with the abstract in this series. In an inspired moment, I photographed the chaotic nature of the surface reflections to masterfully take these images to another place.

Visit and to see more of my work from these and other collections.

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3 Wardrobe Hacks to Take Maternity from Mundane to Magnificent

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017


3 Wardrobe Hacks to Take Maternity from Mundane to Magnificent with Casey Dittmer

Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.


Maternity portraiture is quickly becoming a steady niche in the industry. But as the popularity grows, so does the market oversaturation and the increase in competition for clients. Create a dynamic look and style so you stand out in the sea of maternity shooters.

This month, I show you options for getting started in creating a stylized maternity look. You can always purchase gowns and accessories from vendors that offer popular looks; you can enlist the talents of a seamstress to sew a custom look for you; or you can follow these three hacks to quickly get you that stylized look without breaking the bank. These simple methods can get you on the road to building your own custom wardrobe.


The Swim Suit Hack

When we began offering our Goddess sessions, I couldn’t afford to have a gown made, so I made due with what I had. I knew that creating a structure for the top of the gown would be the most difficult. I wanted to find a way to cheat the system and have it premade. Here is what I came up with.

  1. Go to a department store and find bikini tops that inspire you. Expecting mommas usually run a bit bigger in the chest, so I always buy a large. I’d rather it be a bit big and clip it in the back rather than too small. In the beginning, I kept it simple with solid colors, but don’t be afraid to play with textures and lines to create an interesting focus for the dress. (Bonus Tip: Pay attention to seasons. Go when tops are on clearance, and get a whole bunch. That way, you have several options ready for when you get inspired to create a new gown. You can also use bras and cami tops to achieve the same look.)
  2. Head to the fabric store with your new tops. You are looking for flowy fabrics such as chiffon, organza and soft tulle. Don’t worry about making a scene. Unroll it a bit and give it a whoosh. Make sure it flows and falls the way you want. Find a color that complements the top. If you don’t match colors exactly, that’s okay. You will never see the difference when photographed. Walk the aisles and see what inspires you. Buy three pieces of fabric, each 3 yards long. This gives you an adequate train to toss.
  3. You’ll need a needle and thread. You want a thread color that will hide in the bikini top and fabric, so don’t use white on black. Take the fabric on the short end and attach it to the top. Use a basic whipstitch or the tried-and-true in-out/in-out method. Gather it slightly as you go to create a pleated look. I start at the middle of the front and attach one piece along each side of the bikini. Use the third to close up the back. Don’t forget to leave a little slack in the back near the closure so when the top is undone, you have extra room to get it off and on. It’s okay if it drapes a little in the back. You won’t see it.


 Just Make It Work

Don’t get intimidated by a project because you feel it needs to be high-quality construction. Just make it work. Does it fit? Yep. Does it cover them adequately? Yep. Will it survive a few whooshes? Yep. All right, you are good to go. As you continue to build your wardrobe and try different techniques, your construction quality and confidence will improve. Here are some ways to hack the creation process.

  1. Go get yourself a damn glue gun. If you don’t have one, you are missing out. In a hurry and need to attach a whooshing train? Glue that sucker on. Need to add rhinestones to make a gown unique and higher end? Glue it. Glue guns are my go-to. It is way easier to make complicated accessories and quick fixes with a glue gun.


For our Midnight Maternity look at ShutterFest, we made a gorgeous gown for under $100. We bought a $7 mesh dress from Amazon and hot-glued cheap rhinestones, forming coverage across the chest and creating an ombré down the front. We grabbed a black tulle skirt we had at the studio and placed it around the model’s calves. It wasn’t attached, just held by the elastic waistband, creating an instant mermaid dress. We finished the look by creating a feathered collar in our hotel room using cardboard, a strip of tulle, ribbon and feathers (don’t forget your best friend the glue gun). Our look was complete couture, all without a single stitch. You can do this.

  1. Safety pins—don’t leave home without them. Even when we buy a beautiful gown from a vendor, we still want to customize it so other photographers won’t have the exact same look. Use the pins to add a tossing train, glam up the neckline or to temporarily adhere details to the bodice. That way, you can use a dress multiple times and still create new looks. In the interest of shooting to sell, take some pictures without the modifications and then quickly change it up. It adds instant variety to your session, and makes it harder for them to choose which ones to order…so they may as well buy them all. (Bonus: If a seam happens to pop, don’t panic. Grab a few pins and keep shooting.)


  1. Don’t forget: No one will see the imperfections. Raw fabric edges, glue drips, straight sew lines… for the most part, no one cares. You can’t see it in photographs. Don’t be sloppy, but also understand that the overall look is what is most important. We hear so many times, “You made this?” Your client will be so giddy about the level of service and thought it took for you to make them a custom look, she won’t care about the rough edges here and there.


Be a Rebel, Break the Rules

Think outside the box to create the very best looks and styles. Watch clearance sections and fashion trends, and always ask yourself: Can I get a bump in there? There are no rules. If someone says there are, break them. These dynamic maternity sessions should serve two main purposes: shock and awe your viewers, leaving a lasting impression; and give your client the supermodel experience, making her feel amazing about herself. Own it, and she will too.

  1. Stretch it, stretch it real good. Don’t be afraid to make everyday nonmaternity clothes work for you. Long-sleeve knit shirts, minidresses, lingerie—all of these things can easily be adapted to create a custom maternity look. Stretchy is best, but pay attention to items that don’t seem suitable. Find the bones, or base, of your look, and build it from there.
  2. Try to get the best bang for your buck on items you create. You want them to be adaptable to clients of different sizes. Use stretchy fabrics. Create interchangeable pieces. Mix and match. Reuse pieces in different combinations to keep your costs lower. We have several minidresses, tulle skirts and bra tops that can be used for both pregnant and nonpregnant clients. This way, our wardrobe makes us more money.
  3. Never underestimate the power of a piece of fabric. No sewing, gluing or cutting necessary. Tuck that baby up under a bra and whoosh. Let the wind hug the fabric around her body. Let it soar. Capture it flowing around her in a pool of water. The movement and grace that a single piece of fabric can add is simplistic and beautiful. Don’t overthink it.

Keeping it simple, at least in the beginning, is a good way to start. Any style or gown is enhanced by poses, lighting and location. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Get crafty. And, when in doubt, just tip, dip and—whoosh!


Want more information on this article? Get access to video content and additional supporting images. Launch the June issue of the magazine by logging in or signing up for a free account by clicking here. Shutter Magazine is the industry’s leading professional photography magazine.

The art of video

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

// The art of video


As I write this, I’m on a plane back to the U.S. from Ireland where my wife, Vanessa Joy, and I had the privilege of teaching photo-video fusion to a group of European-based photographers in Dublin. Anytime we teach fusion or “Video 101” as I affectionately like to call it, there’s this moment about halfway through our presentation where the light bulbs just start going on over the heads of audience members. You can see it happen. Faces get brighter and you can see the ideas and concepts clicking in. I can almost tell the moment that 2D-still photographers realize how storytelling is achieved with motion and the realization that they can do it. After all, we see it every day in television and movies but rarely do people stop and take notice of how it’s done. We are more apt to just sit and be entertained, and not question why or how a camera captures motion.

In last month’s article, I walked you through some basic concepts behind storytelling with video. I’ll quickly re-cap the basic points from that article and then put it to practice with some tips for shooting.

The idea behind a sequence in filmmaking is that several shots come together to form a scene. The shots are carefully designed to bring you into the moment and tell a smaller part of an overall story. As photographers who may be integrating fusion or some form of video into your workflow or products, effective sequencing can mean the difference between amateur, montage video presentations and well-polished, professional looking visual art. Movies look like movies. Why? Because things are done right.

Want to read this article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // March 2013 issue.

Video Storytelling

Friday, February 1st, 2013

// Video Storytelling



Applying your knowledge of photography to shooting and editing video can be a beautiful thing. A decidedly biased opinion coming from me, I admit, but there truly is great satisfaction in creating a successful juxtaposition between composition, light and subject, and then bringing that visual motion message to life within the fourth dimension of time. This dimension is the canvas for which visual storytelling manifests itself for our brains to interpret into a storyline. To accomplish motion storytelling you have to train yourself to think outside the static, bounded edges of a frame and start thinking in terms of frames running together. While adding movement to visual images may create motion, there’s more to telling a story with motion than simply adding it. In this two-part article, I’ll introduce you to the methods of storytelling using video, and then show you some of the basic ways to bring those methods to life onscreen. You can point your HD-DSLR and press record all you want, but if you aren’t applying basic movie-making techniques your intended story may be lost to the dreaded realm of amateur video that the viewer may instantly dismiss as well, “amateur.”

Following are a few tips to film your subjects or stories with purpose, a method for creating compelling motion images that captivate the human mind, drawing the viewer into a scene. That should be your goal…to draw the viewer’s eye into a scene.

Want to read this article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // February 2013 issue.

video fusion | the looper

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

// video fusion

On a cold February night in 2009 I was filming an Indian wedding in New Jersey. It had been a very long day and I found myself with nothing to shoot during a three-hour gap that my client had scheduled to break up the events that
make up a traditional Indian wedding celebration. While the guests were resting and the bridal party was changing outfits I filmed the entire ballroom table, got my set-up shots of the reception, filmed every possible angle of the venue and was eagerly waiting for the reception to begin.

Having just gone tapeless a few months before, I was beginning to experiment with off-loading my footage from the memory cards to a Macbook Pro I had just purchased. I hadn’t given any thought to producing same-day edits by myself or even sorting through my footage on a wedding day. It was mainly to clear up card space for the long day. I had done a few SDEs in the past but I always had a dedicated editor on-site to capture tapes in real-time who would edit all day long. This was the technology of the time back then.

In my boredom, I started going through my shots, mainly checking for focus and playability, and ensuring I had good material. I did, and a few minutes later I found myself opening Adobe Premiere Pro to see if I could edit some of this footage natively. I was curious to see if Adobe Premiere could handle the footage from my Sony Z5U HDV camcorder in real time. It actually handled the footage with relative ease so I mentally shrugged my shoulders and started trimming down some video clips and placing them on the timeline.

Want to read this article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // January 2013 issue.

Fusion | Free Photography Training

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

// Free Photography Training


Teaching fusion to photographers presents a wide range of challenges. The techniques used to produce quality video images are very similar to photographic techniques and photographers I instruct are usually able to wrap their heads around the concepts. Audio however, is a bit more of a challenge. Because of this, I tell photographers who are trying to learn video to completely forego audio at first and concentrate on what they already know (the visuals) in order to build confidence.

To understand the depth of audio, try to think of it like this: For photographers and image artists, there are several conferences and educational resources dedicated to the craft. WPPI, InFocus, PDN, PhotoPlus and AfterDark are just a few. Likewise, there are entire conferences that deal with just audio. This means that learning to work with audio requires absorbing at least the basics of a completely new and rather daunting skill set.

So in order to start learning audio for fusion, let’s stick to the basics. Audio will no doubt bring your final video product to the next level. The downside is poor audio will ruin good video images. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the imagery is, if the sound is bad the overall value of the presentation is immediately reduced. They may not be able to pinpoint why; they just instinctively know that what they are watching is not the high-quality motion picture they are used to seeing on TV and in movies. It absolutely takes them out of the presentation and
screams amateur. So here are some basic ways you can start producing clean audio.

Want to read Rob Adams’ article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // November 2012 issue.

fusion | photography training

Friday, October 5th, 2012


Technology in photography can be one of the best (and sometimes the worst) tools that we photographers can dream of, and the newer video capabilities in Digital SLRs are no exception. With the functionality in the new Canon 5D Mark III, 7D, 60D, Nikon D4 and 7000s, and pretty much every new SLR coming out, photographers now have HD video at the tips of their fingers. So should photographers ignore or embrace this latest development? Embrace and love it, of course!

Truth of the matter is that implementing video clips into your photography, or “fusion,” is really quite simple. It’s so simple in fact that a lot of high school students (aka your soon-tobe photographer colleagues) can practically already do it with their eyes closed. To be honest, I’m not so excited for my current photography generation when it comes to embracing fusion
as much as for the newer generation of photographers, for which most of their fusion skills are already second nature. With the younger generation coming into the photography world, fusion will easily be a common technique and from that point will only grow in creativity. Sooner than later the lines between photographer and videographer will blur and we’ll all simply be defined as visual artists.

Want to read Vanessa Joy’s article? Log in and launch this free photography training magazine // October 2012 issue.

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