Photographer Spotlight: Kim Levin

Circle dogThis blog was posted before our name change to For All Animals.

Kim Levin is a photographer who specializes in pet portraiture. Her company, Kim Levin Photography combines her passion for photography and her love of animals. Kim has published 19 books including the best-selling Cattitude and Why We Love Dogs. Kim’s work has appeared in publications including People Magazine, Reader’s Digest, The New York Daily News, New York Post, Photo District News, Italian Elle, Modern Dog, and Bark Magazine. A passionate advocate of animal adoption, Kim has been donating her photography services and supported the MCSPCA, The ASPCA, Petfinder, and local rescue organizations for many years. Kim lives in NJ with her husband, son, daughter and their adopted dog Reilly. 

Tell us about Kim Levin Photography and Molly&Fig™. How did you first get involved with pet photography?

It’s hard to believe I started my pet photography business over 15 years ago. At the time, there were not a lot of photographers specializing in pet portraiture. It was an un-tapped market. I started off working with the ASPCA and the CACC in NY taking pictures of the animals needing homes. By 1998, I was photographing full-time and had my first book Why We Love Dogs published. 15 years and 19 dog and cat books later, I am still taking portraits of the dogs and cats in shelters.

I created Molly&Fig™ about eight years ago after my book Cattitude was published. Molly&Fig™ is a line of greeting cards and gift products for pet lovers. It features the combination of my black and white photography coupled with humorous text written by a terrific writer from Chicago named Megan Colleen McGlynn. The greeting cards and magnets are licensed through Calypso Cards, and are available in stationary and gift stores nationwide. We also have new dog and cat easelbooks with Brownlow Gifts and are working on developing a Molly&Fig™ gift book line with them as well.

Combo2You are extremely generous in donating your time to support local animal shelters and rescue groups raise awareness of their missions. What motivates you?

It’s funny how everything comes full circle. I have always been a huge advocate for pet adoption. I essentially started my photography business because I wanted to make a difference. My first photography project was called Create a Home, and those images were the initial images I took at the ASPCA to help promote adoption. I have always felt that a good photograph of a homeless dog or cat can make all the difference in finding a permanent home. I have worked with many shelter and rescue organizations over the years including the ASPCA, the Monmouth County SPCA and St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center on fundraising projects including calendars and print advertising campaign raising awareness about how rewarding adoption is.
CatsOut of the thousands of images you have taken over the years of shelter pets, is there one that especially captured your heart?

This is a tough question. It made me take a look through the many years of ASPCA and Monmouth County SPCA calendars to see if there were one or two animals that stood out to me. Last year I photographed the MCSPCA 10th anniversary calendar and there was a hound dog named Marvelous Marv who I adored and fell in love with. I also have such great memories of those first few images I took at the ASPCA back in 1996 when I was first developing my style of photography.

Wrangler_driving_lowYou photographed Photographers for Animals board member Patricia Jones’s cat, Lizzie B for your book, Cattitude. Like most felines, Lizzie B. can be quite contrary but you put her right at ease and as a result, the images were stunning. What tips can you share about working with skittish cats in a shelter environment?

Each year, I go into my local shelters and take photographs of the cats. My approach is similar to how I approach photographing cats in their homes. I try to use natural light if possible mainly because I have found that using a flash with cats really frightens them. I also try to photograph cats in a private room or cattery so that they feel comfortable in their own environment. So my approach is very subtle and I wait until they look relaxed and comfortable. It takes a lot of patience but it makes all the difference. I do get playful with them – I use a wide-angle lens so that I can get up close and become a part of their world.

Ragan_citycover_lowThe summer is great time for pet photography—beaches, blooming gardens and sunny days make great settings. What’s your favorite time of year to photograph our furry friends?

I love photographing on the beach, but my favorite time of year is in the autumn. The changing of the leaves and season make for some great portraits. Even though I don’t love the winter, a good snowfall also makes for great pictures.

paperbag_logoWhat advice would you give to a small shelter or rescue group that does not have anyone on staff adept at photography?

Two things: One is to develop a relationship with a local photographer who is looking to promote themselves, while also giving back to the community. It’s a win-win for both the photographer and the shelter. The second idea is to have the shelter invest in an entry level DSLR (i.e. Nikon D40 or Canon Rebel) and perhaps having a staff member consider taking a beginner photography course at a local community college. I have taught photography for the past five years at Brookdale Community College in Middletown, NJ and many of my students were aspiring photographers who simply wanted to learn how to take better pictures. Some of my students weren’t interested in being professional photographers, rather they just loved knowing more about their cameras. And many of them loved photographing animals! There are so many small shelters and rescue organizations out there to help.

Combo2What’s next for Kim Levin Photography?

I recently took a family trip to Alaska and as you can imagine, the sights were amazing. We went to two Iditarod camps where I had the opportunity to photograph the Alaskan Huskies. I am having a photography exhibit this November at the Monmouth County Library in Shrewsbury, NJ showcasing my landscapes and dog portraits from the trip. The show is titled: ALASKA: Landscapes and Dogs from the Last Frontier.

We are also hard at work on our Molly&Fig™ line of greeting cards and gift products. We have two new releases a year and showcase our line at NYNow (formerly the NY Gift Show) at the Javitz Center this August. Lastly, we are developing a line of Molly&Fig gift books for May 2015.