It’s no secret that Barnard’s campus is home to a host of talented, passionate young women. One of them? First-year Sarah Leventhal, a self-taught photographer whose passion for taking photos of her her rescue pup, Lucky, gave way to growing Instagram account, @agent_00k9. HC Barnard sat down with Sarah to get her insights on everything from social media, photography, and giving back. Check out what Sarah had to say below!
School & Class: Barnard College Class of 2021
Hometown: Sea Cliff, NY
1.Tell us a little about yourself…and Lucky, of course!
I like to consider myself a self-taught photographer. I’ve never taken any formal classes, but my grandfather and my dad both do photography as a hobby and taught me along the way. My grandfather gave me my first camera, and since then I’ve been using photos to share my journey with people.
Most people who know me also know I love my dog, Lucky. He’s a Chihuahua my family rescued off the “kill list” in California a few years ago. He’s one of my favorite subjects, of course!
2. What inspired you to start your photography/dog Instagram, @agent_00k9? Also, what’s behind the name?
My friend’s convinced me to start the account, actually. And the name comes from Lucky’s training: When we adopted him older, so training him took a while, and we had to come up with a secret nickname so we could talk about him without him responding to us! “Agent 00” was the nickname, and it stuck!
3. What do equipment do you use for the pictures?
I use my Nikon D3300, usually with a wide-angle lens for close-ups of Lucky. I try not to edit my pictures, so I pay attention from framing, lighting, aperture, shutter speed…you can control so much about a photo even without editing!
4. What is your uploading process like?
Right now, I try to post one photo every day. I actually made my Lucky account and my personal Instagram at the same time, so figuring out the platform has been a learning curve. A huge thing I figured out at first was that you have to think of your feed as a square, and take mostly landscape pictures. If you take a portrait shot, I have to plan the cropping beforehand so everything important gets in the image.
5. What’s it like shooting with Lucky? Do you post him, or…?
Normally, I put him a spot and tell him to “sit,” but I let him sniff around, look at what’s around him. I love taking photos in my backyard or at points along our walk. One of my favorite locations is a little butterfly park in my town with lots of flowers.
6. It’s awesome that Lucky’s account is an affiliate with Geopetrics! What is the experience like working with the brand?
Geopetrics is a cruelty-free brand that produces vegan dog products. One of their brand reps reached out to me via Instagram, and we became connected that way. Being an affiliate is low-commitment, but it helps spread awareness about the brand. Also, Geopetrics donates 10% of their proceeds to animal shelters— Lucky’s a rescue dog, so it’s important to me to support brands that help other dogs in need find home!
7. Aside from your relationship with Geopetrics, what is your favorite part of running @agent_00k9?
I like it when people comment! I sometimes ask questions in the caption, and it’s fun to see people’s answers. It lets you know that they really interacted with your post, as opposed to just scrolling past it. And, I mean, Lucky’s pretty cute…
8. Aside from Lucky, what are your favorite subjects to photograph?
I have a lot of fun doing long exposures and playing with lights at nighttime. One of my favorites shots is actually from a drive home from Barnard: There was particularly heavy traffic, and we were surrounded by all the lights from the cars and street lamps. I propped my camera up on the edge of the window and released the shutter at a stop sign. The result was all these trails of light in the darkness. I also love nature pictures, and capturing people in the moment. One of my favorite pictures from my trip abroad this summer is of an old man and a little boy lying together. Being able to capture something like that and share it is one of the greatest parts of photography.
9. How do you plan to pursue your passion for photography at Barnard?
I hope to continue photographing recreationally, and continuing to grow my skill set. I’d love to work with film eventually!
10. Last question: Your advice for anyone looking to start a photo project and/or Instagram account?
Be patient. I’ve had my camera for two years, and I’m still learning! It can be frustrating when images don’t come out they way you want them two. My advice would be to keep playing with settings and get a feel for it over time. I also got a few books and read up on terminology, which was helpful, but most of my learning came from experimentation. It’s all trial and error!