Photography of animals is a wide and complex subject: how much this topic is in demand, who is interested in these models, in addition to their owners, and what types of shootings there are. This article will cover the most important one: working in the studio. To begin with, we suggest dwelling on what you need to organize a photo shoot, and what you can skip easily.
Environmental issues and respect for animals – what animal photography says
To begin with, it should be clear that any photographs with animals are included in a large genre called animalistic. And animalistic photography, in turn, is divided into documentary and artistic. We will take a closer look at the latter. As a rule, the image of wild animals in artistic photography should cover some big topic – the ecological crisis, the life of animals in zoos, the difference or similarity between wildlife and cities, and so on.
In their projects, photographers reflect on the interaction between people and animals, on mutual understanding between them, on how they are able to support each other. Photographers strive to see similarities with humans in animals, endowing them with inner life, feelings and experiences. Artistic animalistic photography should carry meaning, answer current and topical questions, remind of the problems and dangers surrounding people prone to consumerism.
How to shoot animals in the studio: practical advice
Tripod. Some photographers like to take portraits with a tripod. This is really convenient: if your lighting conditions do not change for some time, then you can easily set the shutter speed, and aperture, select the focal length and simply press the shutter button. But when working with dogs and cats, a tripod is in most cases useless and just takes up space. It is more difficult to catch interesting emotions and the right angles – after all, the cat is constantly moving. There are, of course, those who can sit for a long time and motionless on command, but they are extremely rare, at least in our practice. Not all owners consider it necessary to teach their pets basic commands.However, you can find out more about your cat such as its main traits and features using a pet DNA test. In any case, try to work with a tripod on several shoots – and then you will understand whether you need it or not.
Laptop. During all the filming, even on location, most photographers actively use a laptop. By connecting a camera to it, you can see the result of the work, quickly make some adjustments, including the light, and select the frames you like. This is convenient both for you and for the client, who may be present at the shooting.
Studio. If you want the work process to take place in a comfortable environment, choose a spacious room. Even if you shoot a chihuahua, do not forget that, in addition to the photographer and their lighting equipment, at least one more person will be present in the studio – the owner. And if the shooting is commercial, then feel free to add at least two people and several squares for each person present.
Model. For your first studio shoot, you can look for a model among friends and acquaintances. And the best assistant in this is social networks. If there is a choice, then the priority should be given to cats and dogs with a calm disposition and good knowledge of such basic commands. This will greatly simplify the work.
There are no universal lighting schemes, try experimenting, although all experiments should be carried out according to a prepared scenario. Working in the studio, use a lot of light sources, at least 4. The most optimal is 6. As a rule, softboxes are not used – the pattern is too recognizable.
Generators are rarely needed. Your goal is portraits, and if the animals don’t jump or run, there is no problem with too long impulse and blur because of this. Try shooting at a shutter speed of 1/160 and an aperture of f / 9, although the latter value may change during the set. It all depends on what image you want to achieve.
For those just starting out in the studio, there are a few things to keep in mind. Short-haired animals are similar in reflecting light to glossy surfaces. Techniques for shooting, for example, metal objects work well with them. These can be large panels placed as close as possible, and a few hard lights angled to and behind the panel.
Long-haired cats and dogs are all about hair and fur; in order to highlight such textures, you need to put a backlight. Use translucent or reflective panels, or install dual appliances (which further increases their number). You can use the backlight from above.
Before shooting the model, it is desirable to give it the opportunity to look around and get used to the new room and people. At this moment, do not distract the animal and wait for it to come to you. Then you can already establish some kind of friendly contact – stroke the cat or dog, play with it. This is necessary so that the pets begin to trust you. The latter is especially important at the moments when you are very close to the muzzle with the lens. If you see that the animal is too distracted by extraneous noise, turn off the sound signal on the monoblocks.
We recommend shooting in small sessions of several minutes with pauses during which the animals can rest. At this pace, you need about two hours for one model, taking into account the time for setting the light. Do not forget that the owner can take an active part in the shooting, guiding the animal with commands or some goodies.
Photographing animals and people have a lot in common. If you want to get a great photo, then you need to prepare. Before shooting, at least minimal grooming is required: animals must be clean and combed. Ask for the animal to be brought by car or brought in your arms, if we are talking about small sizes, so the paws and coat will remain clean. Of course, everything can be corrected in Photoshop, but why, if it is possible to get the most finished photo already at the shooting stage. Most often, the role of a stylist is performed by the owners themselves. Many come with their combs, brushes, napkins, etc.
For 1.5–2 hours of shooting, you can get 10–15 worthwhile photos. When shooting with a laptop, you can roughly imagine what you can choose later, but it still takes a lot of time for the subsequent selection of pictures. And this has its own logic. In our opinion, the selection is even more important than the processing itself, because the selected photographs for the most part form the author’s style. Your style should be recognizable and in demand. Unfortunately, there is no ready-made recipe for how to develop your own creative style, but we can give you some tips.
First, constantly replenish your visual base. Browse sites like Pinterest and save your favorite images.
Secondly, read books and interviews of photographers who work in the studio. Often they do not just share lighting schemes, but also talk about the logic of their choice. This is not only interesting, but also very useful, especially for beginners in studio photography.
And finally, thirdly, practice. With each new shoot, the quality of your work will grow, and you will decide in which direction to move on.