Maria’s Pet Photography Tips: Part 4 – Rodents, Fish & Birds
Here we are, at our last episode of the pet photography series. This time we're going small. Forget about wide lens, the great outdoors and pretentious furs and let's focus on the small and cute. So tiny they can fit in your camera bag and so adorable they'll make your shutter melt! It's time to talk about rodents, fish and birds.
Their tiny stature makes your job a lot easier, as you don't have to run around following them. Shootings should ideally take place at your studio if you aim for impecable results. This also gives you more control over space, their freedom of movement and background choice. Try out various colours that create a striking contrast or go for a "clean", soft look using a natural palette inspired by the pet's fur or feathers.
Everyone seems to be either a cat or a dog person these days, but I’m not hearing anyone stating loud and proud that they’re a hamster person. However, hamsters and small rodents such as rabbits or Guinea pigs are very popular house pets. They’re definitely low maintenance compared to cats or dogs and so photogenic! Here's what I'm talking about.
Although you wouldn't necessarily believe so, hamsters make great subjects. Their tiny stature makes your job a lot easier, as you don't have to run around following them. Considering you're taking macro shots, make sure you grab your fastest and most luminous lens (ideally an f1.8 or f1.4) and your tripod and camera remote for extra steady shots. I recommend working with manual focus: it gives you more control over the areas of focus and you'll get more detail on the eyes, fur or whatever you find most important or artistic about your pet.
Here's a part of a wonderful series of photographs of hamsters by the talented Dragan Todorovic.
If you're having trouble making the little rodent stand still for the shoot, just give them something to keep them busy. Food is always a good idea, but a little toy should do the trick as well. However, if you just want a plain shot of the pet, no objects included, try to limit their space by adding some borders. They'll eventually get tired of running around and stop to groom themselves or just rest.
Well, fish might not be the first thing that pops into your mind when you think about pet photography. They're not the most... friendly pets one might have, but they're still very beautiful.
Photographing fish might appear as a more difficult task than anything we've discussed so far. You can't really hope that your soothing voice or special treats and snacks will influence the fish's behavior. In addition, your choice of backgrounds is rather limited to the aquarium or fish bowl. And, as if it didn't already seem impossible, the glass you're shooting through might add some unwanted reflections or dust on the final photo. But reality isn't as grim as it seems.
Manual focus and good macro lens should do the trick when photographing fish. Get as close as you can to the bowl and focus on the little fellow swimming around. Ideally you will catch them as they stare at you or minding their own business while showcasing their dazzling looks. For extra contrast, feel free to add a background behind the bowl, or just go with a neutral color that enhances the fish's natural colors.
Birds are also amazing photo subjects. Their natural elegance and stunning plumage are enough reasons to have you consider bird photography.
Parrots are probably some of the most pleasant and interesting pets you will ever work with. And it's not just their colorful plumage that attracts people. Their intelligence and playfulness will definitely charm you and help you take wonderful shots, and you can easily rely on their friendliness to establish a communication base with them. Parrots have no difficulty in picking up common words and expressions, so talking to them is always a terrific idea in order to keep them interested.
When it comes to actually taking the shots, it's up to you decide if you want something more artistic or would rather have sun fun with the pet. In the first case, you should focus on their plumage and make sure you shoot over a neutral background, with optimum lighting on the pet. However, if you'd rather have some fun with the bird, try giving them some toys like the tiny skateboard below. For some extra-fun, turn on some music, prefferably with lyrics, and enjoy the show. Parrots have their own way of responding to music: they dance around, headbang or tilt their heads in funny ways. Make sure your camera is ready to go (and yes, I mean a fast shutter speed) and rock'n roll.