We’re getting up close and personal with animals, today on The Slanted Lens! I love working with animals and learn something new every time I do, so I thought I would share some tips with you about how to effectively work with animals on set.
When I first decided to start taking pictures of animals, I had no idea what I was doing. So I went and asked my father, who took pictures for National Geographic, what I needed to know about photographing wildlife. I’ve based today’s tips on what he told me all those years ago and on the experiences I have had throughout my own career.
9 Tips for Working with Animals
Working with the Animal
1. Design the shot around the animal. What does this mean? You need to leave a place in your shot for the trainer and make sure that all of your lighting, equipment, etc. is out of the way so that the animal has a direct line of sight with its trainer.
2. Setup within the line of sight of the animal. Where do you want the animal to look? That’s what you need to consider. If you want the animal looking at the camera, you need to get the trainer as close to the camera as humanly possible! If you want the animal to look at an object, then you need to position the trainer near that object. The animal is going to be watching its trainer very closely, so use that to your advantage!
3. Remember that the trainer is your ally and friend. When the trainer arrives, discuss what is going to happen and the kinds of shots you want to capture and ask the trainer’s opinion on what will work best. That trainer wants their animal to perform well, too, so work with them and become their friend!
Setting Up Your Shot
. If you are shooting video, keep the shot as simple as possible. Don’t have your cameras moving all over the place and a bunch of different stuff going on in your shot. Instead focus on the animal, their look, and their performance.
Use treats! Animals love treats! They will do anything for a treat! Keep that in mind on set.
6. Be ready and focused when the animal is on set. You need to be very careful around animals, especially wild ones like lions, tigers, and bears, oh my! But seriously, no matter how well trained they are still wild animals and need to be treated as such! I will never forget the day a tiger sprayed me in the face because I wasn’t paying attention on set and then had to walk around smelling awful for the rest of the day. So stay alert!
7. Be patient and work on the animal’s time.
8. Don’t get distracted! Even if you think the animal isn’t doing the right thing, keep shooting! You never know when the animal will start doing something perfect for the shot you are trying to get. So if you are shooting stills, shoot in bursts so that you get the best possible shots of the animal. If you are shooting video, just keep the camera rolling.
9. Finally, and most importantly, get rid of any and all distractions on set. That includes people walking in the room, talking, cars driving by, etc. If you can control the environment and the noise level on set, you will find much more success and the animal will be able to do its best.
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Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’!