Tim’s tips For better wildlife studio shots
1 stuffed animal stand-in
if you are working with animals in the studio, have a stand-in to prepare. i usually have a fluffy toy. it’s much better to plan things out to avoid stressing an animal and losing a window of opportunity.
2 down to their level
if the animal allows you the opportunity (domestic animals) it generally serves well to come down to their level, creating that sense of intimacy to generate a sense of connection.
3 sense of emotion
consider how things evoke a sense of emotion within the pictures. this can be generated through feel and atmosphere; for example, using a predominantly cool colour palette to create a sense of the nocturnal when photographing an owl.
4 animal handler
if the animal has a handler, it is important to communicate effectively with them because they know the animal best and can help you to achieve your plan.
5 how should the image work?
my general approach is to question how you want the images to work on the viewer.
6 animal’s personalities
think about a sense of character and personality; you are much more likely to connect with the viewer.
7 emphasize interesting elements
it is important to recognize the elements you find most interesting in the wildlife, then set about helping the viewer to find them. this might entail changing the contrast of edges to redirect the eye or to reshape the picture tonally in photoshop.
8 Fill lights
i use a key flash and often use a ring flash to fill in as they create a more interesting texture in the shadow. to create the illusion of daylight i add a 1/4 blue filter.
9 Inspiration board of prints
it’s good to have magnetic boards. i print my images and keep them up over time to see them with a fresh pair of eyes each day.
10 test your kit
it is very important to test the potential of the equipment you own – test the boundaries to understand the parameters of what the kit can do. it pays dividends to invest a bit of time!