Animal Photography: What To Know About Lighting

Animal photography is a tricky field to work in. Animals don't understand precise directions and can essentially do whatever they want. When shooting animals you're either going to have a smooth shoot, in some part thanks to luck or a hell day where nothing gets done the way you want it. You need to make every effort possible for the smooth shoot. Here's what you need to know about lighting.


Depending on the animal, the sudden turning on of a bright light could startle them. Depending on the animal and it's size, it could get very bad. A worst case scenario could involve things breaking and people getting hurt. Avoid this by having the set already lit by the time the animal is brought out. 

Light It Wide

Animals can't be expected to follow your directions precisely. You could set a mark for it to stand on and it could walk away and stand somewhere else. Avoid having to chase the animal with light and light the whole area around the mark so that if it decides to stand up, walk two feet and sit down it will still look great. 

Avoid Blinding Them

Part of what drives the process of animal photography is eye contact with their wrangler or owner. The wrangler takes care of the animal, helps direct it and knows when it needs a break. The animal is comfortable with this person. If there's a light shining directly into its eyes then it won't be able to see the wrangler. The animal could start to panic and you will lose its focus. Keep their eyes free of light and the wrangler close by so it's comfortable.

Using Natural Light

If you're not in a study and are looking to shoot an animal outside then you need to take advantage of the natural light from the sun. A photograph where the sun is behind the animal, making it dark white the background is well lit looks very dramatic. A shot with the sun lighting in full force is going to have lots of shadows and a cloudy day creates shadow free diffused light.

However you decide to light your animal is up to you. Just remember to keep the animal comfortable and light up a wide area so it can move around while still being lit. Animal photography can be tricky and it requires lots of patience. But if you're calm and set up a relaxing environment you'll have a great shoot.

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