I’m always harping on backgrounds whether it’s taking casual people snaps outside or taking close ups of beautiful flowers (see the last two blogs).
So how about the background when you are doing a formal animal shoot?
Well that’s way important, so take some time to walk around your location to find the perfect spot. The color of the animal you are going to photograph will play a big part in this search. Light colored animals look great against green, so evergreen trees are always my first choice.
But green won’t work if you are photographing a dark animal like this.
Dark animals are always more difficult, so keep moving the animal around until you find a good spot.
Sometimes, nothing seems to work. Breeders sometimes solve this problem by constructing a small mound to use for posing their animals. It doesn’t have to be too high. The idea is for the photographer to get flat on the ground below the animal and shoot up so that the sky becomes the background. Llamas and alpacas love these little mounds for play, so you will get double duty out of this ‘set prop.’
If it’s done correctly, you can’t even tell the animal is on a mound. Just pose them on the flat “top” and go to work.
Contrast between the subject and what is behind the subject is key. You can even use natural light to provide the background contrast you need, as in this image of a cat in a barn door.
This image wouldn’t have worked if the sun had not been shining at just the right angle to throw the background into shadow. Plus getting down to the animal’s eye level made all the difference in the composition by pulling the viewer into the photograph.
Scout out your location looking for light and dark backgrounds. Then study those backgrounds during early morning and late afternoon sun (the times of day to make important images) to see which time works best on each location. That way you will know what the light will be like before making important pictures.