Well I’m going to run a series of articles on show photography, so here goes.
For starters, Murphy’s Law (if something can go wrong, it will go wrong) certainly applies to show photography, so our first rule, as always, is to do our homework and be prepared.
We know it’s hard enough to get up in the morning and groom ourselves, without worrying about having to groom our animals for photographs. So our next job is to multi-task and plan to photograph Fluffy during a show. She will be perfectly groomed and so interested in what is going on that catching great expressions and alert ears will be a cinch.
That’s the good part. The bad part is lighting you can’t begin to control and backgrounds with carnivals, carousels and crates.
But hey, we’re good! We can do this! Plus we just ran out and bought an SLR (single lens reflex) camera with a built in flash (plus an external flash if we’re really serious), because we know a point-and-shoot won’t make the cut.
Point-and-shoots, phone cameras and ipads will only work in limited situations because they don’t have a long enough lens to isolate your animal subject (or any other subject) from the overwhelming clutter at a show plus they don’t have enough flash power. Enough said. If you are using an SLR, you are ready to tackle the lighting problems at a show.
Let’s start outdoors. Up to this point, I’ve stressed that planning your shoots around good outside light is essential. But obviously you can’t put your knowledge of when to photograph (see the blog on lighting), into practice during an outdoor show because, drat it, Fluffy’s class is scheduled for high noon.
Well we can deal. First a deep breath, then on to plan B. Plan B means we aren’t among the photographers (I’m using that term loosely), snapping picture after picture of their darlings prancing around the ring in, for heaven’s sake, harsh light.
No. No. Nooooo. We’re going to take several shots for record purposes, and then we’ll wait until the class is over and take Fluffy to the spot we scouted out earlier that has a better background.
Since we have a white animal, we’ve found an area with a dark, contrasting background to use for the backdrop. Evergreen trees also work well for a backdrop with a white or light colored animal as long as they have boughs low to the ground so the trunks don’t show.
Ok. Background ready. Click, click, click. The animal is groomed to the nines, click, click, click. Her ears are up and she’s watching all the show activity…click, click, click. Life doesn’t get any better than this. Well maybe life. But not animal photography!
If we are photographing a dark animal, we find a low hill and use the sky as a backdrop.
Ok. This is the first drill. Based on the color of the animal you are photographing, scout out a suitable background at the show for your shoot.
Sometimes we just can’t find a good location to separate the animal from the background. That’s when it’s time to pull out the big boy…our 200 to 300 mm lens and use it to isolate our subject from all the clutter. Remember this little girl at the beginning of the article? I asked her to slightly change her position in relation to the cluttered background and used a long lens to move in close. Much better.
Next time we’ll work on how to set our meter for perfect exposure of the animal’s color.