Photography Techniques

Photography for Curious Critters involves finding animals, getting them to pose in a miniature white studio setting, and producing the images.

David FitzSimmons photographs a Curious Critter inside a light tent using two studio flashes, a tripod, a Nikon D 2 X camera, and a Sigma lens.Finding Curious Critters is not all that hard. Many of them come from my own back yard. Often my family and friends come up with all kinds of beautiful and sometimes bizarre creatures for me to photograph. Some animal subjects come from nature centers, where they are used in exhibts and educational programs. Others are residents at rehabilitation facilities, where injured animals are nursed back to health. And still others reside at a variety of zoos.

To make the signature white backgrounds, I utilize a specialized piece of photography equipment called a light tent. Essentially a fabric cube that folds up into a bag, a light tent is opaque, so it diffuses light shining from the outside. The white material also reflects light all around on the inside, creating soft and even lighting. Soft light helps in photographing patterns and colors of animals. And the even lighting produces a soft shadow below each animal, helping create a three-dimensional look to each photograph. Sometimes I place one or more hot shoe flashes inside the light tent, but usually I use two large studio lights on the outside. I typically place these monolights so that one is above the light tent and the other is to the side on thDavid FitzSimmons photographs a red flat bark beetle inside a light tent for his Curious Critters series.e animal's eye-level.

Photographing the animals in this mini studio can be challenging. I position the animals, hoping that they will strike an attractive pose. Sometimes the animals cooperate and produce a pleasing picture fairly quickly. But others wiggle around, fly around the tent, or roll over on their backs. Photography of animals takes patience. And, yes, I do talk to them during our portrait session together.

All animals in this exhibit have been handled carefully and not sedated. Some are captive specimens in rehabilitation centers and other educational facilities. Wild animals were returned safely to their habitats.

When I have finished photographing the animals, I sit down at my computer and process my images. I use Adobe Photoshop to make sure that white areas are bright and that colors, textures, and shapes stand out well.

When all of this is fnished and an image appears in a book, on a gallery wall, or even on this web site, I hope that all the work pays off. It is my goal that viewers are moved by the unique qualities of each animal and that this leads to action: if we appreciate wild animals and their habitats, then I believe we will help care for nature.