M an' M RabbitryM an' M Rabbitry Raising Jeresey Woolies, Standard Chinchillas, and New Zealand Whites

Photographing Rabbits

Photographing rabbits is not only an art form, but also a challenge that takes a lot of patience. The goal of taking good rabbit photos is to show off the animal’s features to their best ability creating a photo that inspires other breeders and rabbit fanciers to take quality photos, or to start raising that breed. Therefore in order to achieve this goal you need to know some basic tips about how to maximize the quality of your photos and that is exactly why I have decided to write this article on how to achieve this.

One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing rabbits that are of very nice quality on websites when they are molting! DO NOT take a picture of an animal that is not in good coat condition. Those animals may have the best structure, but the coat is just as important as the body in photos. It pays off to have the patience to wait the few months until they are in coat. Especially breeders who are raising wooled breeds, do you think those animals look attractive when they look like they have been through the shredder? Be honest now…. Regardless, if you want to put the information about the animal on your website, or in an e-mail, go right ahead, just display an additional image such as your rabbitry logo, or photo coming soon while the animal comes into condition. Just refrain from using too many photo fillers, because that can also deter viewers. Even if an animal is not completely in coat and has a molt line, I wouldn’t post a picture of it on my website. You want your animals to look the best, and by taking pictures of them while they are molting isn’t helping. Anyways, just make sure your animals are in condition before you take pictures of them and your pictures will be much more successful.

Before you can even begin to take good pictures of your rabbits you must first know the proper way to pose your rabbits according to their breed. This is especially important for people who are new to rabbits and have just begun breeding. It is also important to not over tuck or stretch out your rabbits too much, because this can distort their type and this distortion DOES show! As much as you try to hide the faults of your rabbit, when you improperly pose the animal it looks much worse then if you were to simply pose them correctly. Also, if you don’t work with your animals prior to trying to pose them then, you are not going to have very successful photos. So take the time to pose them often and correctly. Then when it comes the time to take pictures you can capture the quality of your animals. If your rabbit does not want to pose, then don’t force it to. Viewers don’t like to see your hands in your photos. All that says to the viewer is that your rabbits don’t know how to pose and that haven’t worked with them enough. If your rabbit still refuses to pose, then just let him or her move around on your set for a little bit. The rabbit will get used to its surroundings and will often pose perfectly and naturally in some time. Just make sure that you are ready with that camera when that perfect pose happens. I have missed many great photos due to my camera not being on. It’s a bummer; so don’t let it happen to you. Overall, posing rabbits in itself is an art form, and when you work with an animal enough to get it to pose correctly, that animal just radiates with beauty.

Lighting is yet another very important aspect of taking quality rabbit photos. If the wrong lighting is used, the rabbit’s color will be distorted and even dark shadows can occur. I do not recommend indoor lighting. Unless you have an indoor photo studio, most indoor photos end up distorting the color of your rabbits. This is because although indoor lights look like they are producing white light, they actually cause your photos to have a yellow cast to them. Outdoor lighting is the best option. Although like the different types of weather, there are many differences in outdoor lighting. When taking pictures in direct sunlight, often-dark shadows end up being cast on or behind the rabbits. This can cause problems in seeing the true color of the rabbit. The sunlight usually is so bright that the color is “bleached” out in the photos and the shadows make it hard to see the features of the rabbit. Also, with black rabbits, or any rabbit’s coat that has a lot of luster or “sheen” such as satins, the direct sunlight turns them into a sparkly mess. Again using direct sunlight you are not able to see the features of the rabbit, which of course is the goal! The best lighting for photos outdoors is bright overcast. With bright overcast lighting, the light is of a grey tinge, thus retaining the rabbit’s true color instead of bleaching them out, or turning them yellow. Also, make sure that it isn’t raining on that overcast day that you plan on taking photos. You will not have successful photos as soon as it starts raining. By the second picture your rabbits will be soaked, you will be wet, and you risk damaging your camera and getting rain on the lens. Just not a good combination! So don’t try to do it. Overall, bright overcast lighting is the best lighting to use in order to have successful and quality rabbit photos.

The background and the underground are both key elements in good rabbit photographs. The background refers to the backdrop behind your rabbit in the photos, which could be a draped cloth or a carpet sample. The underground on the other hand is the area in which is under your rabbit, such as the grooming table that your rabbit is sitting on. For both the background and the underground you want to keep it simple. For the background I suggest using draped cloth, a carpet sample or repeating vegetation. My favorite background for my photos is the ivy that is growing all over the house. It is pleasant to look at, but doesn’t distract from the main focus…the rabbit. For undergrounds, you can again drape some fabric, use a grooming table, or get some colored carpet samples. Just remember that you don’t want your rabbits slipping all over while you are taking pictures. If you are not putting up a background or setting up an underground, then make sure to look around. Viewers don’t want to see your messy barn in the background, the scale that you just weighted your rabbit on or your hands. If your hands or body parts are in the pictures, then it just makes the viewer think that your rabbits wont even cooperate for a picture, so how are they going to pose on a show table? Another very important thing to be aware of is the color of color of your background and underground. Colors that do not blend in with your rabbit’s color or colors that are not to bright and don’t over power your rabbits are best. Pastels usually work well, but other colors can work depending on the rabbit’s color. I also suggest you develop a signature set. By having all of your rabbits on the same underground and with the same background it will make it easier for viewers to see the differences in your rabbits and also make it easy for you to know if someone has used your photos without asking. Trust me it happens, and that is exactly the way I found out. I was thinking to myself “that looks a lot like Crackle…wait that is Crackle!” Just remember to keep your backgrounds and undergrounds simple so that your rabbits are the real stars of the photos.

Props in rabbit photos should be used sparingly. I have seen some rabbit photos where there are so many things next to the rabbit that you can hardly find it. It wasn’t attractive or visually pleasing to the eye. I would consider using a signature item, which would appear in each of your rabbit photos or flowers. Flowers dress up the set for your rabbit photos. Just make sure that you watch the rabbit at all times when there are flowers on the set, because you don’t want the rabbits eating them. Especially if they are poisonous! So again use props sparingly and make sure your buns don’t destroy them while you aren’t looking…especially those rosettes and trophies that bunnies just love to chew on.

The position of not only you but also the rabbit is very important. Depending on the type of photo you wish to shoot you should pose your rabbit accordingly. If you want to show off the animal’s body, then you should pose the animal and then take a picture of the animal straight on. What I mean by straight on is taking the picture at s non parallel angle, thus if the rabbit is facing one way, then you should be at a position 90 degrees to the left or to the right. If you wish to show off the animal’s depth and width of body, then taking a picture of the animal from behind is the best shot. If you wish to show the animal’s length and width of its head and body, then taking a shot from directly above the animal is most successful. If you wish to show off the head and ears of the animal, then a picture taken from in front of the animal is the best. For the overall best shot of a rabbit to show of as many aspects as possible with just one picture, I suggest the ¾ angle picture. So instead of moving an entire 90 degrees from the direction that the rabbit is facing, you merely move 45 degrees and shoot 45 degrees from the front of the animal. This way, you are getting to see the width of the head, the ears, the rise of the body, the fur and the rabbit’s overall condition. ¾ angle photos make for much more attractive shots and they say more than you could by taking 3 separate angle photos as described above.

The one thing that I cannot stress enough if for you to get down on the same level as your rabbit. Pictures from above are great in showing the width and length of the body and head, but not for an overall rabbit photo. You can mount your camera on a tripod so that it always stays at the correct height or you can adjust yourself to match the rabbit’s height. Either way, as long as your camera is at the rabbit’s level then you should have much more successful pictures.

Taking multiple shots of the same rabbit is yet another way to increase your chances of getting that “perfect shot”. Whenever I go out and take pictures of my rabbits, I don’t just take one picture of each and call it good. I usually take anywhere from 25-75 shots of the average rabbit. Only maybe 25% of these shots really end up being something useable. Most of them the rabbit is moving or not posing etc. They are throwaway shots, but at least I was ready for the few that were really nice! Of course having a digital camera to take 100 shots of one rabbit is convenient. I would not recommend taking as many shots if you have a regular 35mm camera. It will become expensive very quickly. If you are working with a film camera, it might help to have another person pose the rabbit while you snap the shot that you like the best. That way you aren’t ending up with as many throwaway shots. That is one reason why I enjoy digital cameras so much. You can take as many shots as you want and it doesn’t cost you anything but the batteries and the initial camera cost. Thus, if you really want to take some high quality rabbit pictures and you have the funds to do it. I highly recommend you purchase a digital camera!

Another reason as to why I take so many shots of one rabbit is to change the camera angle. When a rabbit is posed and sitting still for a period of time I don’t just stay in one place and shoot it from that particular angle. I am move around, taking shots that are only a few degrees different from the previous shot. This can make a huge difference in the quality of your rabbit photos. Just a little to the right or a little to the left can create the perfect image of that animal. It’s not just the animal that can move and change its position and pose. Its also you who can move and change your camera angle to best capture the beauty of your rabbit.

Capturing the “perfect shot” is not an easy task. There are many variables to photographing rabbits, the rabbits being the biggest variable of them all. You can control most variables by taking into consideration the lighting, posing, background, and underground, but ultimately if you want to control the rabbit you need to work with it and pose it often. Thus, when you go to take your “perfect shot” of that rabbit that is familiar with the pose, the rabbit will do it without hesitation and you will increase your chances of getting a quality rabbit photo. I hope that this article has helped increase the quality of your rabbit photography and encouraged others to do so with because of your newfound skills.

-Ashley Felton 
M an’ M Rabbitry 
Raising Grand Champion Jersey Woolies, Standard Chinchillas, and New Zealand White Rabbits in Washington State