Pigtography: Tips from cavy photographer Vadim Petruchok

21 May

Though Vadim Petruchok discovered the cavy fancy just two years ago, his photography has garnered widespread attention, especially in the western United States, where he regularly documents the shows he attends with hundreds of photos.

Photo by Vadim Petruchok.

Petruchok’s work goes beyond group photos and posed shots of winning cavies. With an artistic flair, Petruchok strives to capture the personality of each cavy he encounters. He also shares freely — both the photos he takes, which he makes available for viewing online, and the techniques that make those photos stand out. When photographing cavies, he says, it’s important to pay close attention to your subject matter, your equipment, and your surroundings.

The Subject

Photo by Vadim Petruchok

Cavies can make for uncooperative models at times. They startle easily, and sudden movements, flashes or sounds can send them scurrying for cover. The trick, according to Petruchok, is to acclimatize your cavies to the camera. Petruchok starts early, with newborn photos.

“I also like to get their attention by making kissing noises like the ones made to other animals, such as dogs and cats,” he says. “Even though some may laugh at me when they see me do it, it works for a lot of guinea pigs.”

It’s also useful to keep the scale of your shot in mind. Guinea pigs are smaller than humans, so for great photos it’s useful to come down to their level. You can also use the macro mode on your camera to better pick up small details.

The Setting

Photo by Vadim Petruchok

Photo by Vadim Petruchok

The most important factor of photography, according to Petruchok, is lighting. Outdoor, natural light is ideal. Indoor lighting can be trickier. Your best bet is setting up near a window, or wherever a lot of outside light is coming in. Petruchok says full-spectrum lighting, lights that emulate the natural composition of sunlight, is also a great source of indoor lighting.

If effective lighting isn’t available, flash may help compensate.

“When it comes to shows or indoor lighting, the lighting is almost always not that great to work with,” Petruchok says, “so my flash is on the whole time.”

If you’re working on portraits, props can make fun additions. Petruchok suggests decorative boxes, stuffed animals, real or silk foliage, or hats. You can also design your own official-looking back-drop with relative ease. Petruchok arranges chairs, tables, even carrier to build the framework for the shot, then covers them with some kind of fabric — fleece works well — in colors such as navy blue, dark purple, or medium to dark green.

“Pastel colors work as well, but the most important factor in color selection is to have a good contrast between the guinea pig and the background,” Petruchok says.

The Shot

Photo by Vadim Petruchok

If you think you need swanky equipment to take great photos, you’re wrong.

“The bottom line with cameras is, no matter what kind you have, the more you learn about how to use it and its various settings, the better knowledge you have in your hands to be able to take great pictures,” Petruchok says.

Once you’ve mastered using your own camera, you’ll be able to best determine the settings needed for each individual shot. Then, when you transfer your photos to your computer, a free touch-up program can help polish you pictures. Photoscape, for example, is a good option, Petruchok says.

Most images will need to be brightened a bit in an editing program. Additional contrast can help the guinea pigs really stand out, and color enhancement can enliven the photo, but Petruchok warns against getting too far from the photo’s natural color. Easy does it.


3 Responses to “Pigtography: Tips from cavy photographer Vadim Petruchok”

  1. Val May 21, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    I have a few iconic photos of almost an entire litter — four girls plus mama less brother — quietly lined up and posing for the camera. People have asked how I did it. Time is the one other thing not particularly noted here. The truth is, unless you happen to have a camera hog pig hamming it up for you, it might take awhile to get a good shot. But even the shy cavies eventually settle down (even get bored) if you photograph them over about a half- hour to get a shot. Temperamentally the “this is boring I am SO out of here!” pigs might never pose well (bribe them: food), but most will give you what you want if you’re just patient enough about it.

  2. hutchagoodlife May 26, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Bribery works miracles. Never under estimate the power of a good lawn of grass and getting on your hands and knees to get a cute shot!


  3. EmaPen June 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Thanks for the additional tips everyone, keep them coming!

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