Pet Portraits – Reptiles

Reptiles are a subject that many photographers shy away from.  Either they don’t know how to photograph them in order to bring out the best of their natural beauty, or they simply get freaked out by them and don’t want to even be in the same room with them.  As a reptile keeper myself, I know the latter is a response you won’t be unfamiliar with.

Crested Gecko crested_vertical

Regardless of what size or type of reptile you may have, whether it’s a crested gecko or water monitor, a corn snake or king cobra, or even crocodilians, we will produce images to show off your animal to its very best.

DSC_9304 Asian Water Monitor
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If you have questions, and do not find them listed in the FAQ sections below, please contact us.

Reptiles - General FAQ

Can I be photographed with my reptile?

This will depend entirely on the species.

For something relatively harmless like a leopard gecko, bearded dragon, ball python, or boa, this is not a problem.

If you’re bringing something venomous, it will depend on what image you wish to create.  Shoots with venomous reptiles and their keeper together must be discussed before the date of the shoot.

Composites are also another option, however they do incur an extra cost due to the time it takes to create them.

Can you photograph my [2 different species] together?

Generally speaking, no.  Mixing species, even for a short period of time, is not a good idea.  Over the years I’ve seen many inexperienced keepers posting on various groups and forums about how one reptile has injured, maimed, or even eaten another when they’ve been allowed to cohabit, even if just for a short time.

There is also a risk of cross contamination.  Many reptiles hold parasites that are relatively harmless to them, however can be fatal when transferred to other species, or the medications typically used to treat certain parasites in one species can be fatal to another species, making it difficult to erradicate.

For example, certain strains of coccidia exist quite naturally in bearded dragons except when present in high levels.  In bearded dragons, these are easy enough to get back in check with antibiotics, to the point where the animal’s natural immune system can handle them just fine.  If those same strains of coccidia were found in Uromastyx, a species in which coccidia is not normally found and so has not built up a natural ability to fight it, the treatment can kill much of the good bacteria that Uromastyx need in order to digest and survive, leading to an extremely unpleasant ordeal for both the uromastyx and the owner.

We can, however, photograph them separately, and composite them together in a single image for an extra cost.

Can you photograph reptiles in outdoor locations to make them look wild?

This depends entirely upon the type of reptile in question, its attitude, finding a suitable location, and getting lucky with the weather.  Generally speaking, however, no we do not.

The risks of photographing reptiles on location to simulate their natural wild environments are just too great.  Your animal could escape, it could become ill due to prolonged cooler temperatures, it may even pick up a nasty bug from the wild.  Unless it’s a UK native reptile (all of which are legally protected), it doesn’t really give an accurate representation of how the animal would appear in the wild.

Many of our reptile shoots that appear to be shot in nature have actually been produced on sets in the studio.  Sets can be built, for an added cost, if this is something you wish to pursue.

We do try to make our naturalistic sets as close to their native habitat as possible, right down to finding plants and wood that would appear in their natural environment, however the price will vary according to the size and complexity of the set, as well as the costs to acquire certain plants, beddings and undergrowth native to your reptile’s natural range.

How do you clean your sets and equipment between shoots with different reptiles?

All surfaces and equipment to which a reptile may be exposed are cleaned with F10 Disinfectant and/or isopropyl alcohol based solutions between being used with different animals.  This includes all set and stage floor surfaces, as well as any hooks, tongs or other equipment that may be used with reptiles or their food.

Other items, such as small logs and hides are regularly boiled and baked to further rid them of any bugs, parasites or other nasties which may have chosen them as their new home.

Lizards

How soon before the shoot can I feed my lizard?

Ideally, we recommend feeding the day before, and planning the shoot around when your animal normally passes its meals.

If your lizard generally passes in the morning, book an afternoon session.  If it usually happens in the evening, then book a morning session, and feed in the afternoon once they are home and settled back into their enclosure.

However, we do suggest bringing along some of your animal’s favourite treats to the shoot with you.  Lizards can often choose to just go off and do their own thing, or decide to sleep at a moment’s notice, so having some of their favourite bugs or treats handy can be a good way to keep hold of their attention.

If an accident does happen on set, cleanup is usually not a major problem.  But, if it’s messy and your lizard crawls through it on the set, it will require a bath and cleanup before it will be allowed back onto the shooting area.

This is for several reasons.  Nobody wants a photograph of their beloved pet covered in poo, and we will not have the facilities available for you to wash your lizard on-site.  Also, there is the risk that it can leak into props that may need to be used with other animals.  If something can’t be practically cleaned, it will need to be replaced at your expense.

Cleanup will also cut into your shooting time.  Unless you have booked a full day session, which reptiles rarely require, we will have other sessions booked on the same day, and we need to keep to a strict schedule.  If we have to spend 30 minutes cleaning up and disinfecting the set and your animal before we can continue shooting, we cannot add that time onto the end and just keep shooting.

The guidelines mentioned above are there to minimise the chances of this happening during the middle of the session.

My lizard has lost its tail or a toe, can you add it back in Photoshop?

The only honest answer I can provide for this question is “maybe”.  It will depend entirely upon the individual being photographed.

For example, if your leopard gecko has a fully regrown tail, and you would like to have an original looking tail created entirely in post, then no.  It would be virtually impossible to create an entire tail in Photoshop and have it appear realistic and a natural part of the animal.

If it’s simply a missing toe, then this may be relatively easy to recreate on the computer.

Whether drastic, or relatively minor, all retouching services beyond basic clean up will cost extra.  Quotes can be determined upon presentation of the animal.

Snakes

Do you photograph venomous snakes?

Yes, we do.  Please see the venomous section below.

My snake has eaten recently, but hasn’t “gone” yet, is that ok?

This can be a tricky one to answer.

First we have to ask how recently?  If the snake has been fed within 48 hours of the shoot, then it could potentially lead to regurgitation, which can in turn lead to other potential problems for your snake.  Regurgitating by itself is bad enough, they lose a lot of the good bacteria in their stomachs that aids digestion, meaning it could be 3 or 4 weeks before your snake has built back up enough to safely feed again, but it could also lead to your snake refusing to eat at all, potentially for several months.

If it’s been at least 48 hours, and it’s simply a case of waiting for it to pass, we generally advice waiting until it has passed through completely, then doing the photo shoot before the next feeding in order to prevent any accidents from happening on set during the shoot.

If an accident does happen on set, cleanup is usually not a major problem.  But, if it’s messy and your snake slithers through it on the set, it will require a bath and cleanup before it will be allowed back onto the shooting area.

This is for several reasons.  Nobody wants a photograph of their snake covered in poo, and we will not have the facilities available for you to wash your snake on-site.  Also, there is the risk that it can leak into props that may need to be used with other animals.  If something can’t be practically cleaned, it will need to be replaced at your expense.

Cleanup will also cut into your shooting time.  Unless you have booked a full day session, which reptiles rarely require, we will have other sessions booked on the same day, and we need to keep to a strict schedule.  If we have to spend 30 minutes cleaning up and disinfecting the set and your animal before we can continue shooting, we cannot add that time onto the end and just keep shooting.

This is why we suggest waiting until your snake has fully passed its current meal, and then do the shoot before its next one.  It minimises the risk of bathroom accidents, and allows us to fully utilise the time that is available to you and your animal during the session.

My snake is shedding, is that a problem?

If it’s not a problem for you, then it’s not a problem for us, however we do want your animals to look their very best, so we do generally advise that if your snake is in the middle of a shed cycle, or is getting close to shedding, that you wait until the snake has shed completely, and then try to book the shoot within the first few days while the scales are still bright and clean.

Will you photograph my snake eating?

Snakes will eat two types of prey.  This prey is either alive, or it has been pre-killed in advance of the feeding.  Either way, this is not something we offer during a photo shoot.

We do not encourage live feeding, except in the most extreme of circumstances.  If it’s a choice between feeding live prey and having your snake starve itself to death, then needs must, however a photo shoot is not such an extreme circumstance, and any animal giving you such an ultimatum is not in any kind of state to go through the hassle of a photo shoot.

As well as stress to the prey, the prey can fight back and seriously injure or mutilate your snake.  I’m not going to link any photos here, but a quick search around Google images should present some of the dangers of feeding live prey.

While we have no problem with the feeding of pre-killed or frozen/thawed prey to a snake, it generally doesn’t look that attractive to the camera.  The images just don’t look that great, so it’s not something we suggest.

That said, if you follow our feeding suggestions noted in the question above, with regard to scheduling the shoot around bathroom habits, it may not be a bad idea to bring along a few prey items a fair bit smaller than they would normally eat.  This may allow us to help arrange their pose, and possibly, toward the end of the shoot, have the chance of photographing a strike.  As strike speeds vary wildly from species to species (and from individual to individual), such images cannot be guaranteed.

Smaller prey items will reduce the risks of regurgitation (although the risks will still be present, so do so at your own risk), will not show as much of a bump in the snake’s stomach deforming their shape, and will give several chances at attempting to photograph a strike.

Venomous - Special Considerations

What do you need from me?

In order for us to be able to photograph your venomous reptiles, we will need to see your DWA Licence to ensure that you own and keep the animals legally.  If you are unable to produce DWA documentation confirming this, then the shoot will not be able to go ahead.  If you’re not legal, we’re not legal, and that’s not a risk we’re going to take.

If we are shooting at your premises, or a location of your choosing, we will also need to see a copy of your liability insurance policy.

We will also need emergency contact details for those you may wish to have us contact, as well as contact details for another DWA licensed keeper that can look after your animals, in the event of a bite.  Even in the case of a dry bite, we’re not going to take any risks we don’t have to.

We will also need the emergency contact details for the nearest hospital that holds stocks of suitable antivenin, or has the facilities to transport you to such a location, so that we can inform them of the shoot beforehand, and notify them to stand down upon completion.

What venomous species will you photograph?

We are happy to photograph any venomous species, however depending on what the species is, certain considerations will have to be taken into account in order to secure the set to make it safe for both the animals and crew in attendance.

If you wish for us to photograph venomous snakes, please let us know in advance exactly which species you wish to be photographed, along with an idea of their size.

Will you photograph venomoids?

For those that don’t know, a “venomoid” or “void” is a venomous snake which has had is venom glands/ducts removed or modified in order to prevent it from producing venom.

As far as we are aware, tampering with or removing the venom glands or ducts of any DWA species is illegal in the UK.  The surgery to perform these modifications is illegal, and with good reason, however it is not illegal to own these animals if the surgery has been performed in another country.

There appears to be little or no real regulation or qualification for such surgery in those countries where it is allowed, and there is always the chance that the venom ducts can grow back.

As a result, these “surgeries” are often performed illegally in very substandard conditions (I have heard of a number being performed in garages) by inexperienced people and can be quite brutal.

So, no, we do not photograph venomoid individuals, and this is something we absolutely will not change our minds on.