One of the best things about spring for wildlife photography is the deluge of baby mammals all across North America. From whitetail deer to grizzly bears, red foxes to bison, spring is the time of rebirth. All of these babies makes for some incredible wildlife photography and since this only happens once a year, you need to be shooting this RIGHT NOW!
When it comes to photographing natural history, you have to think in terms of capturing the essence of your subject. Why is your subject worth photographing? What makes it special? What makes it worthy of being in front of your lens? Every potential subject has a story to tell. Every subject has something about it that makes it unique in the world. It is your job to understand what this story is and to figure out how to tell that story with your photography. This is what takes your work from little more than snapshots made with really expensive equipment to art that communicates and connects your viewer with your subject.
When it comes to photographing baby mammals all across North America, there is one thing that each and every species has in common when it comes to telling a story, and that is they are all really really cute! Like any subject you photograph, you want to take advantage of such an attribute that is immediately recognizable or obvious. So with babies in wildlife photography, its all about exploiting what I like to call the cuteness factor.
The Cuteness Factor
- Interaction with adults
- When you can photograph babies interacting with adults, you are able to instantly capitalize on the cuteness factor. Not only does the size difference help emphasize the smallness of the baby, but it also creates the assumed interaction of parent and child. There is a lot that can be read into a parent and child interaction. Remember, we are mammals ourselves so this is something that we can all relate to on some level. When you are able to create a photograph that causes your viewers to relate to the subjects in that photograph, you have hit a home run!
- Interaction with other babies
- Much like parent / child interactions, playfulness is something that we all recognize and relate to as well. More often than not, any interaction between siblings will be seen as playfulness or affection for each other – again another trait that we can relate to.
- Goofy antics
- One of the reasons that we find pretty much all forms of babies cute, is because of their goofy antics. Watch for this and capture it on film and you have yet another home run.
- In the spring, its actually quite cliché to photograph our infants surrounded by flowers, Easter eggs, or some other artifact of the season. Even though we have all seen it a million times, we as a culture continue to do it. Why? Because its cute. So if its cute to see your own baby surrounded by wildflowers on a warm spring day, its also going to be cute to capture other mammals babies in similar situations. We collectively think of spring as being a time of renewal, of color, of life, and birth. Few things in the natural world play into this idea to such degrees as babies and flowers. Put the two together and you not only tell a story but you also elicit a collective “Awww” from your audience.
The key to photographing baby mammals in the springtime is to remember that we are mammals as well. All of those things that make you smile about a human baby will also make you smile when you see it in the natural world. Anthropomorphize your subjects! Humanize them. Photograph them like they you would your own infant son or daughter. Doing this will help your audience connect on an emotional level with the subject in your photograph. When you can do this, you will be appealing to our psyches and thus graduated to a whole new realm of wildlife photography!