Photographing Guinea Pigs
Step 1: Bathe your guinea pig
This step is optional, but may be a good idea if it's been a while since your guinea pig has had a bath. You should bathe your if their fur smells, if they have excessive hair matting, or if they haven't had a bath in over six months.
Find a place to give your guinea pig a bath where you can have warm (not hot) water at about two inches. A bathtub or dish washing tub is probably the best. Fill it with warm water - cold water with startle your guinea pig and hot water will harm them, since they do not have sweat glands. Wet their fur, using a cup if desired, and create a lather with mild shampoo. A local vet recommends Johnson and Johnson's baby shampoo because it is mild and created to be safe for small beings. Rinse them out and wrap them in a towel. Make sure to keep a good hold on them throughout the entire process - they are likely to bolt since they are so unfamiliar with water. Be prepared to get wet! Make sure to get them as dry as possible and have a towel ready for them right away. Do not leave them under a fan or other draft as they dry in order to prevent illness.
If you plan on bathing your guinea pig(s) before a photo shoot, allow a couple of hours for their fur to dry. If possible, wait a couple of days so your guinea pig does not have too many new experiences in one day.
Step 2: Find a good camera
Find the best camera possible for your photo shoot. The more megapixels your camera has, the better the photos are going to turn out, and the more versatile they will be. But, don't use a camera you don't understand - if you don't understand aperture and white balance and so forth, a super-fancy camera is probably not for you. Just have fun and use the best camera you can find.
Step 3: Find a backdrop
Find a good, guinea-pig friendly backdrop.
A simple solution is to use a beach towel. Chances are, you already have one available. Old bath towels can also work if you are afraid of ruining the towel. They come in many colors, which allows you to be flexible and have fun with the photo shoot. You can also drape a towel over almost anything, or hang a towel almost anywhere, since it is lighter than other possible backdrops. They also absorb a guinea pig's bathroom waste - which will invariably happen during the shoot. To wash, just shake into a trash can and then throw in the wash.
Old sheets also work really well and allow for wider shots. You can set up an entire scene on a sheet, and never have the edges show. Sheets also tend to reflect light a little better - which can help create a better photo, depending on what light you have available.
The best backdrop is outdoors. Guinea pigs love munching on grass and, as long as the weather is nice, you can capture many fantastic pictures while they are munching away.
Another option is to have a family member or friend hold your guinea pig in their arms. These don't always make the best photos, but they are often the best ways to capture memories of your family's pet.
Step 4: Find props
Props are a great way to create cute pictures to share with friends. Below are some guidelines and ideas for props:
- Make sure your props are guinea pig friendly. Do not use electric wires, toxic plants or anything else that may harm your guinea pig. If you're not sure what's safe and what's not, do your research - some houseplants may be harmful for your guinea pigs.
- Expect any prop you used to be chewed upon. Depending on your guinea pig, this might not happen, but be prepared. Do not use anything that you are overly fond of. Your favorite barbie doll, a treasured Christmas decoration or other valuables are not good ideas. Be prepared to snag props away if your guinea pig tries to eat it.
- Anything under a guinea pig's bum is probably going to get soiled. Find something easily washable for the bottom of your "set".
- Human-sized props can often lead to hilarious photos. Try setting a pair of glasses gently on your guinea pig's nose. Place your guinea pig (safely) so it looks like they are doing a human task, like cleaning or using the computer.
- Small props can also be great to use - it opens up a whole different world, which can also lead to great photos. Small (but not swallowable) tea cups could make for a fantastic guinea pig party. Posing your guinea pig next to an action figure can also make a great "conversation" starter.
- Holiday or seasonal props also make for memorable photo shoots. Using Christmas bows or miniature pine trees can create fun holiday photos near Christmas time. Sunglasses and miniature umbrellas can be fantastic in the summer time.
- Don't be afraid to experiment! Try different things and have back-ups available. Not everything is going to work out how you planned, but chances are, every picture is going to be cute.
Step 5: The actual photo shoot
Set up your photo shoot before you grab your guinea pig(s). Make sure to have back-up or extra props nearby so you do not have to leave your guinea pig unattended. Then, grab treats for you guinea pigs. You might have to use these to keep them occupied during the shoot, or you might just want to reward them afterwards. Yogurt drops, baby carrots and other veggies make great treats.
Get your guinea pig. Make sure he/she is in a good mood - if you hear chattering of teeth that means they are angry and upset. Purring or not a lot of noise means your guinea pig is happy or curious. Place them on the "set" and let them explore a little bit. You might even want to take photos of them exploring.
Make sure you have adequate lighting. Natural lighting works the best, but some artificial light can be okay. Make sure that you do not have to use your flash though. Using your flash can upset your guinea pig and your pictures will not turn out that well anyway. The reflection and shadows that a flash creates does not usually work well with a guinea pig's fur and eyes, which will result in a spooky or just-plain-bad photo.
Take as many photos as you can! Guinea pigs move fast and photos that may appear perfect on your camera may turn out blurry when you upload them on the computer. Also, a picture you may not have planned may turn out to be the best photo you take! Even if you end up with a bunch of useless extras, they're easy to delete. It is much better to have too many than not enough.
Reward your guinea pigs and take them back to their cage. Let them get some rest after their exhausting time of being a star.
Step 6: Uploading and editing
Upload your photos to a computer (if necessary). If you like them as they are, awesome! If not you can edit them. You can crop out extra stuff that appeared in the background, adjust (possibly) for red-eye, adjust white-balance and add special effects. Some newer photo editing soft wares even have an "auto-correct" button, which will often spruce up the photo without any extra technical knowledge required. Don't forget to print or share your photos!
Always make sure you guinea pig is safe and secure! Never put them in danger just to get a good photo.
Here are some ideas for props and photo shoots.
- Christmas photo shoot - with wrapping paper, scissors, tape and bows. Set a bow gently a top their head as if they are the present.
- Christmas scene - Set up a guinea pig proof miniature village and let your guinea pig roam.
- New Years - Make a guinea pig sized party hat and find a party horn.
- Valentine's Day - Use a pink backdrop and a heart shaped box of... guinea pig?
- St. Patrick's Day - Take a picture of your guinea pig roaming through clover. Or give him a leprechaun's hat.
- April Fool's Day - Set it up to make it look like your guinea pig is playing a prank on someone - perhaps switching the contents of a sugar and a salt shaker?
- Spring - Take a picture of your guinea pig among guinea-pig edible flowers.
- Take a picture of your guinea pig in an Easter basket.
- Summer - Take a picture of your guinea pig with sunglasses on!
- If you have two guinea pigs, place each in one of a pair of shoes or flip-flops.
- Fall - Take a picture of your guinea pig among the fallen leaves.
- Halloween - Find some guinea-pig sized pumpkins for your guinea pig to pose with.
- Thanksgiving - Fashion some turkey feathers for your guinea pig's rump.
- Have your guinea pig drive your car.
- Have your guinea pig drive a Barbie car.
- Have your guinea pig write thank-you notes or holiday cards.
- Use side-walk chalk to create a fun scene for your guinea pig.
- Try other human apparel on your guinea pig - earmuffs? a hair bow? head phones?
- Create a small scarf you can safely wrap around your guinea pig.
- Have your guinea pig crawl out of a Christmas stocking
Be creative! There are so many fantastic ways to photograph your guinea pig. Search the internet for suggestions as well - you could even use a "photo a day" list and apply it to guinea pig photos.