March 3, 2015 by Louisa Jelkmann
Photographing animals is challenging. However, if you have the right training, expertise, and location it becomes easy. This is exactly the reason why Linda Bohm and Gerry Marrazzo make any vision for an ad campaign or branding package possible. With their recently build studio in northern New Jersey, Bohm-Marrazzo created the perfect environment to work with animals.
We got the chance to speak with Linda Bohm and find out about their work and advice when it comes to animal photography. Bohm-Marrazzo will be featured in our upcoming magazine Showcase New York.
Check out our previous edition of Showcase New York.
Production Paradise: What is the most difficult and the most interesting aspect of shooting with animals?
Linda: The difficulty lies only sometimes in the unrealistic expectations of the clients. We are always successful in capturing the essence of the image, as long as it is done with the safety and personality of the “talent” in mind. If it’s not safe, we shoot within the confines of a comfort zone and then apply Gerry’s magic via the computer to finish the image. Because we cast animals directly with their owners and do not use any agents, we know exactly the realm of training and experience each animal has. Competing nationally with my own dogs and cats, allows me to personally be connected to the best dogs and cats. Other shooters who are at the discretion of the animal agents have lost all control and assurance that the animals submitted for the jobs are properly trained and emotionally equipped to handle the demands of a video or print job.
It is very exciting to capture the “human” aspect of each animal that we photograph. Much like their human counterparts, animals show emotion, personality and attitude and respond to our secret formula that directs them to emit the “look” dictated by the layout. It takes a team of people to successfully shoot an animal. Depending on the animal and how many are on set, we need a minimum of four people – one behind the camera, one who is the main director and wrangler and two people to make sure the animal is in the right location and safe on the set. Our well oiled team consists of my partner Gerry, myself, and our long time assistant Amanda and usually the owner of the animal. The only difference between photographing a human and an animal is how we magically elicit their emotion depending if the subject has fur, feathers or scales.
Production Paradise: What is the most exotic animal you worked with?
Linda: Of course, we shoot all animals regularly including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds etc.– that’s nothing really different. But when we shot an ad campaign for Mundi leather goods – it was very exciting to shoot live snakes on a model’s hands. We hired 10 snakes because each snake actually reacted differently to the model. Some easily climbed up her arm and others seemed to not like her at all. We made sure, up front, that we had a model that was not afraid of reptiles.
Production Paradise: How do you prepare yourself for an animal photoshoot?
Linda: We make sure that we cast the right animal for the job. Then we design the lighting, create the set and shoot the exact position with a stand in animal the day before the shoot. We actually shoot the job the day before to iron out all the details. Because the studio has six cats and six dogs – all different sizes and colors – we are able to use them as stand-ins so we know pretty much the complexities and problems that could arise the day of the shoot.
This preparation is essential to the success of the shoot. When the real “model” shows up, we are absolutely ready and can shoot the job efficiently and quickly. Animal shoots are completed in minutes to maintain the excitement and interest of the subject.
Production Paradise: What is the funniest thing that happened on an animal photo shoot?
Linda: I learned my lesson many years ago that it can be very dangerous to trust an agent to hire animal talent. We were commissioned to photograph a turkey for a Bloomingdale’s ad campaign. So I hired a “show turkey” with a trainer because we needed the turkey to plume his feathers for the shot. Through my research I found out that a plumed turkey is a sexually excited turkey, so I asked them to bring a female turkey with them.
Imagine the pain on the art director’s face when the “trainer” was unable to get the turkey to show his feathers. He explained that this particular turkey had been on one of the late night shows and didn’t perform there either. Hmmm and why did they use this turkey for my shoot? Because most animals, as well as people, respond differently to those directing them, I switch between wrangling and shooting. Sometimes my partner Gerry is behind the camera, and I wrangle the animals and vice versa. In this case, it was my turn to save the day with this poor, misunderstood turkey. So, I started to making guttural sounds that I thought might entice the turkey. Apparently I was on the mark. The turkey got so excited at my calling, answered back, and strutted his stuff. Gerry had captured the needed images, as the turkey considered his options. With the female turkey standing on the side…you might guess the rest. He figured I was too tall to mount and proceeded to run off set, grabbed Mrs. Turkey and his way with her. It was quite a sight. And yes, the art director was quite happy.
Production Paradise: What is more important in order to get a good animal picture, luck or patience?
Linda: If you think “luck” is what brings layouts to reality, you will be waiting a long time. Every photograph of humans or animals needs to be planned carefully executed and creatively captured to look like it “just happened.” And yes, sometimes, it takes a lot of patience to wait for just the right moment to click the shutter.
Production Paradise: What animal projects do you have in the pipeline?
Linda: We work for many companies who use animals for non-animal products. Unfortunately, the names are proprietary at this moment. We have cast a specific dog to create a library of images for an international financial firm who is using the images for a huge cyber security campaign. We are currently shooting packaging designs and point of purchase for a major US pet store chain for various new products featuring kittens, cats, puppies and dogs.
We’d like to thank Linda Bohm for taking time to speak with us and giving us an insight into the world of Animal Photography. You can see the full Bohm-Marrazzo animal photography portfolio on their pet shop website and soon on our New York Showcase.