Dramatic Wild Animal Portraits: Ken Drake's How To
by Jessica Gordon
August 07, 2014 —
Ten years ago, native Londoner Ken Drake—burned out from his software job—decided to take a few months off and focus on his photography hobby. At the time, he had two new kittens and practiced making portraits of them with his Canon 10D. Friends took notice, requesting portraits of their own pets, and soon Drake got hooked on photography.
After relocating to Australia in 2008, Drake opened Zoo Studio in Brisbane and devoted himself full-time to animal photography. Now, 99 percent of his work comes from private portrait clients, with other work for charitable organizations.
If Drake’s style looks familiar, it’s because he’s won multiple awards for his portraiture, including First, Second and Third places in the Pets/Animals category of the 16 x 20 Awards at WPPI 2014, and the Grand award in the Portrait Division. For the first time in Rangefinder, Drake explains in detail how he gets the shots that have earned him so many accolades.
All photos © Ken Drake
Charlie In Flight
Lighting and Setup: “This is a three-light setup and was one of the first sessions I did with the Paul C. Buff Einstein unit. Charlie is flying toward his mum, who I placed under a light with a reflector in order to get some backlight coming through Charlie’s feathers. The key light is up to camera right and high above him, with a Chimera small softbox mounted. A further light is to camera left, providing fill light to lift the shadows with another small Chimera softbox mounted.”
Brooklyn Sits Pretty
Lighting and Setup: “The key light on this shot is a small Chimera softbox to camera right, and a further small Chimera softbox above and to the rear left of Brooklyn. Precise placement was important in order to reduce his shiny hotspots (you have to keep the frogs moist, because if they dry out they can die). I was also really keen to keep as much texture on his bumpy skin on his throat and chest as possible.”
Lighting and Setup: “I placed an extra small Chimera softbox to the right of the camera just higher than his head, and another just behind him and to the side to camera left. Luka was quite close to a black material background because I didn’t want the background 100 percent black for this shot—sometimes some light on the background can give the photo a bit more depth. I also worried that if he was too far into the middle of the room he might not feel so safe and secure. Exact light placement was quite tricky. His fur on his body was soaking up the light, but the skin on his wings was more reflective. Luka was hanging upside down—which meant that for light placement, up and down were reversed, but I knew in the final image I wanted him looking like he was standing because it makes it easier for the human brain to engage with him.”
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