Taking pictures of monkeys is more fun than a barrel of monkeys!
Monkey On Your Back
During the course of my never ending quest to find and illustrate every applicable cliché for my stock photo business it occurred to me that shooting a baboon might be more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Seriously, I decided a great image would be a monkey on a businessman’s back. I could create a cool concept image and then round out the shoot with assorted funny monkey pictures.
Jack, the Baboon, and a Cubicle
Step one was to call my favorite animal trainer, Stephanie Taunton, of Bow Wow Productions to arrange to photograph her baboon. We set a date. Next step; I needed a model. More precisely, I needed a middle-aged guy that could be Joe average businessman. He also needed to be comfortable having a rather large baboon perched on his back. I had the perfect candidate, Jack Babbitt, a fellow Aikidoist and sometime sensei (martial arts instructor). Luckily he agreed to the project.
Next I would need a business environment. I decided to set up such an environment in my studio. My assistant located a place that would rent us a cubicle at a very reasonable price. Add to the cubicle a carpet remnant, various props from my own office, and the ability of Photoshop to add further background, and the environment I needed was in place.
The day of the shoot we started by getting a thorough briefing by Stephanie. Among her instructions to us, no interaction with my assistant. What? Apparently the baboon would view my assistant, a woman, as part of his harem. If I interacted with her directly he might deem it necessary to defend her (his harem) against me. OK, no interaction.
Further, no smiling on the set. Smiling would be showing our weapons. Oh yeah, no looking into his eyes as that would be a challenge. Figuring that he could probably tear my arm off and beat me with it, I decided to avert my eyes in his presence. One more little tidbit, don’t be surprised if he peed on Jack, the business man model. Well heck, that would just be a wardrobe change…no problem!
We had Jack stand in place while we worked out the lighting. It was time for our exalted guest to make his appearance. We set up a ladder next to Jack. Stephanie had the “old world monkey” (a baboon is an old world monkey, one from Africa as opposed to Asia) climb up on the ladder, and from there, onto Jack’s shoulders. We went through a series of poses and expressions. They both performed admirably. And neither one peed, though I might have if I were the one with a baboon on my back!
Once we were finished with the pictures involving Jack we switched to some baboon only images. I had the monkey sitting at the desk using the computer and holding the phone. We finished up with some portraits and miscellaneous poses, some cute, some silly and some, well, intense.
Photographing Animals for Stock
We got some excellent pictures. My two favorites didn’t even involve Jack though. The first one is simply a shot of the baboon staring into the camera. No funny monkey picture here. This is one of the intense ones, and really brings out the sense of intelligence of the baboon. My second favorite is a shot of the baboon in Rodin’s “thinker” pose. I used Photoshop to replace the apple crate he was sitting on with a pile of books. The stock agency turned it down, so I re-submitted it under the Photographer’s Choice program…where it sells quite well.
Photographing animals for stock, whether it is cute monkeys, fierce tigers or majestic elephants, adds an element of interest and excitement not just to the shoots, but to the stock images as well.