Furry Photography: Thoughts & Tips

Does the Furry Fandom take photography for granted? Here’s some thoughts and personal photo tips!

mikepaws--photo-fursuit_slide
I was sat at the LondonFurs monthly meet-up the other week, on a table with GreenReaper who is associated with a variety of furry websites, in particular, two art sites, InkBunny and Weasyl. We were discussing in particular Weasyl as I had recently setup an account there as a backup incase FurAffinity goes south after acquisition by IMVU. What quickly seemed to be an interesting debating point, was the position of the website creator(s) that photography wasn’t a primary art form they wanted seen on their sites, that they were trying to aim more at digital/traditional artwork and literature. Which sort of made me consider a wider question, what is the perception of photography within the wider furry community?

Now I shall admit first of all, that not all photography, like not all artwork, is equal. There’s plenty of people who will browse the depths of FA, discovering the oddest and most crudely drawn art, yet some will say “It’s art! It was intended that way.” I am not sure if some artists get asked to remove or place these pieces in their scraps folder, but certainly poorly taken photos are very often banned under submission rules. So please, try not to post those blurry grainy photos online! Stop uploading every damn pic you took at a convention onto a gallery. Go through, sort out which of the images tells that moment/scene the best upload just that one. You can always email people included in pics a wider selection (or use a cloud sharing service).

This was a process I learnt myself over a couple of years, you do feel protective over what you have and there is a desire to share that. But as my standards for quality have risen, I’ve learnt to become more selective. I might take 1000 images at a con, but you’ll only see 100 on Flickr, and even then I never felt comfortable posting more than 10 or 15 to a site like FA. Plus when I did post those 10 or so images, I would do it a few each day, to make sure my watchers are not being bombarded and potentially skip over some.
Artists who draw often don’t post every commission or sketch to a web gallery either, again there is a desire to share something that is yours, but I see more often now a steady stream and not so many instances of flooding.

Now, I understand that websites need memory and server space to host the content that they provide and want to make sure that the relevant content is uploaded. But I personally sometimes find it odd that an artist might perhaps only ever draw their own character in a range of poses, and not get penalised, while submission rules for FA say only three photos of any single particular fursuit should be in a single gallery regardless of pose variety.

Personally I think this can be unfair, and restricts how much creativity a photographer could share with other users in comparison to other outlets in the community. However it is not an excuse to just plaster your gallery with every photo you ever took, think of it as a space to construct your own narrative of the world around you.

 

The range of angles, lens types, lighting, background and poses mean that there’s a wide variety of interesting and engaging images of a fursuit character that could be photographed. Just as they could be drawn in a wide variety of poses, perspectives and backgrounds in artwork. The choice of those factors can be deliberate or accidental by the photographer, but it makes for plenty of expression in how to portray a fursona’s personality. I will try and share a few tips here, and what I am looking out for when going to take an image. It’s not extensive however, if people want more, I may write a future post dedicated to photo tips!

A good photographer will control the scene and want to try and bring out the character/performance within the fursuit wearer. I often will try and ask about a fursona’s personality. Are they cuddly? Fierce? Cowardly? Curious? What would their fursona do in a particular situation?

Then using that information I will attempt to photograph the fursuit to hint that those traits.

I like to direct my fursuits a lot, I am not one for always just standing in a corner and photographing costumes as they casually stroll past. That can get boring real fast in my opinion.

This low angle makes Vex look intimidating and scary (Mikepaws)

This low angle makes Vex look intimidating and scary (Mikepaws)

When you are at cons or meets, it can be very tricky to get the right background. I often will try find places that have little clutter or plain colours, and where possible, without any other people or fursuits visible unless they are part of the scene. Sadly the biggest issue with photography is often the background is where you can travel too, unless you are willing to put in the huge amount of work required to fake it on a green screen, with lots and lots of photoshop.

The landscape dominates this image, leaving the fursuiter as a silhouette (Kiwaku)

The landscape dominates this image, leaving the fursuiter as a silhouette (Kiwaku)

The same goes for costume and props, especially at conventions when there may be a specific theme that the clothing has been created for. The same goes for props, they help create poses and situations for the performer to interact with. Some of these costumes may only ever be made for the single convention, so it almost becomes a valuable record to that costumer of their special outfit.

The sword allows for a dramatic pose, while rural background gives sense of correct time period (Mikepaws)

The sword allows for a dramatic pose, while rural background gives sense of correct time period (Mikepaws)

However there are times when I am very happy to just follow and photograph, especially when hosting a fursuit walk and just recording public interaction. Then I try to stand back and give the fursuiter space to perform to their audience. I’d be attempting to get the smiles and positive reaction to the fursuiting recorded.

Reacting to what's happening still works if you're aware of composition (Mikepaws)

Reacting to what’s happening still works if you aware of composition (Mikepaws)

Everyone can claim to be a photographer nowadays, we all carry a camera in our pocket, thanks to the advancements in mobile phone technology. But it takes some creative thought to concept and compose an image. There are times in my professional work where I have already planned and thought out shots ahead of time, while more will be spontaneous as I discover if the original ideas are working as well as I had thought.

I am sure artists will feel the same, they have a picture in their head and they want to get it out. At times I feel precisely the same.

Appropriate prop on location makes the scene seem more real (Chorca)

Appropriate prop on location makes the scene seem more real (Chorca)

Fursuiters, please thank photographers who take the time to capture your character. Remember just like artists, to credit them also for their work. Either when you post it to your gallery on a furry art site, or just tweet it for a Fursuit Friday. They will be immensely grateful and help’s to raise that photographer’s profile just like any other artist looking for feedback and recommendations. I hope that some of the community’s more hard working photographic members will get recognition that they deserve, especially those staff photographers that will spend an entire con running the studio space.

Great use of lighting, landscape, composition & costume, a photo I aspire to. (SUPA-F)

Great use of lighting, landscape, composition & costume, a photo I aspire to (SUPA-F)

I became attracted to photography because I enjoy sharing the world around me and wanted to make sure the community is documented and recorded as it evolves and grows. It is a lot of fun trying to portray the personalities of a performing character and it bring fursuits to life. However, photography in the furry fandom is not exclusive to capturing fursuit performance, there’s the people which make our community too. Don’t forget to take their portraits as well!
Happy snapping everyone.

 

Written by Mike “Mikepaws” Garnett.

Photography credits in caption brackets.

About the author

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