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How To: Chinchilla Holiday Photography

One of our favorite ways to get festive during the holiday season is with winter-themed chinchilla photo shoots! This guide will go through my process with photographing LY Chinchillas on my own with no strobes or flash (basically, nothing fancy)! Be sure to have a fast camera (I use the Fujifilm X-T10 Camera because of the super-fast continuous shooting mode) and light sources ready to go!Koko Warm Posing XmasThe very first thing to check prior to starting the shoot is the chin-proof factor. Admittedly, the actual time on set is very short – and the rest of the time is spent coaxing your little one back on set or sending them back to their cage to nap off a hard 10 seconds of work! In those off-set moments, you’ll need to make sure that everything is completely chin-proofed to prevent any accidents, fur loss, or injury.Muff Sideways HolidaysThe next thing you’ll want to check are your ambient light sources – that means your natural light, ceiling lights, desk lights, lamps, floor lamps, whatever other illuminating tools you may have in the shooting area. This will help capture your chinchilla by allowing you to have a faster shutter speed due to more available light. Normally, I prefer a clean white light, but for the holidays, there’s nothing wrong with a warmer glow that comes standard in most home lighting.
Grab a portable spotlight if your natural lighting is low – ideally, this will be somehow diffused. You can do this by using a strong flashlight or adjustable desk lamp covered and tied down with a very sheer scarf. This will make sure that your light is not too harsh and capture your chinchillas in all their softness.Set design holidays 2016 The third step is to create your set: start out with a fun, safe idea and execute! Fleece is always great, but other textures can be visually pleasing too. For my holiday shoot this year, I went with simple silver and white tree decorations, along with a chunky knit sweater. It’s important to note that these decorations are obviously not safe for consumption, so I would not suggest this for anyone who is starting out with shoots; managing the talent on set is a huge part of the multitasking these types of productions require!Lulu Munching Warm HolidaysThe final step is to shoot away! I like to set up the scene, get the lights on, take a few test shots, and then plop them in one by one to see how they react. Normally, my chins are very confused at the new environment, so they’ll take 10 seconds to look around before dashing off. Those 10 seconds are crucial! With a fast continuous shooting mode, you can grab up to 8 images per second – more than enough to finalize at least one adorable final shot.Mitty HolidaysKnowing your chinchillas, staying very patient, and setting realistic expectations is key: after shooting for years with them, I know that Fifi will be tough to contain (she has a strong dislike for unfamiliar environments) – so during this year’s shoot, she slipped out of the roster by her own sheer determination. Remember, it’s your own selfish cute-loving self who happens to be encouraging them to pose for adorable photos, so never get frustrated if things aren’t working out. If someone is being a diva, simply save the shoot for another day. Or, if you know a shoot is coming up, hold off on safe chews and treats for the week prior and let them munch on set. If difficulties arise, the rule is: better safe than sorry, always! It’s not worth straining your relationship with your beloved chin over some images.Muff Holiday Warm EatingDon’t be apprehensive to reinvent the concept if needed. Sometimes, simple is better. A fleece backdrop and a chew stick can yield incredibly cute shots, too! Staying basic is an awesome way to start learning how your chins will behave in front of the lights and camera. It’s always truly just a buildup of trust, anyhow. We all wish you a very warm and happy holidays with tons of bonding and photography, sweet friends! Koko Cute Head Warm Holidays

Chinchillas and Babysitters

As a chinchilla owner, sometimes the world beckons you away from the life of a stay-at-home chin-slave guardian. When the sweet oceanside breeze or faded sirens of some delightful foreign city tug at your heartstrings, you begin to remember what life was like before owning a chinchilla.

mitty love pillow chinchilla

All the feeding, cleaning, dusting, weighing, and constant bonding efforts can get overwhelming at times – not to mention the cage building, cage purchasing, DIY cage accents and hanging toys, cookie making, perpetual safeguarding against plastic, hefty air conditioning/dehumidifier bills, and constant provision of chin-safe chews, occasional chin-proofed playtimes, and continual supply of soft entertainment. And if you think that’s a handful, it’s just the start! For very loving chin-owners, chinchilla ownership is a way of life and chinchilla care and parenthood is just as much a part of your daily routine as work, friends, or school! They’re family! Honestly, caring for a chinchilla properly is time, energy, and money-consuming, but that smug smile on their fat, furry faces is worth every ounce of trouble! For new or potential owners, just go ahead and skip to our post all about chinchilla care basics to gather a light gist of what your fluffy workflow will be like.

Ko Tutu

So, back to that wanderlust dreamscape: island sunrise, countryside mountaintop, or city retreat. Maybe you’re thinking of leaving for a weekend, or flying off for a few weeks – after all, you’re a hardworking chin-parent, you deserve it! What’s the best course of action when you can’t take your babies with you? Let’s chat about chin-sitters! Inevitably, at some point in your chin’s very long and happy life with you, you will likely have to leave your beloveds in the care of a third party. This post is all about how to select and direct the perfect chinchilla sitter, and make sure your fluffs are well-cared for in your bittersweet absence.

lulu chinchilla hat

Step 1: Find your potential sitter. I’m lucky: I have an incredible family that lives close and are well-versed with my chinchilla obsession – they’ve endured endless lectures from me on chinchilla health and safety. Ideally, a family member or very close friend would be the best choice – someone who lives nearby, so you always have a reachable emergency contact. It’s best to find a sitter well in advance, as it’s all about availability and suitability.

Koko and Ellen

Step 2: Provide all necessary information to your sitter. I make a very thorough document touching on all major points, as well as directing them to this blog to find additional information. Of course, they can contact me at anytime through any social media platform, phone, or email in order to obtain additional information. Adding in the number of your exotic vet is always a great move, too. I always try to drive home the idea that this incredibly important document will be their chinchilla bible for the duration of their stay. Instructions should typically be much more conservative than the way you care for your chins, taking into account the differentiation in familiarity and knowledge of your particular chinnies.

Chin Care

Step 3: Test your potential sitter. After allowing sitters to review information, I’ll invite them over each day for several days in order to test their ability to handle, feed, dust, and care for the chins. I typically skip imposing the daily weighing routine while I’m away, as it is more involved than the other care elements and requires a deeper understanding of each chinchilla in order to successfully weigh them. I’ll always ask a few questions as I watch them work, including a few “what if” situations for good measure.

I was asked recently about why my playtime rules are so conservative. To elaborate, I’m all about playing it safe with my babies – especially given new circumstances, people, or events. Too many things can go wrong if your sitter isn’t completely trained for playtime, so I err on the side of caution. Every chinchilla is unique, and some are crazier than others (cough, Muff!); each new variable equates to a slew of new, potentially harmful results. Playtime is, in general, optional based on the opinion of each chinchilla owner. Additionally, playtime is not crucial in any means to a chin’s general health, so skipping a few sessions couldn’t possibly hurt them. On the other hand, overheating, fur slip, stress, or injury could. The most nightmarish situation I could think up would be a chinchilla injury occurring while I’m not home with no concrete proof of how, why, or when. I’d personally wait until I was home to conduct any playtimes, but everyone is different! Who knows, you could know a true chinchilla guru – but that would still be a risk you’d have to be willing to take as a responsible pet owner.

Muff Windowsill

Step 4: Buy a webcam! This is a great piece of technology that every chinchilla owner should buy, as it captures what your chin-sitter may neglect. I position the cam between the cages and angle the cages so I can see everything: water bottles, hay feeders, pellet bowls, and so on. Additionally, I’ll always position my thermometer close enough to the webcam in order to monitor their environment from afar. I have a webcam that’s easy to check via phone and even allows me to coo or sing to them from another zip code!

Fifi Super Cute

Step 5: Check in with your sitter every day. Text, call, or email! A short catch-up on your chin’s day is always in order. Of course, you can also inquire about how your sitter is doing! 😛

Step 6: Pay your sitter (with friendship, or money). Payment for quality service is always a gesture of goodwill. 🙂 Unless we’re talking family – in that case, put it on the communal tab.

muff light chinchilla cutie

Step 7: Keep in contact and repeat as needed! As the sourcing part of this process can be quite intense, it’s best to maintain great relations with your chin-sitter and keep in touch, as you never know when your travel bug will catch up with you again.

lulu chinchilla city

There you have it; the 7 steps to take when selecting and utilizing a chinchilla babysitter. Of course, use your sitters as sparingly as possible: chin-sitting is time and energy consuming, and only you know your chins best! 🙂 As with all exotic pets with specific needs, chinchillas require very willing and knowledgeable sitters, but most pet lovers can be trained with adequate time and accurate information over time. Happy travels, chin-lovers – and make sure your lovely fluffs are safe at home for when you return!

How To: Chinchilla Photography

As a professional photographer in New York City, I’ve had my share of dramatic clients – fussing over hair and makeup, complaining about angles, and throwing out last-minute conceptual changes. Yeah, sometimes high fashion and editorial work can be extremely particular, but if great minds come together to accomplish the task, beautiful imagery can result.

Chinchillas, on the other hand – well, where to begin? They are inherently adorable (to me, they are the cutest animals on this planet) and can do no wrong visually. However, they won’t come together with you on a photo shoot. They won’t say – oh sure, I’ll swipe my tail 45 degrees to the left and wink at you while holding up an apple stick with my right paw. If only! Chins are hard to get ahold of, and even if you have a non-reactive chinchilla (like my Koko), photographing them can be tough. They’re drama queens in their own right!

Flash photography is the easiest and most practical type of photography to use when snapping an image of a high-speed, high-energy animal. It freezes them in frame instantly, and most of the time won’t have blur. That means you can capture them jumping, twirling, turning, or performing any onslaught of energetic feats – but the image won’t be soft or cuddly, like we know our chinchillas to be. Along with diminishing their furry details and barraging their colors with an unsightly whitewash, flash photography will likely cause you to put in some post-processing time; you should expect to use a photo-editing program to get those tiny red eyes out of your photo.

Chins look best when photographed without flash, as most standard non-diffused flash units will be too harsh on their fluffy details. The problem with studio photography is that it typically requires more setup time, careful planning, and safe treats on hand! As far as camera settings go, you’ll need a slower shutter speed (or a super-bright lighting system). I like to maintain a low ISO on all my photographs to keep images less noisy, meaning my settings will slow down overall processing speeds even more.

As far as personal photographic tastes go, I’m ALL about natural lighting. Give me the morning sun, sulking half-light, or a heavy sunset. I love it all: the emotive depth, the searing contrast, the daring illusory effects. For all my clients, I suggest going natural. It’s more challenging (so to say, more interesting) than a studio shoot and lends a level of professionalism that supersedes the senseless ‘pro ideal’ of a $20,000 camera set and a 3,000 square ft NYC studio (although wouldn’t we all love to bathe in such fanciness ~ as the chins love to bathe in dust). I believe strongly in natural lighting, it shows in my work.

As far as chinchilla photography goes, I’m ALL about just surviving the shoot! Natural light is still the best for beautiful images, but studio photography accomplishes what natural lighting can’t – being able to be done at any time of the day. I’ll still grab my Nikon for the playtime sessions with the kids, but if I’m looking for some high-quality commercial-level imagery, I’ll overwhelmingly choose a studio set.  That means I’m gonna put in 20 minutes to get the lighting right but only end up shooting for a minute or two. Sets should be simple and clean, allowing the focus to be on the chins – adding in a colorful fleece background or sprinkling marigolds can brighten up the scene without detracting from the furry spectacle.

It’s imperative to prepare for the skittishness of the babies. Since chinchillas are nocturnal, their eyes perform better in low light, so I’m sure the brightness of the set becomes irritating very quickly. Chins have such little patience when it comes to waiting for human error to correct itself, so it’s best to be ready with a tripod and set your camera to high-speed continuous shooting mode, and give it your best!

Remember, patience and effort are the main components to great chinchilla photos. It doesn’t hurt to have a photo assistant to collect escaping chins or a chinchilla-safe treat on set to coax them into staying still – if only for a moment! 😀