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How to Get Squirrels to Use Props in a Photo Shoot

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Freelance photographer Max Ellis of Teddington, UK, has received quite a bit of attention as of late for his ongoing Squirrelismo project, which features portraits of squirrels posing with various props. We caught up with Ellis to find out the secrets behind his viral pictures.

Ellis says that his squirrel subjects live in the big trees found behind his garden. He’s made a habit of creating sets for the squirrels, so they regularly come around to investigate and see what’s new.

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“Obviously its elaborately staged,” Ellis says, when we asked him about the props. “I use micro filaments to suspend objects and essentially train the squirrels to interact with the objects.” Sometimes he uses Photoshop to clean up little details and remove visible wires from photos, but aside from that, the photos are 100% real and not the result of photo-manipulation.

“It does annoy me when people assume it’s just Photoshopped, as hours — and sometimes days — go into a set up,” he says.

The umbrella in the background is suspended by a thin wire.
The umbrella in the background is suspended by a thin wire.

To get the squirrels interested in the props, Ellis puts tasty treats on them. Sometimes he uses peanut butter. Other times he uses a hobnob biscuit or some sunflower seeds attached with double sided tape.

The portraits are generally captured with a Nikon D4 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens.

Ellis has used these techniques to capture squirrels as photographers…

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As weightlifters…

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Grooming each other…

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As musicians…

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…and more. You can find more of Ellis’ work over on his website and through his Instagram account.

(via Max Ellis via 500px ISO)


Image credits: Photographs by Max Ellis and used with permission

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