Just when you think hamsters can't get any more adorable, here's an even cuter idea for photographing hamsters! Introducing “hamketsu” photos, or photos of hamster rear ends. They are insanely popular in Japan, and a number of books devoted to them have become bestsellers. Here, we introduce some techniques for getting "kawaii" photos of those round, furry hamster derrieres. (Reported by: Satomi Nakashima)
Look up from a low angle to capture its tail and its little round rear end
Being living creatures, hamsters naturally will not behave however you want them to. Moreover, with such small bodies and quick movements, they will test your persistence and creativity when you try to capture them on photo.
An effective way to use a hamster as a model without giving it undue stress is to maintain an angle that utilises height and narrowness. Hamsters generally would not jump down from high places, so if you place one on a narrow stand about 10cm off the ground without much space for it to move, it will stay still for a while. Because a stand is easy to move, it will also be easier to direct its rear end toward the camera. Furthermore, I recommend shooting at a slightly tilted angle to enhance the cuteness of the rear end.
When shooting up close at a low angle, cover the desk with a white cloth to direct light toward the hamster's belly so that it appears brighter. To emphasize the rear end and tail, set a shallower focus—one which achieves just the right look for the rear end and torso.
EOS 5D Mark II/ EF50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro/ FL: 50mm/ Manual Exposure (f/4.5, 1/160 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: 4,800K
Aiming at a slightly low angle makes it easier to capture the cuteness of a hamster's rear end as well as its tiny tail, which has a tendency to be hidden from view. This is recommended to help you emphasize the roundness and fullness of its backside.
EOS 5D Mark II/ EF50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro/ FL: 50mm/ Manual Exposure (f/4.5, 1/160 sec.)/ ISO 800/ WB: 4,800K
Useful items for the shoot
The small chair ornament that I used in the shoot was purchased from a general store. General stores are not only a treasure trove of accessories for shooting, but also a great source of ideas. Try using such items for your own shoot.
Try capturing hamster’s cute rear end without showing its face!
Here I captured a hamster that was making its way into a jacket pocket. Because hamsters are nocturnal, they tend to be restless when in bright places. So, I opened a jacket pocket by hand, and placed a hamster in front of it. The hamster then crawled into the pocket on its own. A key point here is to take the hamster’s size into account and use a pocket that is not too deep, as the hamster might explore deep inside the pocket and its rear end will become hidden from view. Keep working on capturing a pose where the tail is visible, as how that short tail turns out in the picture is essential for bringing out the cuteness of the hamster's rear end.
A hamster is a subject that is small and moves fast, so it can be susceptible to blurring in your photos. Be sure to increase the ISO speed as high as you can without impacting the image quality, and set a high shutter speed. You are also less likely to get blur in your images if you use a lens with a short focal length. Make sure to choose a bright location with soft, natural light to draw out the softness of the hamster's fur.
EOS 5D Mark II/ EF50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro/ FL: 50mm/ Manual Exposure (f/4.5, 1/100 sec.)/ ISO 1600/ WB: 4,800K
The cuteness of a hamster is in the sense of fluffiness that is particularly evoked by its round bum and soft fur. To emphasize that, do your best to focus on the "expression" created by the rear end and tail—even though its face is adorable too!
Substitutes for pockets
An item like a glove or sock is also good for this purpose. Be creative in trying to prevent the hamster from fully entering the item, such as by using a safety pin to block off the hole at a certain length.
Capture rear end shots so cute you could gobble them up
Here I captured a hamster that has plonked itself into an egg carton. The cavities of an egg carton are a bit tight and bright, so a hamster is unlikely to settle in such a spot if left as is. This is where we can use bait. Hamsters have large cheek bags, so they have a habit of temporarily stuffing food that is in front of them into their mouths. When bait is placed on the shooting set, the hamster will quietly face its rear end toward you. If you put the bait inside the egg carton, and place the hamster on the carton, it will stick its head into the cavity to eat the bait, during which time you can take your shots.
Even so, even hamsters have their likes and dislikes when it comes to food, so if they don't like what you have placed there, they won't eat it at all. Of course, what is most important is communication before the shoot. Get to know the hamster's personality and food preferences beforehand so that you can have fun with the shoot.
In this photo I focused on the eggs as a whole, and narrowed down the aperture to create a greater depth of field to show the hamster blending in seamlessly with the carton of eggs. I used a flash with an umbrella and lit up the set from the rear diagonal left, through a piece of tracing paper. I placed a white reflective board in front of the subject to create light.
EOS 5D Mark II/ EF50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro/ FL: 50mm/ Manual Exposure (f/13, 1/125 sec)/ ISO 100/ WB: 5,000K
I felt that a hamster's rear end bore some resemblance to familiar food items, so I wanted to get creative and capture shots that weren’t only cute, but so cute you would want to gobble them up, which resulted in this shot of a djungarian hamster as an egg.
Equipment and settings for the shoot
I used a professional flash kit for this shoot, but alternatively, you can use a standard clip-on slave flash. If this does not provide sufficient light, try increasing the ISO speed of your camera.
Born in Gifu Prefecture in 1978, Nakajima graduated from the School of Letters, Arts and Sciences I at Waseda University. A freelance photographer, she is in charge of providing photos for numerous magazines and books, covering a wide range of subjects, including people and cooking. She considers the photography of animals and plants to be her life's work, and is never without her camera, whether at work or at home.
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