Keeping pet snakes can be a challenge at times. They can be quick moving and skittish, especially animals that do not get a lot of handling. Unlike snapping a quick photo of a dog or cat, successfully taking photos of these animals can present a host of problems. The help of an assistant makes thing much easier. Another set of hands is welcome to either keep the animal contained or catch it if it takes off.
For the most part, snakes are secretive and do not like being out in the open. This is a problem that zoos are faced with every day. They want people to be able to see the animals in the displays, but they also want to keep the stress levels down for the animals. Often times the exhibits are dark or dimly lit. That does not help when attempting to take photos. If using a flash, make sure that the camera is at a 45° angle from the glass or the photo will just be a bright picture of fingerprint covered glass.
One thing that works really well with many snake species it to cover them. Set up the photo scene. Some photographers like to make the set look natural with soil, sand or some other substrate. A clean piece of driftwood used as a climbing branch will add to the décor. Put the snake where you want it in the photo and then cover it with an opaque bowl or other container. Wait for several minutes. Have the assistant grab the bowl while waiting at the ready with the camera. There can be about 5-15 seconds to take a photo before the animal starts to move. It can be a very long process.
Tree snakes need a branch so they feel more comfortable. Many snakes like green tree pythons will just sit and be very cooperative, especially if the photos are taken during the day, when they are normally sleeping.
To create a vignette, with no background or substrate, try draping a white sheet or other cloth over an armchair. The animal may appear to be floating in air if the lighting is perfect. The photo has no distracting background. Many breeders use photos like this for their websites when selling animals. Some breeders use colored marbles or gravel as a substrate with a plain background. It gives the potential buyer an unobstructed view of the animal.
Whatever method is used, do not be intimidated by taking photos of snakes. Once a person learns and understands their behavior, it is much easier to predict what the animal will do when being handled or posed. Keep at it and eventually you will be rewarded with a great photo.