Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Tiger Photo Shoot

These big cats show us what they’ve got on International Tiger Day.

Friday is International Tiger Day, when conservation groups spread the word about the need to protect the big cats.

Joel Sartore has been using photos to raise awareness about conservation for all animals by documenting the world’s captive species through his Photo Ark project. He does this by photographing animals in front of black or white backgrounds in zoos all over the world. For International Tiger Day, we decided to take a look at a photo shoot he did with a few of these big cats.

These pictures of a Sumatran tiger cub (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and its mother came out of a shoot in Atlanta, Georgia—during which the cub and its sibling, Sartore recalls, “were playful as can be.”

“I remember the zoo allowed me to line a space behind the scenes with white paper,” he says. “The cubs were exploring the paper, running around on it and behind it when they could, as well as hopping on mom.”

But it was hard to keep the backdrop intact with tigers in the room. “It didn't take mom very long to rip it up a bit,” says Sartore, “and the shoot was over, about 15 minutes after it had begun.”

The first five photos in this gallery are of one of the cubs, and the last two are of its mother. Like all the images in Photo Ark, they aim to inspire people to help protect animals—like these tigers—for future generations.

Follow Becky Little on Twitter.