TAKE GREAT ANIMALS PHOTOS – 7 TIPS
Animals are phenomenal photography subjects. They are beautiful, impressive, cute, and… let’s face it.. they tend to be challenging to capture. If you love animals and would like to take great animals photos please check out and apply the tips below.
LIGHT and 2. FAST SHUTTER SPEED
Points number one and two are in fact connected, let me explain how.
Unless they are asleep the animals usually move, they move fast and in unpredictable way. What does it have to do with light? – you may ask. Quite a lot in fact. If we want to capture moving object and we want the photo to be sharp we need to use shorter exposure (shutter speed). In general terms that means that our shutter should be open for shortest time possible. This will give very little time for the animal to move, but it will also give very little time for light to enter through the shutter. Does it make sense so far? OK.
If we do not have enough daylight, we may end up with dark, underexposed pictures, which will be very difficult (if not impossible) to correct. This is why it is important that we choose the right place and time for our session. Just to be clear, the time around the noon when the sunlight is very sharp is also not the best option, as usually animals hide in the shady areas and sleep.
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– choose well lit place and correct time of the day (not noon, but also not too late)
– set your camera to faster shutter speed (shorter expositions) 1/250 s and shorter
DEPTH OF FIELD
Without talking about sophisticated technical details, let me just explain that the depth of field is the area (distance) in the picture between closest and furthest object that is in focus. Narrow depth of field is when the area before our subject as well as background behind our subject are blurred (out of focus). Long depth of field is when relatively whole image is in focus (pic no 7 – that means objects closest to photographer, the main subject and the background). Usually when taking photos of animal you would like to concentrate on the main subject, thus apply short DOF (blurring front and background). We can obtain it by using large aperture setting in our camera, which works perfectly well with fast shutter speeds (point 2). Large aperture is specified by low f-numbers (f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4).
– if you want to concentrate just on the animal and obtain nice blurred background (and foreground), use low f-numbers in your camera settings (that means large aperture)
If you would like to take great animals photos, but you are still struggling with technical aspects of photography, here is a great resource for you!
Pictures of animals taken from humans perspective are most of the time not interesting. Unless it is horse or other really big creature, if you want to take great animal photos it is best to get low – ideally to their eye level or lower. Yes, when it comes to small animals it could mean you will have to kneel or even lay on your belly.. Do you think this picture would be interesting at all if I stood above this turtle? What we want to obtain is to capture our subjects eyes or face expression. Yes, I use term “face” deliberately – look at the picture number 1 or 6.
Don’t be afraid to kneel or even lay down. Your photography will definitely benefit from the lower, animal’s perspective.
FOCUS ON ONE PARTICULARLY INTERESTING DETAIL
Most often it will be the eyes, but not necessarily (and sometimes not enough). On picture below it is extraordinary fan on birds head plus en eye. On picture number 1 it is monkeys eyes and face expression. In general terms, the main focus should be on something that makes this picture really outstanding.
BE PATIENT BUT ALSO BE READY TO ACT IMMEDIATELY
When I went to Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur I knew there will be villain monkeys on the way, so I kept my camera set and ready to shoot. Well, I also kept the camera strap wrapped tightly around my wrist, as I knew they tend to steal whatever they find interesting in tourists hands and I definitely didn’t want my camera to be their next gain. But that’s not the point.
Keep your eyes open and be ready with your camera settings. Sometimes you need to spend a lot of time in one position and wait to capture the perfect moment. Sometimes you just turn around and see the monkey that stole someone’s soda, smashed it to make a hole and drinks from the bottom of the bottle.
When you know the animals are around, just be ready at all times to capture the perfect shot.
While it is fairly easy to compose perfect frame for landscape photos or human portraits, good composition can be really challenging in animal photography. Unless the background is vital to the photograph (beautiful landscape or interesting habitat of the animal) we would like to keep it uniform and possibly blurred. We do not want anything in the background to distract our viewers from the main subject.
Unless.. the background is really interesting and the picture would not be the same if we blur it. Please look at the example below. Yes, the bird is posing nicely, but it is the whole setting with waterfalls and statues that makes the picture stand out.
– with regard to point number 3 – it is your decision if you want to blur the background and bring out only your subject or you think that the habitat is interesting enough to keep it sharp. If you keep it sharp however, remember that it should be something relevant to the whole image.
Last but not least, be mindful and respectful! The fact that you want to take great animals photos does not mean the animals should suffer being blinded by the flash (please avoid it by all means) or being scared by you getting too close. Please bear in mind that animals well-being is more important that “ideal shot”. I hope that the tips above will help you take great animals photos.
* One more mini tip from me: Learn new things – Practice what you learned – Repeat ! That’s the best way to improve your photography and really get somewhere with your shots. There’s this great and affordable course with Kaylee Greer who is internationally recognized pet photographer
What’s great about it is that she’s taking you to all those different surroundings like park, beach and even animals shelter and shows you how to deal with the situation and your subject in order to get the perfect shot. Make sure to check it out by clicking the link above!
What are your experiences about photographing animals? Please share them in comments.
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