Photography of Animals – Tips and Techniques

The photography of animals can be a challenging and rewarding endeavor. Whether it’s photographing wild animals in their natural habitat or taking photos of pets, you can improve your skills by learning about different techniques and tips.

For example, it’s a good idea to practice by shooting at the beginning and end of the day when the light is soft. Similarly, you can make your images more striking by using black and white.

Composition

There are many elements in composition that you must pay attention to when photographing wildlife, but perhaps none is more important than the fact that animals can be unpredictable and often do not stay still. Symmetry is a good idea for most images, especially those of larger subjects such as horses, but it’s also a good idea to give the animal some space in the direction they are facing — don’t be afraid to use the rule of thirds or create a more balanced, diagonal image.

Shooting at eye level with an animal is a great way to make the viewer feel connected and gives you more control of the frame, as most animals’ features are flattened when shot face-on (long beaks, snouts etc). Capturing action in wildlife photos is also very interesting to viewers, whether it’s mating, playing or fighting.

Lighting

When photographing animals, lighting can make or break an image. Ideally, you want to shoot in natural light that is soft and even. However, this is not always possible, so you will need to work with what you have.

One type of lighting that works well is front light, which illuminates the animal evenly and produces few shadows. This technique is especially effective for animals with dark fur or feathers.

Another type of lighting that can produce pleasing images is rim lighting, which emphasizes the outline of the subject. This technique is best for mammals that have long hair or birds in flight with semi-translucent feathers.

For both front and rim lighting, it is best to shoot during the golden hours at sunrise or sunset. These times are more predictable and tend to produce softer light than midday sunlight.

Taking Closeups

In photography, you often hear the phrase that “the eyes are the window to the soul.” In animal photos, this is especially true. If the viewer of your photo can see an animal’s fear, sadness or anger through its eyes, it creates a connection between the animal and the viewer.

Small simple creatures, such as worms, ants and snails, won’t register you as a threat and may allow you to get close enough for a closeup shot. In this case, a smaller aperture setting is helpful because the image will be less blurry even when the subject moves a bit.

Avoid crowded shots of animals, as these stress the animals and disrupt their natural activities, such as mating, raising young and hunting. It is also important to never provoke wildlife in order to get a picture, as this puts them under undue stress and can cause them to flee.

Waiting for the Right Moment

Wildlife photography requires a lot of patience. The animals can be unpredictable and can quickly change direction or face away from you. You also need to be prepared for your equipment to malfunction. For example, the autofocus on your camera may not work properly or you might miss the perfect moment due to a slow shutter speed.

When photographing wild animals, it’s important to have the animal’s eyes in focus. This will make the image more impactful and tell a story. It’s also a good idea to get down on the animal’s eye level.

Try to look for patterns in the animals’ behavior, such as where they pause regularly. This will help you to predict where they’ll move and when. You can also use a wide angle lens to hide any distracting elements.

Beware of Distracting Elements

Creating a good composition involves adding only elements that enrich the image, and eliminating those that don’t. Distracting elements can include brush in the foreground, trees or grass sticking out of the frame and tangent lines that draw the eye off the subject.

It’s easy to get fixated on taking closeups of animals, but zooming out (or using a wide-angle lens) can reveal more about the environment where they live. Getting close to wildlife without disturbing them allows you to see their details and creates an intimate connection for the viewer. You can also use a long lens to create a dramatic effect that blurs the background and turns foreground objects into soft washes of color. This is known as a panning blur. It can be very effective with moving wildlife.

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