And by shooting, of course I mean, photographing :)
Animals have been a passion of mine ever since I can remember...I grew up with all manner of pets, including cats, dogs, rabbits, mice, frogs, fish, horses, lizards, pigeons, budgies...we even had pet eels and as a child I loved sitting by the pond, feeling them glide lazily through my fingers.
These days I continue to share my life with animals…my current whippet and I go to the local nursing home on a weekly basis to visit the elderly residents – and I know by the smiles and the cuddles he receives that he is a tremendous gift who puts a little ray of sunshine into the lives of these people – some of whom, sadly, never receive any visits from friends or family. When we deal with the failings and disappointments of humans, we can rejoice in the loyalty of animals.
So I suppose it's natural for me to want to capture these amazing creatures with my camera. Our world would be a very sad one if there were no animals in it.
I'd like to share some tips for animal photography for folks who are newcomers to this kind of subject matter
1. Get down low
Try to avoid the typical “snapshot” type of picture. There are so many animal pictures in microstock already, so try to aim for something a little more out of the ordinary.
Most pets are smaller than us, and photographs taken from a standing position usually aren't all that interesting. If you can get down low, so you are at eye level with the animal, it can really change the dynamics of your picture, even for animals that are larger than us.
2. Focus on the eyes
They say that eyes are the window to the soul...and when I look into the kind eyes of animals, I believe it applies to them too. Eyes are the first thing we look into, we rely a great deal on visual communication via the eyes. So, always, always make sure the eyes are in sharp focus.
3. Think about your background
Sometimes, using a shallow depth of field is the best way to go, to remove distracting elements from your backgrounds. You want the animals to "pop" from the image, and a nice smooth bokeh background is perfect for this. A telephoto lens is ideal. But sometimes, the environmental elements are too good to leave out, and they form an important part of the image. If this is the case, be sure to try and capture it.
4. Get a different angle
Apart from getting down low, try to think of some creative angles that might be worth trying. I love this image from Shevs - it’s one of the most creative angles I have ever seen for this type of shot.
5. Look for the light
Don’t limit yourself to midday light or indoor flash. You can get some amazing images at early dawn or evening when the sun is setting. If you’re shooting in the midday sun, try to use some fill flash to bring out the details in the shadows. Be conscious though of the animal’s reaction – flash may frighten them. Cloudy days can make for lovely soft lighting – but it may require some additional post processing to prevent your images from looking too dull.
6. Capture the action
Animals frozen in action can make terrific photos – you’ll capture moments you would miss in the blink of eye.
7. Framing your shots
Think about your composition – the rule of thirds is often a simple but effective way of framing, rather than shooting the animal dead centre in the frame. Some images will look great with the animal in the centre of the frame, but more often your composition will look far more polished if you line the animal up to the left or right of the centre.
8. Be patient
Working with animals is not easy, nor is it a quick process, and often you have to wait for the right moment, or, if the animal isn’t familiar with you, you’ll have to give them some time to get used to your presence.
9. Wide angle
If you have a wide angle lens, try it out for some fun shots – sometimes the results are delightful!
10. Shoot lots of images
The beauty of digital means that we can take as many shots as we like without wasting film. Use this to your advantage, and get out there with your camera and practice, practice, practice. Most of all, have fun – if you enjoy making your images, and if you can create something that stands out a little from the rest, you’re well on the way to shooting successful animal stock images! Good luck :)