Shooting animals

posted on 4th of april, 2011

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.

© Shevs (Help)
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 :)

Comments (11)

Posted by Fenghui on April 07, 2011
nice blog,i like it.
Posted by Lehmanphotos on April 06, 2011
Great blog and great photos. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Posted by smartview27 on April 06, 2011
Thanks for sharing!
Posted by Friday123 on April 06, 2011
Wide angle: very interesting. Thanks for the advice.
Posted by Airn on April 06, 2011
Thank you
Posted by Saje on April 05, 2011
Thanks for the hints, especially #1, Get Down Low. Seems so easy after you mention it, like duh. But, of course, I would have taken the same old snapshot. Thanks!
Posted by Tamarabauer on April 05, 2011
Not sure about the lens, the shot is from Eyewave but you could ask him privately?
Posted by Sobek85 on April 05, 2011
Nice shots. What size lens was the cows nose shot taken at?
Posted by Arim44 on April 04, 2011
Thanks for sharing,well done.
Posted by lzf on April 04, 2011
nice images
Posted by Cammeraydave on April 04, 2011
Thanks ! It's never easy photographing animals.

Comments (11)

This article has been read 1347 times. 1 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Eyewave, Shevs, Tamara Bauer.

About me

I am one of the remote photo editors for Dreamstime. My work background is a mixed bag - I trained as a primary school teacher, have had office/retail experience and for the last few years have settled into photography and image reviewing for Dreamstime.

South Gippsland, AU

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