If you love taking animal pictures then this article will give you some helpful tips that you can start using immediately. Animal photography, also referred to as wildlife photography, includes everything from polar bears to your pet at home. This article focuses on wildlife photography but you can apply many of these tips to taking photos of your own pets.
The basics to taking great wildlife pictures start with these tips. As always there are exceptions, but the following go a long ways towards ensuring successful animal photography:
– Always use natural light to your advantage.
– Fill the frame with the subject.
– Focus on the eyes.
– Shoot from various angles.
– Capture personality.
Perhaps you are wondering how you can, without a humongous lens and SLR safely get close enough to a wild animal to “capture personality” or “fill the frame”?
Actually even professional wildlife photographers don’t always take their winning photographs in the wild. Most of the wonderful pictures you see of wolves, polar bears and other wild creatures were taken at wildlife sanctuaries and zoos. Cheating? Maybe, but it’s safer for the photographer and doesn’t disturb their free roaming cousins’ mating and feeding cycles.
Some of the wildlife sanctuaries give special photo tours but if that’s not possible, there are many things you can do to get professional quality photos with a compact camera.
Animal Photography Tips for Wildlife Sanctuaries and Zoos
1) Simplify the Composition
If the background is distracting, use a wide aperture or Portrait mode to blur it. Or, you can use a photo editor like Photoshop to clean up or blur the background.
2) Go Natural
Avoid showing cage bars, fences, humans, signs, etc. If it is safe and abides by the rules, point the lens through a gap in the fence so you can take the photo without the fence showing. Often times there is a vantage point that will let you take pictures over the top of the fence. Look for these opportunities. Again, use a photo editor to blur what you couldn’t avoid when shooting the picture.
3) Fill the Frame
Use zoom (optical for best quality) or a telephoto lens to get close ups.
4) Sports Mode
Use Sports mode or set shutter speed priority to around 1/250 to freeze movements.
5) Use Light and Weather to Best Effect
Overcast days are often best for animal photography. If the overcast isn’t too bright, it will prevent glare from light colored or watery backgrounds. If you have an SLR and the overcast light is too dark, raise the ISO. With the right amount of overcast, you can get well exposed, sharp pictures with your compact, and the animals won’t be squinting.
Since the eyes are the most expressive and the best place to focus, try to avoid any squinting. Another way to eliminate this is photograph when the animal’s back is to sun. In this case you’ll need to use flash fill (by turning off your automatic flash and setting it to “on”) to help prevent underexposure and you’ll need to use a lens hood or wear a broad brimmed hat to prevent lens flare.
6) Try this When Shooting through Glass
When you want a picture of a terrarium or aquarium critter, turn on the flash and shoot from an angle. Make sure to check your camera manual for the safe distance when using the flash or you could damage an animals (or humans) eyes. Or, turn off the flash and carefully press the lens directly against the glass.
7) Plan your Visits for the Best Photo Ops
Others will especially love seeing your animal photography when it includes baby animals. Many times zoos and sanctuaries will let visitors know when new babies are expected. Another great photo opportunity is meal time. Animals that stay in hiding throughout much of the day will come out to eat. Finally, if you’re visiting a sanctuary or zoo when the weather’s hot, go early in the day when the animals will be most active, not napping.
8) Use Context
While usually it’s best to fill the frame with the animal, sometimes the context is too interesting to bypass. Examples of using context: a child and baby animal looking at each other, a giraffe, long neck bent as it peers down at a car in front of yours at the drive-through safari park.
9) Capture Expressions
Animals, whether our pets or wildlife, make the cutest expressions. Be ready with your camera! Even just normal expressions like a wolf pup yawning or a tiger licking its lips are cute or interesting. The more you know about your favorite species, the better you’ll be able to capture those unforgettable pictures.
So, the next time you’re ready to take some wildlife pictures, use these animal photo tips and you’ll be amazed at the difference applying this tips can have on your photos.