The Art of Photography of Animals
Photographing animals is a difficult undertaking for many reasons. For starters, animal movements are unpredictable and often difficult to anticipate.
Photographers need to respect wildlife’s safe space and refrain from disturbing them, especially during breeding season. Then there’s the fact that their environment can tell you a lot about them.
Mammals are the most adaptable animals on the planet, ranging from tiny bumblebee bats to enormous blue whales. They can walk, run, jump, swing, climb, dig, and burrow on land; they swim, shuffle, and dive in the water. They have a wide range of body language to communicate with other mammals and humans.
Even small critters such as marmots, pika, and prairie dogs are interesting to photograph. The behavior they display is not always obvious until you spend some time with them and watch how they interact with each other.
Mammal photography requires a good deal of patience, especially with small critters that move quickly in and out of the frame. Using live view can help with this, as the camera’s LCD screen lets you see what’s happening on the camera’s lens without having to look through the viewfinder. Also, observing their patterns and knowing when they’re likely to make a run allows you to be prepared and ready.
The variety of shapes, sizes and colors of birds makes them fascinating subjects. However, they are often skittish and sensitive to human approaches. Showing a respect for birds and their habitat should come before the desire to take the best photographs.
Shutter speed is crucial to bird photography – you want to freeze the movement of wings and feet. A high shutter speed also increases the amount of detail you can capture in the image, especially in low light conditions. Aperture should be kept at around f/8 unless you are shooting a subject with a very shallow depth of field.
Check your histogram to ensure a correct exposure. You should not be losing any detail at the top or bottom of the histogram – especially for white birds against dark backgrounds. You can slow your shutter speed and create some motion blur in wingtips to give an impression of graceful power, but this is an artistic choice and should be in keeping with the scene.
In this sub-genre, animals are photographed in their natural environment rather than posing in a studio. Photographers such as William Wegman (American, 1943–1976) became popular for their whimsical photographs of people’s dogs and cats in various poses.
Often the best animal photos show closeups of an animal’s face to reveal its personality. However, zooming out and using a wider angle can also provide beautiful shots showing the animal’s environment. Using compositional rules such as the rule of thirds helps to compose images that appeal to viewers.
Photographers who work in wildlife photography must be well prepared and able to take action quickly. Because wildlife is constantly on the move, it can be difficult to predict when a shot will happen. For this reason, photographers may set up blinds, which are camouflaged to help them stay hidden from the animal’s view. It is important to understand an animal’s behavior before setting up a blind to avoid losing valuable photographic opportunities.
In this genre, photographers seek to capture landscapes, plants, and wildlife in their natural habitats. They may also document any threats to the subjects or advancements in environmental conditions. The photos can then be used for research, awareness-raising, or even public relations.
Wildlife is usually highly sensitive to the presence of humans, which is why photographers need to be at a safe distance from them. They also need to carefully plan their shots by analyzing the location, weather conditions, and other variables that can affect the behavior of their subjects. Photographers often use compositional principles like the rule of thirds, which involves arranging the essential elements in the frame into a three-by-three grid. They try to place them at the points and intersections of the grid for balance.
Many wildlife photographers are invested in current worldwide campaigns that aim to lessen or end animal exploitation. They use their images to raise awareness about the issues and encourage people to act.