In many households, animals are a firm component today and belong also to the family. Whether dog, cat, guinea pig or even horse – we like our pets and spend a lot of time with them. Why shouldn’t there be some nice photos of them on the wall or in the family album? Especially among hobby photographers, animal photography is very popular and often goes beyond your own pets. Not only the meadow or the forest in front of your door offer good possibilities, also zoos are great places to go for animal photography. With a few tricks you can conjure up great pictures – what you need to know beforehand and what to look out for when taking pictures, you can find out here.
The seven most important rules in animal photography
Focusing the eye The eye of an animal can tell a lot about its current state of mind. Sometimes an aggressive spark, sometimes an anxious squinting – In animal photography the eye must always be pin sharp, because here the viewer always looks first. Use selective focusing to focus on the eye.
Unconventional viewing angles As a rule, there is a very specific, traditional viewing angle from which you can see an animal. For birds, this is usually from below when they are flying or sitting on a tree. Dogs, cats and small rodents, on the other hand, are seen from above. Horses and large zoo animals such as elephants can easily tower over a person and the angle of view is therefore more from below. Who wants to make the pictures of his animal photography interesting, should break with these traditional points of view. For example, photograph a hamster at eye level or a bird from above, if this is appropriate. Your photos will already be varied and the animal photographs stimulating.
Cutting nothing Just as with photos of people, no limbs should be cut off in animal photography. This looks more than funny and leads to an inhomogeneous picture. When taking portraits, it is legitimate to separate the head and chest from the rest of the body. Otherwise the animal photography should show the whole animal. It is also important to give the animal’s gaze a lot of space. This means: If the model looks to the left, it should be positioned to the right of the picture and vice versa.
Camera control Animals can be very unpredictable – towards the positive or negative. Therefore it is important to be prepared for all situations. If you have your camera under control and can make all adjustments without thinking, you have a good chance of taking great pictures in animal photography. Thus also a mischievous dog view can be caught or the sudden jump of a horse.
The right environment for animal photography is sometimes bound to certain places, such as the zoo. In all other cases, however, care should be taken to find a suitable environment for the shooting. The dog in your home dog basket probably doesn’t look as beautiful as on a green flower meadow. Even if the background is often blurred in animal photography, it should not be ignored.
Patience and a large memory card An animal cannot always be conducted the way you would like it to be. That’s why animal photography requires a lot of patience and you have to wait for the right moment. In addition the model can take a good pose from one moment to the next or move quite fast. In order to still get good photos, you should take a lot of pictures to be able to choose the best one afterwards. In animal photography a large memory card is mandatory.
As with other forms of photography, you shouldn’t ignore traditional concept rules in animal photography. This includes not only the third rule, but also the golden ratio. Those who also take diagonal lines into account have observed the most important principles in their animal photography.
Animal photography: Action or portrait photography?
If you do animal photography, you can do this in two different ways. One is as a portrait photographer who takes a picture of the dog, the horse or another darling in a quiet moment and wants to underline the beauty of the animal. On the other hand there is animal photography as action photography. Here the movement stands in the foreground – the model is shown with the jump, run, flight or swimming. Both kinds have their advantages and need completely own requirements.
A portrait photo shows the pet in a quiet state. It often stands in front of the photographer or lies on the ground. Since there is usually hardly any movement in this type of animal photography, a large aperture can be selected, where the background becomes blurred. Also the exposure time can be longer, because a blur is less likely. This in turn affects the ISO, which should be reduced to a minimum to prevent noise. Take your time for a successful design and don’t rush the animal. After all, the recording should be harmonious and balanced.
It is quite different when animal photography is done as action photography. Since these photos are captivating because of the movement of the model, the camera settings must be adjusted accordingly. In order to get a sharp photo, exposure times over 1/250 sec. should be selected. It’s okay to increase the ISO – but it’s best to do it only so high that it doesn’t start to rustle. With this form of animal photography, it is also advisable to use somewhat smaller apertures so that the animal does not run out of focus between focusing and release. The continuous autofocus (AF.C) is best for motion photography, as it permanently readjusts the focus range. It is also important to leave plenty of room for the animal’s movement. If it runs to the right, it should be positioned in the left area of the image, so that it can run into a lot of free space.
G for animal photography
Before you buy expensive equipment for your animal photography, you should ask yourself what you actually want to photograph. Larger pets can be easily photographed with the kit lens, whereas zoo and wild animals need completely different focal lengths. If you want to take pictures of very small specimens, for example ladybirds, you can think about buying a macro lens. In any case, you have to consider how jumpy this is. If you want to get a rabbit in front of your lens during animal photography, it will hardly wait until you have reached a meter. In these and similar cases a telephoto lens with at least 200mm helps. If you already have one of this size, but it’s not enough, you’d better find out about converters that can extend your focal length.
Especially in the wilderness, whether it is in the deepest Canadian forest or in the city park, a photo tent is useful for wildlife photography. These usually offer space for a photographer and protect him with camouflage colors from the views of the animals. The lenses can be extended through small hatches and photos can be taken without being discovered.
Animal photography with the darling at home
The most grateful models are always your own pets. Animal photography with your own pet has the advantage that you can estimate its reactions and the animal has got used to the photographer for a long time. Also the model listens rather to the orders of his master, so the shooting is easier for both. Since one stands with the domestic animal photography often very close to its favourite, this hears naturally the clicking noise of the camera. Get your pet used to it and let it sniff at the camera. So it loses its shyness and you can shoot the photos without irritation of the model. Do you have several pets? Then you can also take a pair of animal photos. Two puppies playing together or a picture with a cuddly dog and cat are very special eye-catchers.
Give your pet plenty of time to rest in between. Who is called all the time only and should look into the camera, has fast no more desire to be photographed. Take your time and you will see that your animal photography will be successful.
Robbing animal photography in the zoo
Photographing animals in the zoo is something completely different than doing a photo shoot with your cat at home. The photographer gets completely different motifs in front of the camera, but also has to master different challenges. A photo tour through the municipal zoo needs to be well prepared – after all, you don’t like to spend ten or more euros just to have to come back the next day because something important has been forgotten. It’s best to find out in advance what the zoo has to offer and pick out a map of the enclosures.