Taking pictures of people and landscapes is a piece of cake compared to taking shots of animals. Whether itís your family feline or a jungle tiger, all that is natural and unpredictable in your favorite critters can be a real challenge to capture on film. Professional photographers will show you the correct way to snap animals – big and small.
The most important thing to remember about animals or trophies shots is that you cannot control your composition; it controls you. In many respects, the challenge of making animal photographs is a combination of the challenges posed by taking pictures of people and landscapes Ė lighting, subject matter, proper framing, etc. However, animal subjects are generally more active and uninhibited than people and, obviously, much more so than landscapes. They are also less likely to cooperate. If you can keep this in mind while taking your animal photographs, you will save yourself a large amount of frustration. This inherent spontaneity is just one of the elements that makes trophy shots exciting and rewarding.
P E T S
Pets are usually the first animals most people try to photograph, and, just like people, different animals have distinct personalities. Trying to capture your subjectís true personality can be incredibly difficult. Pets have limited attention spans, so remember to be completely prepared before approaching your subject. You may also want to use a squeaky toy or a piece of string to grab their attention. It takes patience, plenty of film and a good eye for location and background. For example, a working dog like a collie may be your lovable homebound pooch but, in a photograph, it would be best to show him in a field. In all instances, try to keep the backgrounds as simple as possible. Using a flash can also help separate a small animal from a confusing background, as well as help freeze its movement and expression. These precautions guarantee that all attention is focused on the pet.
As with children, it is especially important to get close and down to a petís eye level. By looking directly at them instead of down on them, as we do in everyday life, you will see the world from their perspective. As with all trophy shots, the eyes have it. When a person looks at a photograph, the first thing he notices is the subjectís eyes. Try to make the eyes the sharpest element of the picture; they can communicate everything you want your photograph say. Use your flash to put highlights in your petís eyes to draw even more attention.
L A R G E R A N I M A L S
Perhaps you have a desire for snapping game bigger than your average house kitty. Well, unless you have the time and means to jaunt off on an African photo safari, you’ll find some of the biggest game around at a local zoo or game park. Donít let the settings fool you; the animals are wild, and they are a challenge to photograph. But these photos can be some of your greatest trophies.
If you find a game park that lets you drive among the animals but you canít roll the windows down, try this technique. Stop the car, turn off the engine (to prevent any shaking) and put your camera lens tightly against the glass. Ensure that there is no sun shining directly on that portion of the glass. Now, frame your subject and shoot away. You will obtain steady shots, and you shouldnít see any reflections in your final photos. It’s a great technique; experiment with it.
If you canít stop the car, hold the camera with your hand and try to absorb the shock of the car with your body. You will also want to use a faster shutter speed and a faster speed film. That will eliminate any blur you may get and will compensate for any movement that you are not able to completely absorb with your body.
It is always a smart idea to stay behind any moats, barriers or walls that are available when taking big game trophy shots. You want to leave the scene with all of your limbs intact! However, by going in as close as you can, you will throw anything between you and your subject Ė such as a fence Ė out of focus and it won’t show as much in the picture. When shooting through a fence, the challenge is to not get the wires into the shot. You will have to move in close and shoot through any openings. A zoom lens will come in handy.