Tag Archives: Animal shots

Have fun, take great shots – photography at the zoo

Elephants - at the zoo all sorts of images are there for you to capture.

• Elephants •
At the zoo all sorts of images are there for you to capture. Keep an eye open for the natural shots as well as the well timed ones.

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• Elephants • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

The zoo is a rich playground for photographers.

All sorts of opportunities pop up for you. First off, concentrate on getting your pictures sharp and well composed. We will be looking at a few other ideas to help you on your zoo trip.

Sharpness and composition:

A zoo is a great place to practice your five S’s… check these out: Five S’s for super shots. We have also covered a lot of the subject matter in these pages on how to keep your shots sharp and well composed. So here are two links to look back on:

If you want to work through the issues of composition also check out the most important one to get started with: Rule of Thirds. However, composition is a wide study. So here’s the link to the composition articles on Photokonnexion: Composition resources. You can also find these listed under ‘Articles’ on the navigation bar above.

Any special tips?

Yes, fences! They are a pain. But also not as much as a problem as you think. Ring-tail lemurs are hugely cute animals, but great climbers. They need to kept inside a high and secure chain-link fence – you know the diamond linked fencing…

Ring-tail lemur - inside a diamond-shaped link fence.

• Ring-tail lemur •
inside a diamond-shaped link fence. By focusing correctly you can focus the fence out.

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• Ring-tail lemur • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

In this picture you cannot see the fence at all! I assure you it was taken through the fence. If you focus correctly you won’t see the fence. Just leave enough room between you and the fence and the fence and the animals. In this shot I was about 2 meters from the fence and the animals were about the same distance inside it. Equal distance either side of the fence and you will be OK. A sharp focus on the animal will put the fence in its most out of focus point. A great tip!

Unfortunately it does not work with thick bars. It is slightly less successful with some finer mesh fences too. It works reasonably well with glass. It does not work from a long way back from the fence because the individual strands in the fence appear to come together and look like a sheen over the shot. So this tip takes a little practice but you should be able to do it if you keep ‘chimping’. Yes, chimping! In a zoo that’s just the thing to do… keep looking at your screen on the camera to see how it came out.

Approach to your shots

Sometimes plain old photos of an animal in a cage are fine. Especially if you are doing a science project or something similar. You do not want to mislead people about where you get the shots. So, if you are doing any sort of a record shot then capture the animal in its enclosure. If you are reporting, taking a journalistic shot, then you must not mislead the public in any way. So, make sure that you take a fair picture of caging as well as the animal itself.

It is great fun, for your own interest, to take shots that make it look like you caught the animal in the wild. This does take a bit of creativity. You need to find ways that show the animal in an environment where it might be seen naturally. Avoid fences, people, artificial surfaces and toys/climbing equipment. Put in plants, other animals, trees, natural nests and so on. Most caged-off areas are quite well suited to this in modern zoos. In the UK, and most other aware countries, zoos must cater for the animal so it has five needs satisfied. They must have…

  1. somewhere suitable to live;
  2. a proper diet, including fresh water;
  3. the ability to express normal behaviour;
  4. any need satisfied relating to being housed with, or apart from, other animals;
  5. protection from, and treatment of, illness and injury.

These five needs also give you a clue as to what to look out for when photographing the animals. Look around their enclosures and find them doing things that fit these five essentials of their lives. That way you will catch them doing things they might be seen doing in the wild. Eating, playing, chasing, sleeping, running… all these things are good photographic material. Capture the animal in movement and stationary… whatever gets your artistic juices flowing! It’s all about enjoying yourself as well as extending your photography.

Portrait of a Rhino - capturing an animal in its noblest pose...

• Portrait of a Rhino •
Capturing an animal in its noblest pose is fun and shows the essential character.

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• Portrait of a Rhino • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Portraiture

It is not always easy to capture animals in action, doing exciting things. Another great pass-time is portraiture. Capture the animal looking at its best. There are lots of things you can do for this, and it helps to use a fresh perspective. So, try high shots, low shots, ground shots. Oblique angles and upside down shots are fun! Sometimes just get a beautiful picture. With your portraiture, as with humans, try to capture the animal looking at its best, and especially, when it is stationary. The idea is to make the essential character of the animal come out in your shot.

Where possible, and it is difficult sometimes, try to get catchlights in the eyes of the animal. The eyes of all animals, including humans are a strong focal point. Catchlights are great for helping to make the animal look alive and dynamic.

A day at the zoo

If you spend a whole day at the zoo you can also have fun people watching. Animals are great, but watch out for stupid humans. Grown ups are especially funny if you catch them with kids. They imitate the animals, and jump around in an attempt to get the kids into the mood. Boy does that make for some fun photography. So keep an eye out for good ol’ Homo sapiens External link - opens new tab/page doing what comes naturally when around kids and animals.

Afterwards

Finally, remember that you should take a lot of shots. Animals, especially on the move, make difficult targets sometimes. So, work hard to get each shot right. Also, concentrate on your experimentation, your sharpness and your composition.

Back at the ranch you have a chance to do some great post-processing. Some of the zoo shoots I have done over the years have seen over a thousand shots in a day. Wow! Weeks of post processing fun! Remember, while the shots may be worth developing in your favourite editor straight from the camera, animals make great subjects for morphing, general ‘PhotoShopping’ and cutting and pasting into other pictures. So don’t think your day is over when you get home. The fun is just beginning.

Have fun on your zoo trip!

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

The Eyes Have It… nine ways to emphasize eyes

The eyes are often the most important element in a photograph.

"Bison" - The eyes are often the most important element in a photograph. Make them central to your shot if you can. Your viewer will almost always start there.

The most important element of a photograph

The power in the eyes of a person or an animal draws your viewer into your photograph. The stronger and more prominent you make the eyes the more you will capture the attention of your viewer.

There are many ways you can help emphasize the eyes…

Focus:
Nearly always the eyes should have the most sharpness. If the eyes are sharp then you will be able to get the attention of the viewer. You can of course vary your depth of field and your softness for other parts of the picture, as long as the eyes are sharp.

Thirds:
As with any composition the eyes are a significant element. You can really highlight them well if they are on one of the ‘Rule of Thirds‘ grid points. If it is not easy to fit them to a grid point then try to put them on one of the lines of thirds. Both these positions will make them have a more dynamic position in the picture.

Lines:
Often when composing a picture it is possible to use the eyes to join up with other compositional elements. The eyes have two points which implies a line between them. If you are able to put them on a line with something else in the picture the implied line will draw the eyes of your viewer. That implied line is a powerful way to get your viewer involved.

Line of sight:
A very strong compositional tool is to use the eyes of a subject in the picture to point out something else in the picture. This is done by photographing the subject with their eyes looking toward another significant object in the picture. This correspondence helps the viewer to understand the prominence of both the subjects. Lots of expression on the face of the ‘looker’ helps with this one too. Often this is a great ploy for a ‘different’ photograph at a tourist site. Photograph a tourists eyes drinking in the view and you will provide a great interplay between the tourist spot and the other person. You will be showing not only the human element but also the famous place.

On the diagonal:
The eyes are normally seen evenly placed on the horizontal. As that is how we normally see them they are, well, normal. If you ask your subject to incline their head a little so the eyes are slightly on the diagonal they have a new dynamic… er, not normal! Do it, you will see how effective it can be. Not for every picture, situation or face, but a great ploy in a set of photos. The inclined head is often the image that gets picked out. (See: Nadia by Enigma Photos – below).

Rapport:
Often, when taking a portrait, the eyes look alive and dynamic when they appear to make contact with the photographer. Remember your viewer is looking at you when you take the shot, but they are looking directly at the viewer of you shot too. That has a great impact on the viewer. So if you can build a rapport with your subject the eyes really seek out the viewer and have a greater impact as a result.

Catchlights:
The eyes often look dead and lifeless if there are no ‘catchlights’. That is the photographers term for that little flicker of light that you see in the eye… a reflection from a near light source. The catchlights give life, shape and direction to the eye. In fact portrait photographers are obsessive about getting these little compositional elements right in the eyes because they eyes just die without them. Really study catchlights and find opportunities to put them into your shots. Your photos will come alive.

Emotion:
The eyes often convey great emotion. Just look at the eyes of a winner in a sports competition. Wow! They say it all. Now capture the eyes of the loser. Wham! Real impact. Get those eyes in focus right at the moment of the fully expressed emotion and you will have a winner.

Not there…
Sometimes it is what you can’t see in a picture that provides the impact. Eyes, or at least where they should be, can be very impactful if they are not where you expect them.

Here are a few pictures that really show the impact of eyes. I hope that some of them inspire and inform your own shots. Why not leave a link in the comments so we can see your eye shots too.

Eyes, Dwarka  Green eyed little girl, Dwarka, Gujarat, India.

Eyes, Dwarka Green eyed little girl, Dwarka, Gujarat, India.

On this link you can see a really captivating pair of dogs eyes. Wonderful focus and excellent perspective… Beagle eyes External link - opens new tab/page

Here are a really dynamic pair of childs eyes. Wonderful capture! Behind these hazel eyes… External link - opens new tab/page

The eyes have it! Papu in Pushkar, India

The eyes have it! Papu in Pushkar, India


Eye Contact

Eye Contact


Eyes wide shot

Eyes wide shot


After Feeding

After Feeding


Nadia by Enigma Photos

Nadia by Enigma Photos


Eyes wide open by umar.s, on Flickr

Eyes wide open by umar.s, on Flickr

This link takes you to a photograph that is exciting because of what you cannot see… Look External link - opens new tab/page

I've lost sight of the things that matter by Melissa Turner., on Flickr

I've lost sight of the things that matter by Melissa Turner., on Flickr


Wolf by Netkonnexion On flickr

Wolf by Netkonnexion On flickr

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.