Saturday, March 1, 2008

Shooting animals with your camera (and maybe making money at it)


By Anne Violette

You don't need a camouflage suit, hunting gear or a rifle. When we talk about shooting animals, we mean shooting them with your camera. The trick to taking really great animal photos is patience.

There are many similarities between animal photography and hunting. You must sneak upon them so as not to disturb their natural environment. You must wait, wait, and wait some more for the perfect opportunity to present itself. You must not scare them, or let them know they are being pursued.

"There are several highly marketable endeavors you can practice and learn to do with animal photography."

Of course, with photography, the only thing you point at them is your camera and the only thing you fire is your shutter release.

Extreme patience has its rewards. A perfect animal image can be award-winning or highly saleable for greeting cards, calendars, stock photography and countless other uses. Because it is considered so hard to do, achieving that momentous expression of an animal's face is indeed priceless. It can also be personally rewarding.

Aside from the obvious element of patience, there are key elements to a perfect animal photo that can be mastered by practicing with your own family pet. Most of us begin photography as a hobby and a passion. Albeit an expensive hobby, we may try to find a way to make the hobby earn its keep so that we can keep doing it more and more. There are several highly marketable endeavors you can practice and learn to do with animal photography.

Show photography

Have you ever thought of shooting horse shows, dog shows, or any type of event photography? As a young photographer, I was hungry to learn more about the craft. I called every 4-H and equine club in my state to inquire when they would be having a horse show and told them I was an equestrian photographer. This was not entirely true. I was a beginning photographer, but they didn't need to know that. Confidence is key!

You too, can do this. Find a niche that interests you and study photos in trade publications related to the animals you like. For horses, I learned that people won't buy the pictures unless the horse is standing exactly with four feet on the ground and ears up. The rider must have good posture. For show jumping, the horse must be perfectly arched over the fence. In order to do this, you must learn to take the shot as the horse is rising off the ground, not as he is actually over the fence. It all happens within a blink of an eye.