Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Unleash your animal photos


By Jorge Sosa

Can I be frank with you? Photographing animals is a lot like photographing little kids: either way, it's a pain in the keister.

Like little kids, animals are unpredictable. They never sit still when you want them to. If they do something cute and you're not ready with your camera to capture the moment, it's hard as heck to get them to repeat their random act of cuteness.

"I think it involves Cookie Monster hand puppets and mild sedatives."

So how do you get great photos of kids? Don't ask me. I think it involves Cookie Monster hand puppets and mild sedatives. However, photographing animals is something I've kind of figured out. Read on and I'll tell you all I know.

Zoom, zoom, zoom

If you're trying to photograph wild animals, you need a telephoto or zoom lens. It's that simple. Some creatures, such as wild turkeys and geese, will act relatively fearless. But you'll have a tough time getting close enough to them -- and getting them to remain motionless -- to get many quality shots off. If you're shooting more skittish animals, then a zoom lens becomes even more of a must.

As an added bonus, a zoom lens' more limited depth-of-field lets you achieve some beautiful effects. With a limited depth-of-field, you can get one object to appear in sharp focus, while the foreground and background objects remain blurry. See Figure A for an example. Using a zoom lens, I was able to pick a lone Canada goose from the flock and make it the focal point of my shot.


Zoom lenses are best for capturing animals in the wild. (click for larger image)

Shoot that dog (or cat)

If you're photographing domesticated pets like dogs or cats, you'll have an easier time getting up close to your subject. In this case, you can swap the zoom lens for a wide-angle one. The lenses built into many point-and-shoot cameras will suffice.

Remember to crouch right down to the animal's eye level. That way, you can fill your frame with your furry friend's smiling mug, as shown in Figure B.


Your pet shots will have much more charm if you shoot them from the animal's eye level. (click for larger image)

These two Jack Russell terriers are cute enough from any angle, but getting your camera nice and close to them accentuates their lolling tongues and perky ears. A word of caution: Before getting in any unfamiliar dog's face, double check with the owner to be sure it's a good idea.

ZENPRESS ERROR [Connected Photographer]: .callouot Let the dog sniff you and, provided you don't smell like a cheeseburger...