When I am not shooting people of working in photoshop, I enjoy photographing animals. Although they do not quite follow instructions like humans, photographing animals can follow many of the same rules that one may use when photographing anyone. For example:
- Some of the best images of people (even professional models) surround things that they like to do in an familiar environment. If you want to photograph an animal, look for an area that they are comfortable and natural. If it is a pet, it may be their favorite cushion. If you venture out to a zoo, look for a zoo that places the animal in their natural habitat. You may not get your best shots while the animal is on display on a concrete stage.
- A photographer often tries to capture the eyes of the subject in sharp focus (some exceptions of course). While you probably can not ask a wild animal "hey, look at me!" a little patience can pay off in terms of getting an image that has much more impact, maybe even showing some personality.
- As with a human subject, try to keep your background simple. A distracting background makes the eyes of the viewer wonder around instead of focusing on what you are trying to present.
- If you are working with your pet, or even lucky enough to encounter a non caged wild animal, think again how you would approach a new subject. Most of us would not yell "Hey, I want to take your picture" and run toward your human subject (well, at least I would not). Don't act like a predator and sneak up on the animal or obviously run toward it. Casually walk in the general direction without staring at the animal, just keeping it in your peripheral vision. Perhaps stop at a bush or rock and take your images. Remember, most humans don't really enjoy you getting so close that the camera lens is inches away from them.
- Along this point, most animals (and some humans) have what is known is a kill zone. If you get too close they will become aggressive or try to escape. If you have the opportunity, much like looking at the portfolio of a model, try to learn something about the animal you are trying to photograph. By all means, do not put yourself or the animal in a dangerous position. If the animal should stop eating, drinking, ears perk, and you hear a growl or hiss or really any noise from the animal the chances are good that they have noticed you.
- Unless you are in a zoo or highly controlled area, don't approach baby animals. Chances are the parent is somewhere close and not too different from a photographer taking pictures of a small child without permission, things could get very ugly very fast.
- Try to bring the longest zoom with fastest lens that you own. Aperture priority shooting is typically a good idea if lighting allows this mode. Needless to say that if you use a flash you will may even scare your own pet.
Photographing animals can be just as much and artistic as photographing anything else, but a ton of patience and respect for the animals are a must.