How to take stunning pictures: Animals

This content is 14 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Continuing the series of posts based on Channel 5 Broadcasting’s “How To Take Stunning Pictures” series, this one looks at photographing animals (previous posts have covered portraiture, celebrations, landscapes and sport).  The expert photographer in this episode was Tim Flach and, whilst Channel 5′s website has some tips to go with each programme,  they don’t exactly match up to the advice in the programme itself so, here are the tips from the fifth episode:

  • Know your animal – be interested in your subject and try and find out a little more through a journey of enquiry, researching the subject, including people closest to the animal (e.g. a farmer).
  • Develop your idea – what’s the purpose of the image – i.e. what are you setting out to do and what do you want to explore? Think about what is special about the animal and use that to consider how to communicate its character through pictures.
  • Use details and textures – get in tight and explore details and texture in animals – you can even create new meanings by leaving details out… (e.g. a part of one animal may look like something else entirely, when viewed out of context). The closer you get in, the more dramatic an image will look.
  • Be sensitive to the animal’s needs and be prepared to adapt your ideas. Have a plan/strategy but be able to see other things that develop as it may be chaotic and nothing is ultimately controlled.  It’s important to observe and let go if what you thought was gong to happen if it didn’t and be ready to capture something else if it reveals itself ! You never know how large (or small) a window of possibility will be.

2 thoughts on “How to take stunning pictures: Animals

  1. A few things I’ve learned over the years:
    – Sometimes zooming in is the wrong thing. Some awesome wildlife photos place the subject in the environment.
    – Don’t fill the frame with the subject just because you have a big lens.
    – Use your local zoo for practice (be honest about your photo sources). There you will learn how to deal with an uncooperative “model” without the endless hours of waiting in a hide.
    – It’s all about the eyes. Get them in focus and in the light.
    – Don’t be afraid of playing with shutter speed. Slow stuff with delibarte motion blur can give a great impression of action or speed.
    – You will have a LOT more stuff to delete than to process. Learn to live with failure :-) A by product is that you learn to enjoy wathcing a subject because you often won’t get the shot.
    – Some subjects require a special license to approach, e.g. bird of prey nests. Check it out first.
    – The prime directive: Take only pictures, leave only foot prints.

  2. Thanks for this Aidan. Your advice is much appreciated and probably better than that contained in the program! When someone commented that the first episode was a little basic, I defended it, but it has certainly dropped off in quality as the series went on… I just feel duty bound to finish this series of posts!

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