My recent workshop at the National Zoo gave me the opportunity to think about some tips and techniques for photographing animals/wildlife. Keep the following four tips in mind whether you are photographing animals in distant lands, at the zoo, or in your backyard. Don't pass up your local zoo for great photo opportunities!
1. Isolate your subject from not so interesting surroundings. Don't let a less than ideal location dampen your spirits, use a tight composition to focus on the subject instead of the environment.
A tight shot avoided including the dirt path and grassy hill next to the gorilla.
Zooming in on the panda allowed me to eliminate the busy surroundings of the habitat.
2. Look for patterns and repetition to add more elements to your photographs. Multiple subjects can allow for a more expansive image, as well as add depth to your photograph.
The repetition of the flamingos adds depth to the composition, helping to move your eye up through the scene.
Due to the near-silhouette of the horses I made sure they were well separated with distinct outlines.
3. Wait for an interesting gesture or behavior to add a little something extra to the moment. Patience is key! This can be especially helpful to make your image of commonly photographed subjects stand out.
Waiting for the cormorant to spread its wings allowed me to capture a photo that became something more than just two birds perched on a log.
Timing the shot to when the heron caught the crayfish added an additional element of interest and helped to tell a story.
4. The simpler and less distracting the background, the better. This can be achieved by keeping the background sufficiently out of focus, as well looking for lighting conditions that separate the subject from its surroundings.
The out of focus background keeps the attention on the dragonfly while providing a colorful backdrop that complements the subject.
The combination of the heavily shaded background and the strong side lighting on the lion effectively isolates the subject.