Photographing Animals

1) Eye contact is important, but not always necessary. In some instances, a pose with eye contact from an animal works. In my opinion, this type of pose is equivalent to a traditional, formal portraiture. When the pose works, the body position is natural and shows the full-body.

2) The surrounding setting is important too. If there are a couple of background textures and tones which complement the animal and setting, this would be perfect! In this way, the animal and setting (the background) contain visual unity.

3) The camera’s flash fills in shadows and enhances the appearance of humans, as well as animals. Take a fill flash photograph and look for the shadows on and around the animal’s body. Now, take another photograph without the flash. Without the flash, part of the animal’s face is darkened and the shadows are not as pleasing to the eye. The shadows tell us about the form and shape of an object. Normally though, shadows can add beauty to forms.

4) Viewpoint perspectives can make or break a photograph. Sometimes, shooting down on an animal works and other times not. Photographers have to make needed adjustments for each situation. While maintaining eye contact with an animal, just as with people, the animal should not be straining his or her neck to look at you (or the camera). Make sure the pose of the animal is not disturbing to look at. The animal should look true to form and natural.

Camera and Condensation

This explains why my viewfinder got all steamed up when I started using my camera yesterday (ok, I had left it in the boot of my car overnight – this should not be condoned for reasons not only of condensation but also of potential theft). Luckily, condensation doesn’t usually signify resultant damage to the camera or lens and, after wiping the moisture away, I was able to take my intended shots.

Care should be taken though. Rough treatment of your lens with an inappropriate cloth could lead to scratches. Pooling of the water droplets around the edge of the glass could possibly seep into the lens mechanism. Not a good idea.

Most times however, you are advised to leave and store your equipment where there is warmth. You can reduce condensation by storing your camera in a good bag when it is brought in from the cold – the temperature change will be less dramatic. Luckily, most condensation will evaporate very quickly.

I always carry a soft cloth with me. This serves to remove the condensation without risking damage to the camera or lens. So far, I have not had any problems, and don’t expect any.

Condensation that forms on the lens can even be useful! It can give a nice soft focus effect for impromptu romantic images!

Use a Tripod

Consider the following image opportunities:

– a night time shot of the moon

– a beautiful church in the evening

– a stunning landscape

– making running water appear fluid

You won’t get very far without a tripod with any of these shots. You will have an image, but it will be inferior to what you could have produced.

A tripod holds your camera steady and allows you to do the following

– take long exposures without camera shake

– use maximum depth of field (smallest aperture) for landscapes

– allow movement in your shots whilst keeping the background steady

Imagine you have a wonderful building in your local town. In the evening it is beautifully lit and there are trees and bushes surrounding it giving you a perfect opportunity for a gorgeous shot when there is still a bit of light in the sky. Even at full aperture you are thinking of perhaps half a second or more for the shutter speed.

If you don’t use a tripod, whatever you do, your shot will be blurred.

The answer?

Get out your tripod. The you can choose a long enough exposure not only to take the initial shot you were anticipating but an even longer one to enable you to close down the aperture for the best depth of field.

Which tripod should you buy?

There are tripods to be had which cost only a few dollars. They look great (in the adverts). Don’t buy one! You will regret it. They are often made of inferior materials from obscure companies. The leg locking mechanisms are rough and prone to failure, the heads don’t move smoothly and the locks slip and wear out. They don’t easily take the weight of even a standard SLR camera and in unsettled conditions they will buckle, vibrate and warp. All of this will affect your final image.

A tripod is as important as the camera on it. It needs to be secure on uneven ground and weighty enough to take the camera and windy or inclement weather. The legs should lock positively and there should be no movement when they are extended. The head should be firmly seated and with positive and secure locking mechanisms. Always try one out in the store before you buy or borrow one from a friend. My golden rule is: spend as much as you can afford.

Portrait Lighting

The photographer’s first task is to evaluate the facial features and
decide which ones to emphasize and which ones to minimize. Long
noses look best from a low angle for instance, and double chins
respond well to a high camera angle, but this article will be aimed
at the effects of lighting on the human face.

It is easier to gauge the proper lighting by watching for key points.
A flattering main light produces a definite shadow that extends from
the crest of the nose to the cheek and includes all of the unphotogenic
area next to the nose. The height of the main light is determined by
the angle of the shelf under the eyebrow. Cavernous eyes are well
served by a low main light and protruding eyes can benefit from a
high main light. A second consideration is the appearance of a noticeable
catch light on the eye since a too high main light will not show a catch
light. The lower edge of the nose shadow should not touch or obscure
the upper lip line. A proper shadow is the key to a flattering ‘loop’ light.
This lighting shows most faces to good advantage, appearing both three
dimensional and youthful.

If a face seems round or heavy, side or split lighting is called for. While
a three to one lighting ratio is good for loop lighting, a softer two to one
ratio is best for split lighting. Bring the light source close to the face at a

ninety degree angle from the camera. The short side of the face will show
a shadow line that travels from the bridge of the nose down to the center
of the chin, dividing the face into a well lit half and a shadowed half. The
Fill light should be placed close to the lens and slightly above it in order
to produce a clearly defined chin line and to minimize unsightly wrinkles.
The key to watch for is the proper exposure in the highlights and enough
light in the shadow areas to give a good skin tone.

Hair and shoulder lighting is important and sets the mood of the picture.
All hair absorbs light disproportionately and must be adjusted in strength
according to the tone of the hair. Black hair may require three times the
amount of light that blonde or gray hair requires. Be careful not to allow
the hair light to spill over on the nose for obvious reasons. A broad source
is to be preferred over a spot source because the latter emphasizes the
reflective qualities of the hair rather than the true color and tone.