Animal photography tips for during the shoot
Avoid distracting backgrounds
“These entertaining meerkats were the first animals we photographed at Longleat Safari Park. We were inside their enclosure, taking shots while lying on our bellies to get down to their eye level. But they moved so fast and the backgrounds were messy. Back outside, a meerkat moved into a classic lookout pose and I got this shot, using a wide aperture to blur the background plants.”
Try vertical compositions
“Without really thinking about it, I was composing most of my shots horizontally. Ben noticed this was restricting how I could position the animals in the frame,” Dave says.
“He suggested I compose for vertical shots if the subjects were taller than they were wide – the meerkats, for example – or to concentrate on heads and shoulders rather than whole bodies for larger animals, such as the big cats. I instantly noticed an improvement in my shots.”
Compose like you would a human portrait
“Ben talked about treating animals like humans to capture ‘wildlife portraits’, so I decided to hang out of the Land Rover’s window and zoom in on the female lion’s face with my 100-300mm lens to get some eye contact,” Dave says.
“On Ben’s advice I dialled in -2/3 stop of Exposure Compensation to capture detail in the dark fur and eyes, but avoid overexposing the beautiful highlights in lighter fur. I prefer the composition where the lioness’s head completely fills the frame, because it’s more striking.”
Shutter speed and lens focal length
When checking shots on Dave’s LCD, Ben noticed some weren’t sharp. “I reminded Dave about the relationship between shutter speed and focal length,” Ben says.
“For sharp shots when shooting hand-held, make sure your shutter speed is at least equal to the lens’s focal length. So, if you’re zoomed in at 300mm, shoot at 1/300 sec or higher. When Dave did this, altering the ISO as required, his shots really improved.”
PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer and apprentice
PAGE 2: Animal photography tips for during the shoot
PAGE 3: Final tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 4: Our professional photographer’s recommended gear
PAGE 5: Shot of the Day