Take Better Portraits of Animals – Birds of Prey

#18 in the Judging a Photograph Series

.Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph.

I find it harder to get a good portrait of a person than an animal. Humans need some interaction and I’m not very good with the whole “striking a rapport” thing when my face is behind a camera. With animals I can just get myself in position, make a little noise to get their attention and snap! It’s not a very scientific approach, is it?

Taking a Quality Portrait

There are also “rules” for human portrait photography for which I don’t have a lot of time. Rembrant lighting, body angle for men and a different one for women, arm positions, shoulder heights, the list goes on. Don’t get me wrong – I know these systems work. I just can’t remember them for long enough to actually use them in a photo shoot. My memory is like a sieve.

I don’t mean to over-simplify the things which you can do with portraits of animals. Animal photographers do glorious work, and often include some element of motion or movement into the portrait. Capturing the personality of a family pet is such a fun thing to achieve.

Access to Animals

However we haven’t had pets for a long time, so the animals in my photos are the ones we find in zoos or on farm visits. Straight away there is a problem with getting a good shot. You guessed it – the chicken wire fence! Like everyone else I find myself trying to shoot through the holes. Or if it’s a low fence I am stuck with taking a photo over the top, and getting a view of the top of the creature’s head.

Birds of Prey

If I can overcome the problems of cages then I might have some luck. Birds of prey are often brought out of their cages to show by their handlers. The trick is to get a good background and avoid people and hands getting in shot. It’s about avoiding clutter and distractions.

Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph. Peregrine-merlin crossbreed.

Even better than that is a background which shows context of the animal. That is why I was really pleased to get a shot of this peregrine-merlin crossbreed in front of a castle. A perfect location! However in the few moments that the crowd stepped out of the way, I still managed to make a mistake. The castle background is lovely but the dark staircase mirrors the dark wing and to be honest, it doesn’t look great.

Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph. Fierce hawk.

This shot of a hawk worked better but I was battling very bright sun. There was also an ugly green tarpaulin background. It’s wonderfully fierce and is the only picture that really has emotion.

Take Better Portraits of Animals - Birds of Prey on Falcondale Life Blog. Practical tips and judging a photograph. How to find animals to photograph. Snowy owl. Is it Hedwig?

Lastly this regal snowy owl was in a very dark corner of a wildlife park and I struggled to expose the shot. Then I decided to under-expose the photo and that worked because the owl is so white. By boosting the highlights in Lightroom, she just pops right out of the image.

Have you ever got a great shot through chicken wire? I would love to see it if you have – please do tweet me or message me on Instagram.

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I will always blog in support of enthusiast photographers. I’m passionate about it! So please nominate me in the PHOTO category of the BiB awards. I would like just a few votes to encourage me to keep it up. I may only have been doing this for a year but it seems I’ve broken new ground in blogging. Thank you!

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Photalife

6 Comments

  1. 21st May 2017 / 12:11 pm

    I am always battling with chicken wire and the like on animal photos. I find it much easier to be in the field. Occasionally I get a good one through the wire but only by managing to focus on the face and blur the wire, so hard to do quick enough to capture the pose you wanted though! Love your hawk.

    • 21st May 2017 / 1:21 pm

      Yes the animals move while I try to blur out the chicken wire and the moment is lost! Thanks for your comment.

  2. 21st May 2017 / 7:24 am

    This is all such good advice! I never would have even noticed the dark stairs in the background. The only animals I photograph these days are my guinea pigs 🙂

    • 21st May 2017 / 1:17 pm

      Thanks ☺ I’ve tried taking pics of guinea pigs in petting zoos and only got the tops of their heads. And they move a lot! You will have better photos.

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