#18 in the Judging a Photograph Series
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.
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.
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.
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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