You do not have to live in the jungles or some remote region of the world to be able to enjoy and take great animal photographs. Wherever there are animals, there is the potential for a great photograph. All you need is the right knowledge to know how to use your equipment and the environment to your advantage. Squirrels playing in the city park, a bird nest in a tree in your yard, all of the animals at the local zoo, and even your own pets can become subjects for your photographs.
For me, some of my favorite animal photos have come from my travels across the country and from my own home state. My husband works at a theme park in Florida so I am a big fan of places like Busch Gardens, Sea World, and so forth. These parks have great animal collections that make for some wonderful photograph opportunities. Armed with just a simple point and shoot camera, my tripod, and my love for nature and photography, I have captured some great animal shots over the years. Here I would like to share some of my experiences with you and pass on some of the tips and tricks I have learned from experience and fellow photographers who have helped me.
Tip 1- Make sure to focus on the eyes. Regardless of how much of the animal you actually get in frame, the critical part to focus on is the eyes. As humans, we are drawn to the eyes. They are the window to the soul and it is where the passion, emotion, and inner animal can be seen clearly. Even if the photo is blurred or out of focus, if the eyes are clear and crisp then often times, the photo can still be saved. I had experience with this on many occasions while taking photos at Busch Gardens.
Two of my favorite exhibits are the tigers and the cheetahs. My husband and I both love the big cats and I have many, many photos of these beautiful felines. Some are ok some are meh but I have a few that are really great. And most of my great big cat photos are the close ups that capture the emotions of these graceful creatures that they carry in their eyes. The pale blue or golden yellow of a cat’s eyes are captivating and beautiful and can really make a good picture into a great one.
Tip 2- Do your homework and plan ahead. You do not have to trek into the unknown wilds and wilderness to photograph animals. Your own pets and the animals in your neighborhood can be the subjects of your work. Do you always see the same lady feeding the birds at the park? Ask her if you could photograph her and the birds one day. Does your neighbor’s dog do quirky things when they are gone? There is an opportunity for some unique shots. What birds and animals frequently visit your yard? Is there a zoo, nature park, butterfly house, or some other collection of animals in your area? There are many opportunities for getting great photos – even if they are of common animals.
I love butterflies and moths, always have ever since I was a little girl. I loved watching them fly and really enjoyed my visits to the butterfly house. Years later when I was an adult, I visited one and it was like I was a little girl again. The color and beauty was breathtaking and I found myself wanting to take a picture of each and every flash of color. Focusing on the color and patterns of the wings only increased the beauty of some of the shots. It helped reinforce for me that I see beautiful animals every day in the birds, butterflies, and critters that live in and visit my own backyard!
Tip 3- Be prepared and anticipate movement. Knowing your subject intimately can help you be better prepared for great shots. Great animal photography is not simply walking outside, picking up your camera and snapping the perfect shot. Many great animal photographers have a handful of animals they specialize in, or they spend months researching and planning before they go out on their exploration of the wild. Even if you are staying in your own back yard and neighborhood, or traveling within…