SHOOTING WILDLIFE? GET CLOSE – THEN GET EVEN CLOSER
In wildlife photography, our natural instinct is often to show the whole animal, and if possible, try to get the whole animal in focus. But from time to time this approach will cause problems. First, you often end up with lots of messy background in the shot. And second, the detail that made the moment special can hard to see with so much more going on around it.
This is often apparent at my zoo workshops. If you show the background, it becomes obvious the photo was taken in a zoo, and the focus of the viewer is taken away from the animal, distracted by man-made things.
Recently I had the chance to shoot this baby koala. The mother wasn’t facing the camera and the background was very distracting. To capture everything, it was hard to get a shot that really emphasised the cuteness of the baby. So I zoomed in much further than usual, to make it a photo of the baby, using the mother’s body as a frame to make the composition more effective.
Seems obvious? Well perhaps it does when you see the finished photo. But I guarantee you 9 out of 10 people would have zoomed back to fit in both animals and a bit of background for a much patchier result.
Of course you can’t always get this close to an animal, and it helps to have a big telephoto lens. But when you can get this close, consider the benefits. The narrow field of view concentrates attention on the detail that makes the moment special (as with this licking lemur). The background is mostly eliminated and what little you can see is lost in the shallow depth of field.
So if you see a crocodile and the thing that grabs your attention is the teeth…consider photographing the teeth – not the whole crocodile!