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  • Writer's pictureRianPelati7

Sneak Peaks at Snap Shots

Every Thursday Lets Go Big Tunes brings you Photography tips, where I share tips found online that can help everyone from beginner to expert. This week I start having a look at animal photography.

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Tip 7. Panning with animals and birds

Panning is a technique where you move the camera and lens to follow a moving animal. The idea is that the subject stays more or less in the same position within the frame, so they appear sharp in the photo, while the moving background is recorded as a blur (as long as the shutter speed is slow enough).

It's an essential technique to master for birds in flight photography.

Using a tripod fitted with a ballhead can help to ensure that the pan is as smooth as possible and the image is sharp where it needs to be. If you're shooting handheld, a lens fitted with an image stabilizer that has a panning mode will help.

Tip 8. Better composition

With wildlife photography, very often it's a case of nothing happening for ages and then everything kicking off all at once. Composing pictures quickly can be a challenge, but there are a few tricks you can use.

Off-center compositions are often recommended for more balanced images, and that's particularly true if the animal is looking to the left or right. Compose the shot so that the creature is off to one side and with more room in front of it to 'look into' than behind it.

When it comes to positioning the animal off-center, use the camera's AF points in the viewfinder as a guide.

Alternatively, activate Live View and use its 3x3 grid display. Position the entire animal, or its most important feature, where the lines on the grid cross.

Try improving your composition by cropping the shot later in your preferred photo editing software. Try to keep the original aspect ratio, as this will help you develop your eye for stronger compositions in-camera.

Tip 9. Use manual metering for consistent exposures

Many animals have either very dark or very light fur or feathers and this can cause problems for a camera's metering system. Dark subjects can come out looking too light (overexposed), while light subjects can appear too dark (underexposed).

For consistent exposures, switch to Manual metering, point the lens at a mid-tone subject in the same light, such as patch of grass or a rock, and adjust the aperture and shutter speed until the exposure indicator lines up with the '0' on the exposure scale in the viewfinder.

You can now recompose your picture and be sure that the animal should be correctly exposed.

Tip 10. Sharper photos with a monopod

A big, heavy telephoto lens requires a big, heavy tripod and specialist tripod head if you're going to get shake-free shots.

However, lugging this kit around can slow you down - a good thing for considered compositions, but another thing entirely when it comes to following an active subject.

If you need to do a lot of chasing through the undergrowth, do what sports photographers do and use a long lens on a monopod. What you lose in the stability that three legs provides, you gain in mobility.

Treat a monopod as another weapon in your arsenal rather than a substitute for a tripod and you won't go far wrong.

It's a perfect choice for those locations where there's not always enough space to set up a tripod, such as at the zoo or other captive animal collection.

Tip 11. Safe shutter speed for handheld photography

For sharp handheld photos, you shouldn't let the shutter speed be any slower than the equivalent focal length of the lens being used. If you do, you run the risk of blurred photos through camera shake.


On a full-frame camera, you can just use the actual focal length of the lens as a guide - if you've got a 300mm lens fitted, then the minimum recommended shutter speed for blur-free pictures is 1/300sec.

An APS-C has a crop factor of 1.5 or 1.6, so the lens's focal length needs to be multiplied by this amount for the 'safe' handheld shooting speed.

The same 300mm lens fitted on an APS-C body would need a shutter speed of around 1/500sec for sharp handheld shots.

Obviously this is just a rule of thumb, and the actual speed you need depends on your handholding ability, whether the animal is moving or not, whether the lens has stabilization and whether you're able to brace the lens on a fence, tree or railing.

Come back and join us next week when I will bring you tips about night time photography here on Lets Go Big Tunes blog page

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