Animal Photography

Know Your Subject
Photographing animals, whether your cat at home or a cougar in the great outdoors, requires patience, perseverance and an understanding of animal behaviour so you can predict how they will be likely to act or react, and anticipate the moment for a good photograph.

If you consider an animal's character in the same way you do when photographing people, and try to capture it on film, you won't go far wrong. Make sure you know what you want your images to say about the animal before you start clicking away, and then put your knowledge of composition, lighting and angles to work to get the pictures you want.

You are more important than any picture
No shot is worth risking your safety when dealing with animals. Stay in the car if there is a bear or a buffalo on the road. A wild animal's reaction to your presence is unpredictable and even if they look so docile you feel you could walk up and pet them, remember, they can hurt and even kill you. Don't ever follow a dangerous animal into the woods because you didn't get its picture. You wouldn't dive into an alligator pool, and for the same reason, you shouldn't follow behind a cougar or a moose. And please don't pet a porcupine.

After the word "safety," the next three important words that govern animal photography are patience, patience and patience. Photography is like fishing in this regard. You often have to wait a long time in the right place to catch the best ones.

Patience applies equally when photographing pets and domestic animals. They sometimes seem to have a knack for being uncooperative when you bring out your camera. Keeping calm and taking things one step at a time often helps the animal to relax.

Practice beforehand
If you are planning your first trip into the wilds to take pictures of the furry, scaled or feathered residents there, it is a good idea to practice first.

The zoo is an ideal place, because you will usually find the same kinds of creatures there. Study their behaviour and you will have an idea of what to expect when you confront them in a natural setting. No zoo nearby? Visit a farm or ranch, and take some pictures of the animals there. It may sound silly if you live in the country, but for someone with absolutely no experience with large animals, a farm is a good place to get your feet wet.

The library and the internet are good places, too. Read up about the specific animals you may come across so you will be armed with knowledge, and of course read our tips under this heading about photographing wild animals.