One easy way to improve your animal photography is to change perspective. Think about getting the shot from the animal’s eye level; most often that will mean to get low.
Shooting from the animal’s eye level can make an animal portrait more intimate and about personality. An added benefit of shooting from a lower perspective is that it usually makes for cleaner backgrounds.
In the shot above of a Galápagos sea lion at sunset, I crouched down on the beach. Along with the position of the sea lion’s head, this made the animal look more majestic. This also caused the sea lion’s body to stand out against the lighter background of water and it filled the space in the frame. Lowering my perspective made the photo more dynamic.
Above is the “before” picture that I took from my eye-level when I walked up to the scene. The sea lion’s head and neck are lost against the similarly colored background of the sand. Also, there is a lot of empty space being taken up by the sand and water. I knew it wasn’t a great photo, but it was a good starting point for experimentation like lowering my perspective and waiting patiently for the animal to make an interesting shape and gesture.
Sometimes getting low means getting dirty. I saw this Galápagos land iguana (pictured above) on the move and got onto my belly in front of him using my telephoto lens. I then snapped away hoping that I’d catch his hand in a gesture that would show he was walking. By getting so low, I cropped out the distracting brush that was in the background and made this photo all about the animal.
Just because our pets aren’t as exotic as some animals we’ll encounter on our travels, it doesn’t mean the same techniques won’t apply. Try getting onto your puppy’s perspective or crouching with your cat. And this is where I’ll spare you from having to look at endless images of my own pet!
For more stories behind getting a successful photograph, head over to National Geographic’s On Assignment blog to read about capturing the essence of San Francisco and unexpected encounters.
And I’d you’d like to learn photography in person with me, come to the Galápagos Islands or Alaska on a National Geographic Expedition or meet me in Texas this summer. Read more of my photo tips here.