Stunning animal photography

6 Ways to Take Beautiful Animal Photos

Animal photography can be quite challenging. But animals and pets like humans come in a different shapes and sizes with different personalities. Some are fast movers and others enjoy a more relaxed pace of life – and some are easier to photograph than others! A lot of people find photographing animals and pet photography in general a bit hit and miss. Sometimes they get good photos other times they have either missed the shot or the camera has focused on some other element in the scene and leaves them with disappointing images. Here are a few wildlife photography tips I use to get consistent, sharp, creative and above all beautiful animal photos – no matter what their pace of life!


Centre focus point, AI servo and I tracked the dog as it ran past me.

1. Autofocus

If you want to take beautiful animal photos then missing focus and getting a blurring shot is not a option, so lets dive right in and address the dreaded issue of missed focus. As with any photography it happens so don’t sweat it, but there are techniques we can use to increase our chances of getting focus locked onto the subject (or in this case the ridiculously fast moving animals!). This can instantly improve your wildlife photography skills.

Start by going into your camera setting and select single point auto focus. This is where you manually select which autofocus point will be active. You want to select the centre focus point as this tends to be the most sensitive and it is easy to keep the animal you want to photograph locked in the centre of the frame. (please note there are a few cameras which have very advanced auto focussing systems which can do zone auto focussing but we will save this for another time!)

Next up you want to go into your cameras autofocus mode. In here you will see 3 options (depending on your camera make), AF-S (Nikon) or one shot (Canon), AF-C (Nikon) or AI servo (Canon) and AI focus (Canon). AF-S/one shot means when you have press the shutter to focus the focus is now locked until you fully press the shutter button. AF-C or AI servo however is the one you want to choose as this keeps the focus continually on as long as you have the shutter pressed halfway and your focus point is positioned over the subject. AI focus is somewhere in between and is still letting the camera choose how to focus which is not what we want here.

Imagine if you left all the auto focus points on in this scenario, the camera wouldn’t know what to focus on so by manually choosing the centre focus point you are taking control of your photography and telling the camera exactly where you want it to focus. These autofocus settings in turn will give you a much higher keep rate of photos. If your subject is a bit more lazy and slower paced then you might want to ditch the AI servo and just stick with single/one shot as you won’t need your camera to track a sleeping dog or stationary tiger! Also enables you to focus and recompose without the camera hunting for focus.


2. It’s All in the Eyes

If the animals eyes are in your photo then you want to make sure you have your focus firmly locked on as eyes can be very engaging and powerful in photos. “Eyes are the window to the soul” Who said that? Beats me but we are naturally drawn to eyes and by making sure the eyes of the animal are pin sharp in focus, this will help viewers connect more with your photos and give instant impact to your photography. Most beautiful animal photos get you feeling the animals emotion, almost putting you there looking straight into it’s eyes. But this all depends what look you are going for so like any rule its there to be broken!



Don’t ask me what the other monkey is doing here!

3. Semi Auto Modes

Other camera settings that you may find helpful would be aperture priority. This semi auto mode is used by professionals as well as hobbyists photographers across the world every day to get some amazingly beautiful photos not just of animals but in all types of photography. This is great for maintaining creative control over the depth of field in your images, leaving you free to capture those moments when something unexpected suddenly happens, you just grab your camera and click! If the animal you are photographing is quite a fast mover you will want to keep your shutter speeds up quite high (1/500 – 1/1000th and above) to freeze the animals movement. As with any high speed photography you ideally want the widest open aperture to let in the most amount of light to the cameras sensor. If your faced with a dull day or not much ambient light just bump your iso up a bit to make sure you keep those shutter speeds up!


Aperture priority helped me grab this shot of an unexpected Robin!

4. Depth of field

Play around with the depth of field, even you don’t own the most expensive f1.2 lens then using just a regular zoom lens can really work wonders here! Melt away the background and just leave your subject in sharp focus. Take the shot of the tiger below, that was taken at 250mm at f7.1. Zoom lenses by their very nature have a shallow depth of field so why not use this to your advantage and separate your subject from the background and get your animal photos to pop and stand out! This also helps if the animal is in a busy environment or  has a distracting background behind it as you can blur the background away and leave the viewer to really focus on the animal in the photo.

Oh and don’t be fooled into thinking you need the most expensive zoom lens to create the most beautiful animal photos because honestly you really don’t! Any zoom lens whether that be consumer, prosumer or professional all have naturally a shallow depth of field so get your zoom out and get hunting down your pet dog and see for yourself! :)



5. Make the Animal Feel at Ease

This may be common sense but try to make the animal feel at ease. Taking picture of wild animals can be very dangerous and you should tread very carefully if you plan on getting up close and personal with an animal in the wild. You won’t be getting any great animal images if you scare it and it runs off, you will just be left with the animals arse and although I’m sure there are a few crackpots who might like that sort of thing it’s not exactly what we would call beautiful ;) Use a telephoto lens to make a good distance between you and the animal. Remember that using flash can startle any animal or our pets, so you might way to leave your flash off to be safe! Instead take your pets outside or find a nice big window and use natural light. If you are photographing someone else’s pet try and get the owner to be close by to put the animal’s mind at rest, this will show in your final images and make them feel more natural at the same time.



Try not to disturb your animals or pets!


6. Metering Modes

Lastly if you are going to be photographing quite dark or light animals you might want to look at your cameras metering system. The metering system basically tells your cameras sensor which parts of the image it wants to make the exposure for. There are different options in here which allow you to again take full control and tell the camera what part of your image you want it to exposure for. Say you are taking pictures of a black bear or a really dark haired monkey, if you have the metering setting left on evaluative the camera will try and make an exposure based on every light and dark element in the scene including the animal you are shooting. You might find that your images come out either massively under or over exposed. One way around this would be to dial in some exposure compensation or change the metering settings to centre weighted or spot metering (just have a play around and see what works best for your photography style). Spot metering measures the light levels on a tiny spot that you hover over your subject and then you can make your exposure based on that. This will ensure that you will have a good exposure on the animal no matter what! So don’t be afraid to shoot your brightly coloured pets in any lighting situation.

Once you combine these settings and tips you will instantly see an improvement on your photos. Your friends and family will be all asking you to come take photos of their pets! It may be daunting at first if you aren’t familiar with your cameras settings, but the more you practice the easier it will become and you will slowly learn and get more confidence in how to set your camera up for shooting all different subjects!

If you can shoot in raw to take the most beautiful animal photos possible. If you aren’t too sure about editing or using photoshop then check out

Remember if you are taking photos of wild animals just be careful and even more importantly come share your photos with us over in the lumusphoto community on google+ (link below)

If all this is a little bit overwhelming fear not! Come join our No Snobbery Google+ photography group. Here you will find lots of experienced photographers who are very friendly and packed full of useful advice on any problems you have progressing in your photography. We will always answer your questions so don’t be afraid to ask :)

Some stunning examples of stunningly beautiful animal photography here by Sophie Gamand Wet Dog Check out some of her other work on her site, there are some cracking images on there!




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