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The Art of Animal Photography

Pawrus Singapore - The Art of Animal Photography The Art of Animal Photography

With a simple click of a button, a photograph is easily captured into our smartphones or camera’s memory. In time, these photographs become treasured memories that we admire. Whether you are hiring a professional studio photographer, a freelance outdoor photographer, or simply taking the photo yourself with your own smartphone, what constitutes as the perfect photograph? More importantly, what does it take to create the most balanced image? In this article, we provide you 8 key tips to improve your Animal Photography Skills.

1. Rule of Thirds: Four Points of Focus

The Rule of Thirds is probably the most well-known rule in the world of photographic composition.

What is the Rule of Thirds? Basically, it separates the image into 9 quadrants by drawing two vertical lines and two horizontal lines. This creates four intersection points which acts as a specific point of interest for your photograph.

The logic behind this is that if you place points of interests on the intersections or along the lines of the photo, the photo becomes more balanced as a result of allowing the viewer to view the shot more naturally as opposed to placing the object in focus in the centre. Now, let us examine some examples of the Rule of Thirds in action.

Pawrus Singapore - Bobby - Rule of Thirds Bobby - Rule of Thirds

In this shot I have placed Bobby along the left vertical line. Notice how the two intersection points cuts at his chest and at the bottom of his front legs. This creates an objective focus on the image which highlights his extreme concentration and stature in this shot.

2. Balancing Elements: Big and Small

Pawrus Singapore - Sponge and Bobby - Balancing Elements Sponge and Bobby - Balancing Elements

As with the Rule of Thirds, the focus of this photo is Sponge, where the left vertical line cuts across his stellar posture. A key flaw, as noticed in the previous photo in 1. , is that the opposite side of the photo may feel empty, creating an unnecessary void in the image. To counteract this, we can balance the visual weight of the image, by putting Bobby on the opposing side of the photo, thereby filling up the space and creating another lighter, yet distinct point of interest in the photograph.

3. Symmetry: Up, Down, Left, Right

Pawrus Singapore - Bobby - Symmertry and Patterns Symmetry? Whut!? - Bobby

The world is surrounded by magnificent natural and man-made structures which acts as natural pivots for our eyes. Upon visual examination, symmetrical images invokes an emotion of harmonious proportion, as both sides of the image look unmistakably identical. However, symmetry used in extensive fashion can become boring. A great way to be creative is to create symmetrical images which have minor differences.

Looking at the image above, the dog is symmetrical but the ball is not. This brings the viewer’s focus onto the ball, provoking the thought of “Whose ball is this?” upon close analysis, which adds a touch of sophistication to the image. Sometimes, it is the little differences amongst the similarities that brings out the outstanding beauty of an image.

4. Viewpoint: A Matter of Perspective

Pawrus Singapore - Interesting Viewpoints Hey buddy!

As you rush to take a full frontal portraiture of your dog, be adventurous to explore your options. Take faith in unconventional shots (For example, from the bottom-up, top-down, left-right, right-left, etc.) that might yield an uncommon but brilliant and unimaginable perspective.

P.S.: The above image was shot bottom up at the height of a dog. This is how you look like to your furry friend!

5. Background: Bokehlicious Isolation

Pawrus Singapore - Bokehlicious Background Isolation Bokehlicious Background Isolation

Have you ever taken a supposedly photograph, only to find that the background is underwhelming and you had to use Photoshop to edit it in post-processing? Well, I had! To avoid this, we recommend that you keep these few things in mind to ensure that you get a great image together with a fitting background.

Firstly, focus on the object in the image and throw the background out of focus by reducing the depth of field. Generally, keeping shutter speed and ISO constant, reducing the number of f-stops to as low as your lens permits (This was shot on an FE24-70, f/4.0 lens) creates a blurred background, or what photographers call bokeh.

Secondly, if you do not have a camera lens and want to shoot with your smartphone, try to take the photo against a black or white background which is neutral with most photographic elements in a photo.

Thirdly, try to take your studio photos against a green-screen to ensure that you can replace the background perfectly with post-editing programs (i.e. Chroma keying) to compose the appropriate background for the perfect shot that you want.

6. Depth: Overlap and Extend

Pawrus Singapore - Depth: Overlap and Extend Depth: Overlap and Extend

Photography is largely two dimensional. Information is presented on a flat image which does not accurately convey the reality of the image when it was taken. For example, to convey depth in this photo, we have chosen to take it against an exposed background that makes the foreground looks extra prominent. This is helped by overlapping the human with the seemingly boundless patch of luscious greenery. This makes your points of interests, which in this case, is the dogs to become more visually striking with a touch of artistic depth.

7. Framing: Natural Elements as Anchors

Pawrus Singapore - Framing Framing: Natural Elements as Anchors

Thankfully for us photographers in the natural environment, trees, poles, pillars and holes all act as natural framing elements in an image. Place them near the edge of your composition to isolate the main object from the outside world. If you can’t find a natural element, take a cue from us and use picturesque frames such as playgrounds which helps to scope your image by drawing your focus towards the main points of interest.

8. Experimentation: Surprise is the Best Skill

Pawrus Singapore - Experiment for Unexpected Great Shots Experiment for Unexpected Great Shots ;)
Pawrus Singapore - Experiment for Unexpected Great Shots

In today’s world, where most people own a smartphone that possesses a high resolution camera, there is no longer the fear of taking the wrong shot or incurring redundant photo processing costs from haphazard photography mistakes. From our experience, more often than not, the best image is taken in the heat of the moment, where the photographer’s skill and the point of interest has to resonate perfectly on the same frequency. This is only achieved by many iterations of trial and error, certainly not on the first try.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your furry little buddies and go out for a photographic adventure today to hone your photography skills!


BBA, CPDT-KA®, KPA CTP, Level One TAGteacher®, AVS Accredited, Former Military Working Dog Trainer at Military Working Dog Unit (MWDU, SAF MP Command) author email author website
A Certified Professional Animal Trainer & Behaviour Consultant, Kevin is one of the two co-founders of Pawrus Singapore. One day, he aspires to become one of the best dog trainers in the world. A Former Dog Trainer in the Military Working Dog Unit (MWDU), Kevin used to train working dogs for guarding, arms and narcotics detection operations. He is a Graduate of the Dog Trainer Professional Course at Karen Pyror Academy under Terry Ryan, World Famous Animal Trainer. He's a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner. (KPA CTP) On his days off, he can be spotted pursuing his second hobby - photographing all kinds of animals around Sunny Singapore!
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