Wildlife Portrait Tips: How to use Aperture in Wildlife Portrait

Wildlife act and behave like humans most of the time.  They eat, sleep, play and care about the kids, etc…  It is then normal to take pictures of them like we would do for human,  at least to some extent.

Best Wildlife Portrait Tips:  Shoot wide open when possible

Taking a portrait of wildlife is such a good example.  My friend, the squirrel, came to me on the handrail of this house porch.  It came to me to get foods, as squirrels do.  I gave him what he wanted and took the time to take a picture of him.  Since I was in Florida to shoot wildlife, I had a 300mm lens mounted on my Canon 7D which translated into 420mm.  I backed up a bit, making my friend the squirrel less concerned about me.

Shoot wide open when possible!  The background was really messy with lots of distracting details.  A few houses in the background along with the road did not make for an interesting background.  Thanks to the 420mm focal length and the maximum aperture of f/4, the background is so blurred that it enhances the portrait of my friend.

The eyes are sharp.  This is a must for any portrait.  We clearly see the faces features and the whiskers, which is desirable.  There is some space in front of my friend for him to breathe which is also a good aspect of this picture.

In other circumstances I would have like a greater depth of field.  The tail is so nice.  However, this would have meant a lot of distracting details in the background which was not desirable.  Making a picture is a lot about making compromise, choosing between a greater DOF for the tails with distracting details and a shallower DOF with a lovely blur in the background.

I love the shot.  I believe that I have enough details and I love the background.  This is how I like to remember my friend, at a few feet of me, trusting me while eating nuts.

In summary:

  • Shoot wide open;
  • Use a telephoto;
  • Leave room to breath in front of your subject;
  • Get the eyes sharp;
  • Use a long lens.

By the way, I stepped across Norah Levine and her class on Pet PhotographyNorah Levine is cofounder of the philanthropic Lifelines Project (honoring the bond between the homeless and their pets), fine artist and professional child and pet photographer based in Austin, Texas. Her class on Pet Photography include 7 lessons worth your time:

  • 2016-03-27 06_53_55-Learn how to photograph pets in Norah Levine’s Craftsy classLesson 1. Dog Behavior & Posing
  • Lesson 2. Composing Impressive Shots
  • Lesson 3. Getting a Proper Exposure
  • Lesson 4. Photographing Cats
  • Lesson 5. Portraits of People & Their Pets
  • Lesson 6. Photographing Pets & Children
  • Lesson 7. Photo Retouching

There are multiple similarities with Wildlife Photography in this class and I thought this could be of interest.

Do you have additional Wildlife Portrait Tips to share with us on rawtests?