Lawrie Brailey Photography: Blog https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog en-us (C) Lawrie Brailey 2020 (Lawrie Brailey Photography) Mon, 03 May 2021 13:24:00 GMT Mon, 03 May 2021 13:24:00 GMT 5 Tips for Wildlife Photography https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2015/1/5-tips-for-wildlife-photography Top 5 Tips for Wildlife Photography

I am often asked if I have any 'tips' for how others can improve their wildlife photography, and it really can be a difficult one to answer. Photography is a very subjective medium and what is liked by one person may not be liked by another. Finding your own style is personal to you as the photographer and there are no tips that can be given to help you do that. Shoot what you like to shoot and practice. You'll find your own 'style' developing before you know it.
That being said there are a number of basic 'tips' that can help rapidly improve your wildlife images when starting out, and although this is by no means an exhaustive list, my top five tips are given below.

NUMBER ONE - GET ON EYE LEVEL

Nose to NoseNose to NoseIt's time for some much-needed 'Jack' appreciation today, and it's not often you get to see her this close. She has such a trusting bond with me and Alannah that we are allowed to get within a few feet of her and she'll happily curl up and sleep. An amazing fox!

This is one preached by everyone in the wildlife photography industry, and is the best tip to get instant results in your own work. The angle of your shot dictates to a large degree the mood that you then take from the shot. If you shoot from a high perspective looking down on an animal then you immediately put the viewer as a dominant power over the subject. There is no intimate connection as the image then seems to 'overpower' the animal that you want to focus on. As wildlife photographers we want to connect with out subject and record them, not be seen to be 'looking down' on them. The opposite is then true for angles looking up at the subject. The power and dominance is then placed into the hands of the subject, and although this can be used to great effect, the opportunity to do this is rare.
This then leaves us with our perfect middle ground - taking a shot at eye level. Not only do you then lose the focus on the ground (which is much more aesthetically pleasing), but you place yourself and your viewer into the eyes of the subject/prey. They can see things from the point of view of the subject, and this creates that powerful connection we look for in a wildlife image. Take a look at some of your favourite wildlife shots and most of them will be at eye level!!


NUMBER TWO - USE NEGATIVE SPACE

After the angle of your shot, the use of negative space is the next most important thought in wildlife photography. When we take a photo our subject is 'crammed' into the aspect ratio of the shot - a box in a way, and it is this that we need to think about when using rules such as the RULE OF THIRDS or the GOLDEN RATIO. When we compose, do we want our subject looking into the box or out of it? Negative space refers to the 'blank' part of an image - the part that isn't occupied by the subject or anything of importance (to a degree), and so your subject should be typically looking into this space. If you compose with them looking outside the framing lines then the viewer will always wonder what they were looking at - what interested them and why? It takes the concentration and focus away from the image, and draws the viewers eye away from the image whilst following the gaze. When the subject looks into the frame you have that line of interest pointing back into the image, holding attention!

NUMBER THREE - SHOOT A MOMENT

How can you set your shot apart from others in the genre and get something that is truly 'yours'? Yes, your own personal style, playing with light and all of that has a heavy hand in this, but the biggest thing that sets a great photo apart from a good one is the moment captured. You can take the best photo of a foxes head in the world, and it's a really good shot, but there is no interest there - no story to keep the viewers attention after a few seconds. Try and take images to record things that many people never get to see. Fighting, playing, hunting, eating and even mating can make photographic subjects - just because they tell a story and show a single moment. A good shot of a unique event will always do better than a perfect version of a shot everybody has seen before. Instead of taking a single, more simple photograph and calling it a day try and take  something away that you have never seen before.

NUMBER FOUR - DON'T OVER EDIT

As wildlife photographers our job is to record nature as it is and as we see it, and this is not only true for how we take photos, but how we edit them in post-production. The editing process is not to make an image - that should be done in camera. It's only to correct the colours/contrast etc to make the image like you saw it when you pressed the shutter. You see all too many images posted on Facebook and other sites recently with very heavy artificial vignettes, 'haloing' caused by brush work or fake painted-out black or coloured backgrounds, and it is not only obvious, but really takes away from what could be a great image. Keep your editing natural and respect the animal as it was in its environment! The removal of certain items (dust spots etc) is perfectly fine, and in most cases (though this is not allowed in competitions) editing out a distracting stem of grass will also be ok, but don't try to make the moment you caught something it never was.

NUMBER FIVE - BE PATIENT and KNOW YOUR SUBJECT

Wildlife photography is synonymous with patience, and it may be cliched to say again but it really can help. I've seen all too often people arrive at a site, wait five minutes then get bored and leave, only to have the animal appear seconds after they left! Now this is not to say that you need to wait 24 hours in one spot to see anything, but unless you know 100% that something won't appear give it chance. It may have seen you or smelled you, and a few minutes more can make all the difference! Before you go out look up your planned subject. Find out when is peak of activity is and scout out your location. Learn their behaviour so you can tell if there might be a fight or they've sensed your presence - you'll get better shots without the disruption!

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BONUS TIP! - DON'T SHOOT FOR OTHERS

With so many photographers engaging in some way with social media it can be very easy to feel obligated to shoot images that will either go down well with your followers (based on previous uploads) or even shoot based purely on the likes and dislikes of a very select group. Whilst this may mean you get more 'likes', it will begin to heavily restrict both your personal development and the diversity in your portfolio. Yes, by all means take and share the photos you know will go down well, but never be afraid to experiment, and if you like a certain style or photograph but someone else doesn't, remember that it is still your work, and don't be pushed into changing your style that easily!

Do you have any more tips that have worked for you? Feel free to share in the comments below or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lbraileyphotography!

 
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(Lawrie Brailey Photography) camera lawrie photography tips top five wildlife https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2015/1/5-tips-for-wildlife-photography Thu, 15 Jan 2015 19:45:11 GMT
Why I shoot in aperture priority https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2015/1/why-i-shoot-in-aperture-priority Why I shoot in 'aperture priority'

 


   If you read almost any guide or forum on the internet you'll most likely hear it said that many people, and most professionals, shoot in full manual mode (M mode on Nikon/Canon). This is usually for the control it provides over the exposure in certain scenarios, and this is a completely true and justifiable reason. All cameras, regardless of the make or style, will aim for an exposure of 18% grey, and this often leads to photos looking flat or having their highlights or shadows blown out by a 'middle ground' exposure in especially harsh lighting. Having full control over your aperture, shutter speed and ISO gives you the right speed and depth of field to get the image that you want, but I, and indeed many other wildlife photographers, rarely use manual exposure.

   Now you may be wondering why I hyped up the benefits of manual exposure and then don't use it, and put simply it all comes down to speed. When working with wildlife you're often dealing with a subject that is constantly moving, with constantly changing backgrounds, lighting and angles, and in this situation trying to keep up with the correct exposure for many situations is a feat very few have the ability to do. My camera is always set to aperture priority (A on Nikon and AV on Canon) with spot metering mode enabled. I use my rear control dial to move my focus point to where I want it, focus, and take the shot. Yes, the resulting image may be a little flat straight from the camera, but most importantly the exposure on the subject will be ok. It's the worst thing in the world to take a shot only to find the subject over or underexposed! My mind cannot register the precise exposure changes needed when trying to follow and compose a flying bird in my viewfinder, and so I let technology take over to let me get the shot I want. I guess you could say it's not 'pure', but I'd rather do that than miss images from poor judgement.

   That being said, shooting in any of the 'auto' manual modes (shutter priority and aperture priority) does not tie you to one exposure. The exposure compensation tool (usually a box with a + and - in it) is a fantastic way to control exposure around a constantly changing point. It gives the needed control, but still keeps the compensation of such changing lighting conditions. For a full blog of exposure compensation - specifically how you can use it to create unusual images, please see by previous blog post HERE

 

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(Lawrie Brailey Photography) aperture brailey camera lawrie manual mode photography priority shooting wildlife https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2015/1/why-i-shoot-in-aperture-priority Thu, 01 Jan 2015 19:14:04 GMT
Lightplay Photography - A Guide https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2014/12/lightplay-photography---a-guide Lightplay Photography - A Guide

 

   Over the past two years I have tried to step away from the 'norms' of wildlife photography. When most people think of wildlife photographs, they think of the usual 'documentary' style photos that record a scene or an individual with perfect exposure to show a moment exactly how it appeared. It is not often that wildlife photography and 'art' come together into one, and although several wildlife photographers have recently been posting some fantastic black and white 'fine art' style photos (namely Ross Couper (www.rosscouper.com)) it has still yet to become mainstream.

   The main purpose of exposure-controlled photography (a style I like to call 'Lightplay') it to take a photograph that very few have taken and to show a common subject in a new light. It is well known that light is key to photography, and playing with it to build a more 'arty' style of image can produce some very interesting results. You will get a lot of failures and will play about with settings more than you'll spend getting the shot, but when you do you'll have something that you can truly call unique to you.

Dark SideDark SideThe wild urban vixen 'Jack' as part of my lightplay project using exposure compensation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

   Before we get too far into the technical methodology behind shots like this this post relies on a basic understanding of the exposure triangle that underlines photography and all that follows will assume you know the terms aperture, ISO and shutterspeed. If not, I highly recommend researching exposure before taking a look back here! Happy to help with this if you want to drop me a message!

SHOOTING

   Lightplay photography relies on light contrast, and the ability to use harsh lighting to your advantage. Any of you who have used studio lighting rigs will understand the ability to manipulate light to create half-lights, rimlights and other such creative techniques, but with wildlife photography it's often impossible to even think about setting up two or three dedicated strobes to get anything, but luckily we are occasionally confronted with a natural version of the same set up. Allow me to explain with the aid of a diagram...



   This diagram sums up the position and lighting used to create the fox image shared above. As you can see, this shot was taken in the early evening, when the sun is low and where shadows and patches of brighter light are at their largest. I positioned myself with the light behind my right shoulder and composed the shot with the background left in shadow to create the maximum contrast between the main lighting and the rest of the shot. This created a fairly harsh Rembrandt-look that casts part of the subject progressively into darker and darker shadow until the 'black point' (point at which the details fall into pure black) is met. This is great for darker, more mysterious shots like the one above, but is also great for getting the classic '50/50' look you see on certain portraits - all depends on the lighting angle. An angle directly behind you will not create much effect, but an angle at 90 degrees to you will create the harshest contrast. It's all about experimentation.



   The other way to do this is composing the whole image with the light source BEHIND the main subject. This means only the very ends of the fur/feathers etc are lit properly, and creates the so-called 'rimlight' seen on the second photo of the deer shared above. Settings and considerations are exactly the same for each photo, but as mentioned before all depends on the lighting angle. Too high and you will end up with a lighter top half of your image and vice-verse.

Twilight SwimTwilight SwimThe outline of a coot in the evening light, taken using exposure compensation to only expose for the ray of sunlight.

   There are two main ways to adjust the settings to achieve these type of shots and that depends on your preference for shooting mode. I personally tend to shoot in aperture priority mode (A or Av), and so I use the exposure compensation function on my cameras. Of course, if you shoot in manual for everything, then the same techniques can still be used just by altering your shutterspeed values to the same degree.

   With harsh lighting we're essentially looking at two different exposures - One for the shadows and one for the highlights. When we usually take a photo in this light, the camera exposes for a rough middle ground with both highlights and shadows blown to some degree, and as we don't want that we have to compensate for the lighting. This is done by telling the camera to shoot for a number of stops (units of light) below what it thinks is normal, so in non-manual modes you tell the exposure compensation to expose under  by 3 stops or higher to cut out the darker areas (clip them to pure black) and expose for the lit areas. It's the same process in manual, except you alter the shutterspeed to remove those extra stops of light.

   The exact value of exposure compensation varies between each shot. I typically start at -5.0 EV (exposure compensation) and work it back up if the result is too dark. The aim is to try and clip the blacks, but not too much that you lose the subject!



   This is all about experimentation, and playing with the lighting angle and the exposure compensation can all yield different effects - Try it and see what works best for you!

EDITING

   Once you have the shot in camera, you need to make sure that the shot you saw and exposed for is actually the shot you'll see in print or on a screen. Quite often when shooting in RAW the clipped blacks you see on the camera screen won't be clipped in the final edit and so we have to put this back in in post. I personally use Adobe Lightroom for my edits, but the same techniques can be used in any platform.

   As you can see, the image that comes out of the camera is pretty much the same image that ends up posted online. I tend to start off in the same editing process as usual - namely colour correction and contrast, and occasionally might add in increased saturation and maybe a slight increase in brightness if needed, but the main area of work is to do with the white and black sliders in the basics tab. To adjust these, I find it's far easier to adjust the whites first to bring the contrast and brightness that you want, and then turn on clipping to adjust the blacks. Clipping is the way Lightroom and Photoshop tell you that something is either completely black or completely white, and on Lightroom is activated by pressing the 'J' key.

   As you can see, although the original looks completely black there is still some colour detail left in the file, and that might start to appear depending on the monitor you use. To combat this we want to adjust the black levels to make sure all of this is fully clipped on any print or monitor, so take the black level slider and move it to the left to decrease the black point (the level at which blacks become pure black)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    When this is done you can see that he entire background (and some of the fox, but this is ok in moderation) are clipped, meaning that however you view it, the background will still appear fully black, and that leads us on to our final image...

Dark SideDark SideThe wild urban vixen 'Jack' as part of my lightplay project using exposure compensation.    This technique is exactly the same for rimlit images... silhouettes... and any other style you may want to experiment with. As I said earlier, it's all about understanding the light and shooting for it. All you need to make something different are:

  • Harsh lighting with a high contrast.
  • Exposure compensation or manual compensation in camera.
  • Ensuring clipping in post-production.
     

Hopefully that helped some of you out and answered a few questions. I hope you can go out and give it a try, and if you get something you love feel free to share it with me. Remember, as always, if you have any questions please feel free to drop me a message on the form above. Good luck!

PLEASE SHARE AND LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU FOUND THIS USEFUL!!
Sitting PrettySitting PrettyA wild urban vixen nicknamed 'Scamp' sitting in a pool or evening light. This is done all in camera and more information on the technique can be found on my blog      Morning BreathMorning BreathLooking through my gallery you'll see that I enjoy this type of shot (probably too much!), and I really love how you can attempt to tell a story using the minimum amount of content possible whilst making fairly harsh lighting work. This is a red deer stag at the 2015 red deer rut in Richmond Park - London in the morning, taken using exposure compensation in aperture priority mode to only expose for the rimlight, dropping everything else out to black - I really like how it looks with the breath!      Puffin StudyPuffin StudyThis is my attempt at 'lightplay' on my recent trip to Skomer Island in Pembrokeshire - Wales. Not as much as I would like but still gives something a little different? As always, all done completely in camera! Please see my blog for details.     Essence of FoxEssence of FoxWhen doing this type of shot I always wonder how much of the animal is needed to make sure that the 'essence' of the animal is put across properly. I've always tried (maybe not succeeded!) to bring some of the animals personality to my images, and it's an interesting debate as to where this begins.   SidelightingSidelightingLightplay with the cubs is hard - not only because the light is now so rare, but because the cubs have a tendency to move just before you press the shutter button. I must have taken at least 5 or 6 identical shots when this little one sat down in a shaft of evening light. I have to say I'm pleased with the outcome though!

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(Lawrie Brailey Photography) brailey exposure compensation high key lawrie lightplay low key photo photograph photography wildlife https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2014/12/lightplay-photography---a-guide Sun, 07 Dec 2014 22:15:17 GMT
Welcome to the blog! https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2014/10/welcome-to-the-blog So hi everyone!

Many thanks for checking out my website, and hopefully you've liked what you have seen so far! Whilst I have been running the site for a few years now, I am relatively new to the whole blog thing, so trying to get it off the ground to see where it goes. The plan is to use this space to run a few reviews, workshops and other sessions to hopefully help you guys out and tell you how and why I take what I take. I'm currently working on the first major blog post (on my exposure compensation work!), so watch out for that coming in the next few days. As always if you have any questions, thoughts or just want to say hi, drop me a message using the form above and I'll get back to you ASAP.

That's all for now, be sure to stay tuned and visit my facebook page for more updates

Speak soon!

Lawrie.

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(Lawrie Brailey Photography) https://www.lawriebrailey.co.uk/blog/2014/10/welcome-to-the-blog Fri, 10 Oct 2014 21:07:23 GMT