5. Camera Angle – Wildlife Photography Quick Tips
Author: Rick Budai from Wild Artistic
Camera Angle as a Compositional Tool
William Shakespeare wrote, "The eyes are the windows to the soul." Whilst Shakespeare may not have been referring to photography, it is nonetheless something that we as wildlife photographers should pay attention to. One very important aspect of wildlife photography is to position the camera angle near the height of our subject's eyes. Doing so establishes a connection with the viewer, and is an extremely important compositional element.
When we see a snake, for example, more often than not we are looking down at the ground. By lying down in front of the reptile, and placing myself at eye level, I was able, in my opinion, to capture a more compelling image.
As photographers, we should always strive to portray the subjects we photograph from different and interesting perspectives. Changing something as simple as our camera angle goes a long way to achieve this. This applies to all types of photography, whether you are photographing birds, portraits, or architecture.
General rule number One:
Try not to look down at your subject.
Tilt the Camera Angle upwards...
Conversely, tilting the camera upwards is an excellent way to emphasize size and can quite often offer a more unique perspective.
In both the examples above, the idea was to get as low as possible in order to capture both subjects from an unusual angle.
General rule number Two:
• Get down low.
Remember, these are general rules. Do not be afraid to break these rules if in doing so offers a more unique perspective or view of your subject. Like this Southern Cassowary for example.
Obviously, it isn't always practical, nor advisable, to get into a low shooting position to adjust the camera angle. This is especially true if you're in a big game reserve where there are potentially dangerous animals around. Being mauled, bitten, trampled, or worse, being eaten, can seriously put a damper on your day. Always consider your safety first.
When on Safari....
In most cases, especially where dangerous animals occur, you will be more than likely be taking photographs from within the relative safety of a vehicle which means adjusting your camera angle will be limited.
Here are a few important things to remember concerning camera angle when shooting from a vehicle.
The focal length (magnification factor) of photographs taken with a telephoto lens will minimize the apparent difference in height.
Notice in the examples above how the camera angle shifts depending on how close the subject is in relation to the shooting height. This is great news if you want to capture a photograph of your subject at eye level.
It may be quite thrilling to have a lion right next to the vehicle, and it certainly helps put into perspective how fragile and inadequately equipped we are without our technology, but it does not make for a very flattering nor appealing photo.
So, in order to adjust the camera angle to capture a photograph of an animal at eye level the following needs to be true when shooting from an elevated position (car window).
• The smaller the subject ( in relation to your shooting height) the greater the shooting distance between you and your subject. See fig 1 and fig 2 above.
Ideally anything lower than my shooting height, I prefer at a distance. This enables me to capture the shot at eye level. Conversely, however, anything higher than my shooting height I prefer closer to my position. This allows me to shoot up at my subject which offers a more unique camera angle.
As a photographer, you should always be looking for more dynamic and exciting camera angles to shoot your subjects from. If you are excited about seeing your first giraffe, or elephant, then, by all means, take a few quick snaps. Especially if there is a chance the animal is moving out of view. Once you have a few shots, then start to think about your composition and how you wish to portray your subject. Be more meticulous in your approach. Start thinking about what you want from your shot and be more decisive. Become more intentional.
....And if possible get down low.
And remember, always focus on the eyes. That Shakespeare chap knew what he was talking about.
Other Topics covered in our Wildlife Photography Tips and Techniques Include.
If you enjoyed these tips and would like to learn even more about wildlife photography then you should join us on our upcoming 12 Day Kruger Photography Safari