Zoo photography counts as travel photography, so for #TravelTuesday today I want to share my top tip for photographing animals in the zoo. I’m Dave Williams and I’m here every Tuesday on ScottKelby.com—let’s begin!
I realise that zoos aren’t for everyone, so let’s get that out of the way straight off. Personally, I’m careful to ensure that any zoo I visit has credibility in conservation because, as an animal lover, there’s nothing I loathe more than visiting a zoo with animals that aren’t properly cared for. There is a difficult balance, I realise that, but so long as there’s no mistreatment etc., I’m happy to visit.
I won’t mess around with a clickbait-esque title—I’ll cut to the chase. My number one tip for photographing animals in the zoo is…
Make it look wild!
It can be tricky to achieve this, but making the scene look wild will add so much to our images. Freeing the animal back into the wild gives a much greater connection to the animal’s natural environment, and that connection will cause the viewer to lend more appreciation to our image.
To achieve this our best tactic is to ensure the background is absolutely clear of any “zoo clutter.” By this I mean any unnatural enclosure features, like cheesy fake rocks, fences, walls, cables, walkways, all the stuff we see at the zoo that makes it so fake.
Something else we can do is crop in close on the animal, perhaps not dissimilar to a portrait shoot showing just the head and shoulders. This will bokeh out any unwanted background and give star-focus to the animal we’re photographing, revealing their character. When we do this a key portrait rule applies: always focus on the eyes! Bonus tip: if the animal is at an angle, focus on the closest eye.
And, finally, also themed around aperture, is this: –
When shooting through a mesh fence, like in a predator enclosure, we can lose the fence by shooting wide open if the subject is a reasonable distance from the fence. This wide aperture pushes our plane of focus and depth of field away from us (and from the fence), so we can often get a cool image with no fence in it.
I hope that tip was useful, and if you keep an eye on my Instagram for the next few days you can catch a few more tips!
If you’re a regular here on the blog, you probably caught my post a couple of weeks ago called “Why Adobe was right to do with a subscription model” (if you missed it, here’s the link). I used as an example something I was experiencing outside of the Adobe world, in my music production.
In short, I have a home recording studio, based around the popular Logic Pro X digital audio workstation software from Apple. There’s another piece of software I need to be able to isolate the lead vocal tracks from the songs I want to recreate in my studio. However, as I shockingly found out that software costs $1,200. This is just my hobby. There’s no way I could justify spending $1,200 for this software, which is actually designed for professionals (ya know, like Photoshop, which is designed for image editing professionals). Anyway, what I wished in that post was that the company would offer a subscription model that would allow me to use this professional-level audio software but without the professional-level price (like Adobe does for Lightroom and Photoshop, which was the point of my whole article).
Here’s the punch line
Sadly, they do not offer a subscription option (I searched their site up and down). However, when I shared the story on Facebook one of my followers there asked me in the comments if I subscribe to “Splice Audio,” (an online subscription service for music producers, and as luck would have it I already was a subscriber). Anyway, he let me know that there is a Splice membership level which includes full use of that very software I needed.
I raced over to the site – upgraded my account to a $15.99 a month plan (you can cancel anytime or just pause your membership), and 15 minutes later, I was working on my songs and absolutely loving it! (the software, Izotope RX 7 Standard, is just incredible!).
They offered a 3-day free trial — I could have joined, isolated, and exported all the lead vocals from the list of songs I had been compiling — all on day one, and then canceled my subscription before they ever even charged my card. But when people do stuff like that, it doesn’t help software companies stay in business, and doesn’t keep the engineering genius’ that come up with this technology employed [or feed their families]. It keeps companies from making amazing software like Izotope RX 7 in the first place), so I’m happy to pay even though I already have converted the songs I need.
Anyway, my thanks to my Facebook follower Aaron OTT who is going to get a signed copy of my latest book (on press now), as my way of saying thanks. It made my whole month. :)
Well, there ya have the rest of the story.
I’mGetting blasted on Social Media
Last week on The Grid I thought it would be cute to order a custom KelbyOne Mask and wear it at the beginning of the show. I wear a mask all the time when I come in to the office, except when the cameras are rolling, and at that point, everyone is at least 10+-feet from me and 10+ feet from each other (we’re serious about our social distancing). Anyway, after I wore it for a minute at the beginning of the show, people watching starting asking where they could get a KelbyOne mask for themselves.
When I got home, people were texting and emailing me about where they could order one, but mine was a one-off (it cost me, with shipping, around $20). So, I text’d Erik Kuna (who maintains our Zazzle online swag store for KelbyOne members so they can buy KelbyOne t-shirts, mugs, etc.), and asked him if they offer masks, and if so could we make one available? About 20 minutes later, Erik emails me that it’s up and running. How cool is that — people were asking for it, and in 20 minutes Erik got it in the store. You gotta love the Internet.
However, when I posted the news on Facebook, I got hammered in the comments. People couldn’t wait to tell me how greedy I am, how they don’t trust me anymore, how I’m profiting from the pandemic, and on and on. Essentially now I’m a bad person, our company is terrible, etc. and so on. A lot of people complained that the price was ridiculously high, which just proved we were ripping people off.
It might be helpful to know: (1) we don’t set the price. The price is set automatically by Zazzle (the company that creates and fulfills these orders). and I think they charged around $15.95 each for the masks. (2) 100% of the profits from this mask and every KelbyOne t-shirt, hat, jacket, sweater, etc., we sell goes to support the Springs of Hope orphanage in Nakuru, Kenya. Always has.
I didn’t try to push these masks on anyone; I’m not “hawking” them. I made them available for the people that asked for them. We do it for our community, we do it the Springs of Hope, and we do it for fun, and let me tell you, it’s been a lot of fun for me lately. Ugh. You gotta love the Internet. ;-)
I don’t want to leave you on a crappy note, so…
Want a surprisingly good animated comedy/action movie to watch one night this week? On Saturday we watched, “Spies in Disguise” featuring the voice-over work of Will Smith, Rachel Brosnahan (Ms. Maisel), and even DJ Kahlid (among others). Way better than you’d think, and Will Smith is…totally Will Smith (I love Will, so I guess I was pre-disposed to like it). It’s like James Bond meets the Men in Black. It’s streaming on Apple TV and a bunch of other places. If you watch it, let me know what you think. Here’s the trailer (below).
Let’s have a great week everybody. Stay safe, watch a funny movie, look out for each other; love your neighbor, and I wish you all good health.
If you can’t wait for the print version, the eBook version is on Amazon right now. The print version is literally on press as we speak (so don’t let the late date that Amazon put on it scare you off — it’ll be here fairly soon). If you missed the news about this major update to the bestselling book on digital photography in history, check out the video below.
Here’s the link to the eBook edition (available now)
Here’s the link to pre-order the print edition (on press now).
This is for photographers who do their own portrait retouching:
We just released a Photoshop class I did on “25 Quick and Easy Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers.” I wanted photographers who wind up doing their own retouching to have a resource where they could go and quickly learn exactly the particular retouch they need to know right now for the image they’re working on. So, if they needed to learn how to trim eyebrows, there’s a quick lesson on just that. Hotspots? Check. One eye higher than the other? Got it. Need to reduce wrinkles — go right to that lesson and there it is — quick and easy. Hope you’ll give it a look this weekend. Here’s the link.
We’re just a few weeks away from our Photoshop Conference
It’s two full days, all live online with with two simultaneous training tracks, and an incredible team of instructors. Best of all, it’s all online, so everybody, everywhere can attend, and it’s so affordable anybody can be a part of it. Hundreds of photographers have already signed up – you can too at https://kelbyonelive.com/photoshop-conference – sign up right now to get the best pricing.
Have a great weekend, everybody. Safe safe and sane and we’ll catch you next week. 🙂
Sound Like A Winner | Simple Audio Makes All the Difference with Larry Becker
If you are a photographer stepping into video recording, then this class is for you! Recording good audio is not easy with just your DSLR alone. Join Larry Becker as he teaches you how to get started with two capable, yet simple, microphone setups. Larry also shares a variety of handy tips and techniques to help you capture the best audio soundtrack for working with later when you edit.
In Case You Missed It… A Clear Vision of Lenses for Photographers
Larry takes you through the variety of lens mounts, aperture settings, focusing concerns, image stabilization, and cutting edge lens technologies that will make you a better lens consumer. Larry wraps up the class with a closer look at a few popular lens configurations currently available.
The greatest growth I have experienced as a photographer was when I faced a challenge. I benefited from my willingness to feel the discomfort of taking on something new.
Since my early years, I loved photographing people, especially in public. It held an incredible fascination for me. The majority of such imagery took the shape of candid photographs while traveling or practicing street photography. I rarely approached people to make a portrait. I felt incredible anxiety at the thought of approaching someone.
However, my desire to make such photographs finally led me to approaching strangers and asking to make their image. The initial results were lackluster, but what was important was that I moved through my fear to make those photographs happen.
As I grew more comfortable with that approach, I found myself focused on a new desire. Next, I wanted to make portraits in a more formal situation. I wanted more than just capturing a few frames of a subject I encountered on the street. Instead, I wanted to spend an hour with them and work on creating a more substantive photograph.
I had never done something like this before and the thought terrified me. I felt confident concerning my picture-taking skills. However, I wasn’t sure how I would engage my subject for an extended period. Though my desire to create such images were strong, I frequently talked myself out of it by focusing on my perceived weaknesses and lack of experience.
Then came a day when my desire to make the photographs supplanted my fear and self-doubt. I asked six people who were in a writing fellowship with me if I could make their portraits. I felt significantly less fear about approaching them because I had worked so intimately with them over the year. However, I had to muster all of my courage to ask them. I was surprised by the enthusiasm with which they met my request.
For these portraits, I went to their respective homes and hung out with them while I made photographs. I had nothing more than a Nikon DSLR, a 50mm lens, and a reflector. I found a space where there was good light and a nice setting, and I would get to work. Because we knew each other, I was immediately able to build rapport and engage with them as I made their photographs. Whatever anxiety I felt quickly fell.
During our final group dinner, I displayed the 24×30 prints of each of them. They were happy and excited with the results. The husband of one of the writers was singularly impressed by the images and asked me if I would like to exhibit this work at a new gallery he was opening in the South Bay.
I explained that I only had these few prints and said that I would need to photograph more. I asked him when he would need them, and he told me the following month.
My initial impulse was to say no or delay the effort for later on in the year. But something told me that I shouldn’t put off this opportunity. So, I said yes.
For the next month, I took on the challenge of photographing a host of writers and poets in Southern California. Soliciting the help of the many writers, I had met through the fellowship, I started calling and e-mailing people to ask them to participate in this series. I was amazed how easily so many of them said yes. Some included well-known artist including Hubert Selby (Last Exit to Brooklyn), Janet Fitch (White Oleander), and Carolyn See (Golden Days).
Next was the challenge of making all of those images. I put together a list and a schedule that allowed me to photograph people during the weekends. Because of my limited window of time, I multiple sittings multiple each day. My busiest day included a total of 5 subjects.
All the subjects were new to me. So, I not only had to build rapport with them from the moment that I met them, but I also had to find locations in their homes where I could produce the best photographs possible.
It was an intense month of photography. I was so busy and so intent on pulling it off, that the fear, anxiety, and self-doubt that had held me back for years disappeared. I was singularly focused on succeeding and making this exhibit happen.
When I walked into the gallery on the official opening and saw my 24×30 prints on display on its walls, I was filled with so much pride. Despite the many obstacles that I had stood in my way, I had succeeded in doing something that a few years before I would have considered impossible.
It’s been one of my greatest lessons as a photographer, When I am tempted to succumb to feelings of insecurity and self-doubt, I remember that feeling of satisfaction that came from facing my fear. I remember that I can have such a feeling again if I just believe in myself, put in the work, and see it to the end.
Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer, and educator. He is also the host and producer of The Candid Frame photography podcast which he has been producing since 2006. The show features the world’s best established and emerging photographers and has featured conversations with Mary Ellen Mark, Dan Winters, Douglas Kirkland, Eli Reed, Maggie Steber, Elliot Erwitt, and hundreds of others.
He has also written hundreds of articles and has authored have a dozen books on the subject of photography. His latest is Making Photographs: Developing a Personal Visual Workflow.
Whether you shoot for fun or you’re an amateur turning pro, this little list contains the secrets to success. I’m Dave Williams, it’s #TravelTuesday, and it’s time to get on with things!
1 – Be committed
Take the sunrise analogy. If we’re committed, we’re there for the first light of the day, ready and keen to get started. If we’re willing to sacrifice a warm, comfortable bed in exchange for a cold, early morning, we’re demonstrating our commitment to travel photography and to ourselves.
2 – Think laterally
If we go where the crowds go, we’re more likely to take a shot that the crowds already got. If we think outside the box, however, we’re far more likely to create something unique that stands out amongst the crowd. It’s worth putting in the work to create something unique.
3 – Research hard!
If we put in the research behind our shots, we can plan for things that don’t often happen, like obscure moon phases or annual events. Putting ourselves in the right place at the right time will allow us to achieve something different, and meticulous planning results in us knowing where to be and when to be there. This research should present itself in the form of a shot list, allowing us to prioritise and plan whilst on a trip.
4 – Know your gear and techniques
Practicing hard and educating ourselves with regard to our gear and the techniques we can use will pay dividends when we’re on location. Having our methods honed so they become second nature means we can get far more done in a shorter time, and react to any changes effectively. We don’t need to travel to far-away locations to practice, we can do it close to home. When we are well-practiced it shows in our work.
5 – Learn patience
Patience is the most important tool in our bag—this is something I’ll always remember hearing Scott say. One characteristic of a great travel photographer is identifying and composing a photo, then waiting for everything to be right. The right light, the right colours, the right mood, the right anything—it often takes patience to have everything right.
6 – Be ready
Despite the need for patience, we also need to have the ability to reach quickly, responding to situations that develop around us. We need to understand the exposure triad (ISO, shutter, aperture) and know how to quickly apply it by touch only, so a fleeting moment doesn’t pass us by.
7 – Understand composition
We need to know when and how to apply the rule of thirds, leading lines, diagonals, the golden spiral, and every other compositional technique, as well as knowing when to break these rules with patterns, contrast, and depth.
8 – Self critique. A lot!
At the end of the day, when the shooting’s done, examine your work very carefully. Then take a break and come back to it again for another examination. Critique yourself and actively look for your mistakes so you know where to improve next time.
Photography is competitive, in some cases, more so than others. The most important thing is to have fun, and if we practice hard and achieve the most we possibly can, it becomes less stressful and easier to have fun.