Tech of the month: focus on animals

Animals are challenging subjects. They move, they don’t listen and they might not even let you get close enough for a good shot. Great animal pictures require patience, a lot of practice, and often the right gear. This month, we will start to practice. Don’t worry too much about the gear yet, we will also focus on approaches to get by without that super fancy and super expensive photo equipment.

The key challenges in animal photography are distance and speed. Distance because most animals won’t let you come close enough to get a frame-filling shot. The best solutions to that are patience and zoom lenses. I took this picture with the biggest zoom lens I own:

Olympus OMD E-M10, 150 mm (300 mm equiv.), F5.6, 1/2000, ISO 200

Olympus OMD E-M10, 150 mm (300 mm equiv.), F5.6, 1/2000, ISO 200

Speed is a challenge, because – unless they are sleeping – your subjects may move. The image below illustrates that a shutter speed of 1/50 is not low enough to capture a walking tiger, even if it does a good job for the one that just stared into space.

Olympus OMD E-M10, 150mm (300mm equiv.), F5.6, 1/50, ISO 800

Olympus OMD E-M10, 150mm (300mm equiv.), F5.6, 1/50, ISO 800

Look at the settings noted under this image: F5.6 is the smallest aperture my crappy tele zoom lens has to offer at 150mm. To get down to a shutter speed of 1/50 in the given light conditions, I already had to increase the ISO value to 800. A bigger ISO value corresponds to a more light-sensitive sensor and thus requires a shorter shutter speed. [Note to iPhone users: there are several apps that give you control over the ISO setting of your camera.]

But what if you don’t own that super tele lens? The best thing you can do is to focus on animals that do let you get close enough to use the gear you have. Think of cats, dogs, ducks. Image editing software can also be a solution. If you shoot at the highest possible resolution, you can crop the image on your computer, like I did here:

Olympus OMD E-M10 with 45 mm prime lens (90mm equivalent) at F4.5, 1/2000, ISO 200, cropped

Olympus OMD E-M10 with 45 mm prime lens (90mm equivalent) at F4.5, 1/2000, ISO 200, cropped

For this image, I also used another trick: to capture the seagull in flight, we had to feed it. Knowing when Mr. Colors was going to throw the bread crumbs into the air enabled me to press the shutter button fast enough.

Use this month to practice speed. Use whatever gear you have. Play with the shutter speed and/or ISO value if you can. Go to the zoo, stalk birds or take pictures of your cat but do practice to be fast. Why? Because many animal encounters are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You do want to be prepared before you go on that expensive photo safari, that whale cruise or before your little kitten takes its first steps in your apartment.

When you post your pictures, create a pingback to this post to share your achievements with us. As always, you are also invited to submit your images to Lucile’s photo rehab, and we will list all in-time contributions at the end of next month’s challenge. There is no time limit to participate in the challenges in the archives and you will always be listed at the end of each challenge you completed.

Last month, we asked you to get out and take pictures when the light is at its best. These awesome bloggers took up the challenge:

Musings of a frequently flying scientist: Momentarily Technical
belgianstreets: light (right?)
Lucile de Godoy: Light: Tech of the month in photo rehab
viaja2/viaja2Photography: Tech del mes: Fuera cuando la luz es la correcta!
Estelea’s Blog: The world belongs to those who get up early
Jill’s Scene: Day four of the road trip and our first stop is Tolaga Bay.

Please have a look at their blogs to see the beautiful images they took, as well as at this month’s contributions:

Snapshots, Snippets and Scribbles: Caturday, June 6th
Musings of a frequently flying scientist: Gidget’s Photo Shoot (Tech of the month)
Andy Townend: Space | animals
Viaja2Photography: Pelícanos en la costa peruana
Angle and views: Focus on animals
Lucile De Godoy: Focus on animals: Tech of the month in Photo Rehab


This post was originally published on All images were taken with an Olympus OMD E-M10 and processed from RAW format in darktable.

20 thoughts on “Tech of the month: focus on animals

  1. desleyjane

    Your images here are beautiful. Especially the bird catching crumbs. It’s a great shot. I agree it can be difficult with zoom lenses because the widest aperture is not very wide. I rarely carry my zooms with me, just my fast primes. I would love to get the Oly zoom with 2.8 through the whole range but alas I think it’s outta my price range!! Looking forward to coming up with fast animal pics this month 🙂


  2. darwinontherocks

    Last week I went to a theme park to shoot pandas, and it’s was tricky even if they were only eating (and very slowly). It’s difficult to take pictures of animals, you are right. I took so many pictures (maybe 100) and only a few were in focus.


      1. viaja2/viaja2Photography

        No puedes imaginar como eran capaces de estar allí mucho tiempo y, de vez en cuándo, gritaban para que no se olvidasen de ellos. Claro que les echaban todos los restos de la cocina. Pobres! con lo frescos que estarían los peces del agua y el hombre les acostumbra a comer desperdicios…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. perelincolors

        Oh no, quería responder y olvidé hacerlo!!! Lo siento tanto! Es que no sé – suena muy raro lo de las manchas en una cámara compacta. Es posible que estén manchas en el sensor?


      3. viaja2/viaja2Photography

        No tengo ni idea. El caso es que si enfoco, por ejemplo al cielo claro, o a un color uniforme, salen unas manchas muy feas, Con otro tipo de fotos se disimula y se nota poco. Mañana os mandaré un mail con la copia de una foto de las manchas, si os parece bien.
        Muchas gracias.


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