Tech of the month: focus on animals

Posted by perelincolors for Lucile’s Photo Rehab:

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.

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travel advice and impressions of a colorful world

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

  1. This was a great post. I muck through ISO and shutter speed, never knowing what I’m doing, quite honestly. Always surprised when something actually turns out half decent!


  2. Hi! These days I’m looking here and there and everywhere. Checking out the greatest WordPress failure ever.
    The new translation button!
    Up to now I never have seen the button on any english or american Blog.
    So I may ask you to click the translation button in my Blog to see how it’s working?
    Don’t be afraid! You are the chosen one!


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