Why Asking Questions In Wildlife Photography - Part II

To achieve this photo of a hummingbird we asked ourselves the question of the quality of the background and the negative space.
To achieve this photo of a hummingbird we asked ourselves the question of the quality of the background and the negative space.

What will I choose for the setting, the light and the point of interest?

When we arrive somewhere for a photo session, we choose the setting first, then the light and finally the points of interest. The setting and light are like the packaging and gift wrap around a gift. This method enables us to choose the "packaging" that will showcase the animals in our photographs first. We often place our blind in such a way that the animals will be placed in the best setting. Similarly, when we approach an animal, our choice of a point of view is conditional on a good setting. We do not create wildlife photographs just because the animals are there. We always try to create harmony between all the elements in our compositions.

How will I compose my photo?

As we pointed out in another article, composing a photograph is harmoniously organizing all the elements of the photo. The photographer must use the photographic attributes and the reinforcing elements to improve the readability of the point of interest. A harmonious composition respects the balance between masses and enables the audience’s eyes to go directly to the animal’s eyes.

A wildlife photographer must always ask how to build a picture so that it will have the strongest impact.

Which framing will I use?

Once the photograph has been composed, the photographer must choose the framing. Before triggering the camera, we always ask ourselves what the purpose of the photograph is. Is it for an exhibition, a collection of fine art photos, or a slideshow? The answer to this question will dictate whether we use a horizontal or vertical framing and will help us decide what proportions we will choose for the final picture. The choice of framing is critical for a wildlife photographer.

Will the photo be in color or black and white?

The choice of color or black and white will have a great impact on the final result. If the final image will be in black and white, the scene will be refined and sober, with beautiful contrasts. If the final image will be in color, the photographer will focus on the bokehs of the foreground and the background. He will emphasize certain photographic elements in order to create gradients of tones or colors. A wildlife photographer must know the theory of complementary colors if he wants to create a harmonious, eye-catching final photograph.

What message do I want this photo to convey?

The photographer must ask himself one last question before he triggers the camera: what message does he want the photo to convey? The message may be an emotion, a feeling, or the photographer’s current mood.

If the photo will be an illustration, the message is less important because the most important thing is for the picture to show a species of animal and the maximum number of ways that the animal can be identified. Illustrative photography is primarily intended for books and magazines. The priority is that the photo make it easy to identify the animal.

In artistic photography, the message is essential. Everything must be unspoken, conveyed through suggestion. The photographer suggests messages and clearly says what he feels when taking the picture. In artistic animal photography, the audience shows a lot of anthropomorphism (attribution of human qualities to animals).

It is time to take the picture

Once all the questions listed above have been answered, the wildlife photographer can finally trigger the camera and achieve the photograph he has hoped for. This is a long process that should lead to an interesting photograph with a good amount of impact. If these questions are not asked, the picture will be taken, but it will be deleted or will never be edited, because it will not be very interesting.

Then it is time to process the photograph with software. We give the editing and correction phase 5% of the credit for a beautiful picture. 95% of the beauty of a picture comes from what was done in the field. However, this is the famous 5% that can give the "wow" factor to a photo.

Today, we consider that 1% of the wildlife pictures that we see are interesting. Most of them are uninteresting. They are only pale copies of existing photographs. The reason is simple: most photographers do not ask questions. They only deal with the technical aspect of photography. They care more about the number of photos made during a burst or the number of megapixels that their digital sensor has.

Finally

A wildlife photographer has to ask lots of questions before taking the first photograph during a photo session. If he does not pose these questions, or if he does not find the answers, then the session will certainly be wasted. It’s already hard to take good pictures and prepare well so that nothing is left to chance. Nature is unpredictable, and no one can master it. Careful preparation and asking good questions will enable the photographer to limit the number of unforeseen events that occur when he is in the field.

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