What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Here’s a fun exercise for animal photographers. Let’s look at each picture below and figure out what the problem is in each one. Once you have your answers, go to the second set of photos to see how much you already know.

Ok, ready?

Now let’s look at the corrected images.


1. Answer: The subjects were not looking at the photographer in the image at the top of the post.

When making a photo of a group that includes people and animals, your first task is to give the people instructions to hold their pose and look straight at you and not pay any attention to what the animal is doing. You need to pay attention to the animal. You can’t concentrate on everyone, and the more people/animals there are the harder it gets.  So if the people are holding their pose you will be free to concentrate on the animal. Pre-focus, and wait, watching the pet for cute expressions (eyes on you, ears up), then shoot, knowing that the people are poised and ready.

2. Answer: The black dog is the wrong color in the image at the top of the post.


Remember that to expose for black you need to close down your aperture 1 or 2 stops. (You have already set your shutter speed on 1/250 of a second to freeze the movement.) If the aperture reading is f5.6, try f8 and f11. You want to shut out some light so that the dog is exposed as black and not gray black. Experiment until you find the best aperture setting.

3. Answer. In the photo at the top of the post, the focus is behind the dog (look at the edge of the chute), so the dog is out of the zone of focus and thus blurry.

When you have a problem like this, the first thing to look at is the rest of the photo around the subject to make sure the problem isn’t a faulty holding technique (you moved the camera, causing camera shake). When we study the image, we see that everything else is rendered crisp on the file. So we know the photographer didn’t cause camera shake, and we know that the shutter speed was fast enough (1/250 of a second).

This is a tough shot. There is no way to pre-focus because there is nothing to pre-focus on. If we were shooting a horse going over a jump, we would focus on the bar and expose the file as the horse passes over the bar. But here, the dog is jumping into thin air.


Try this. Set your shutter speed on 1/250 of a second, let the camera choose the depth of field and put your auto-focus on the setting for moving subjects, AI Servo. This is the mode for moving subjects when the focusing distance keeps changing so when you hold down the shutter button half way, the subject will be focused continuously. Just keep shooting as the dog falls into the water. With luck and good concentration, some of them will be in focus.

4. Answer: There is no right answer, because the interpretation of this subject matter is subjective. But my answer is that the photographer should have moved in closer. That way, the image will conform to my most important rule…keep it simple.

So while the image that includes more information, is a good record image of this colorful outside mural in New Orleans, a more interesting image can be made by moving in close and filling the viewfinder with just the mural. Eliminate everything (keep it simple) that doesn’t contribute to the final image. Moving in close cuts out the extra information  and gives the viewer a sense of being right there. Obviously this works well with animal photography too.

Try running some tests with these suggestions. As always, I’m happy to answer any questions you have about your photography at: susanley10@gmail.com.

Good shooting!