Thursday 13 March 2014

Shooting With Machine-Gun Precision

Back in the days of film-only cameras, the life of a pet-rabbit photographer must have been really frustrating. Think about it:

  • You wrestle the film into the camera.
  • After taking just 24 carefully composed pictures of bunnies, the film is full up.
  • You stick the film in the post, then you wait for a couple of weeks.
  • The film comes back and you excitedly open the envelope...
  • The first three pictures are ruined, photobombed by another bunny in the background, the next six are just pictures of noses and who knows what the rest are because the lens was covered in a mist of bunny breath.

With the arrival of the digital camera, rabbit photography changed overnight. Suddenly the capturing of super-cute-and-awesome pictures of our bunnies became not only a possibility but an absolute breeze.

For a start, with digital cameras you can see straight away on the screen whether you have just taken a picture of a whole bunny or just an eye and half an ear. If it didn't work out you can delete and retake the picture. If you have a fancy digital camera it will even tell you if you got the light and colours balanced. In fact, I could write many pages on all the benefits to bunny photography of digital over film, but there is just one I want to focus on today that forms this weeks Fursday Foto Tip. And this second tip is without doubt the most important tip I will give you...

Bunny Photo Tip #2

Taking one hundred photo's with a digital camera costs about the same as taking one photo. When you are trying for that one perfect shot you will treasure forever and show all your friends, feel free to also take ninety nine rubbish ones you'll delete today and forget they ever existed.

That's right, todays tip is another simple one. Take lots of pictures. And not just generally:- I mean, say, if your bunny is doing something super-cute as they chow down on dinner and you want to capture it, then to get a single great picture of it, take a whole bunch and pick the best one(s).

There are a few angles on this so let me explain...

You see, the thing is, bunnies aren't landscapes or buildings or people. They are not inanimate and you can't ask them to hold a pose while you get yourself ready to take their picture. (Well, you can ask but...) They move. They especially like to move when some annoying human points something at them, like a camera. Some will move towards the camera, perhaps to taste it, some will move away, some will just move. Even if they are standing relatively still, maybe their head is moving, their mouth, ears, they might blink. So unlike landscapes or buildings or people, it doesn't matter how good a photographer you are, if you've positioned the camera where you want it, focused it, got all the settings right etc, you can STILL end up with a terrible photo. This happens because your subject moved in the split second between you telling your finger to push the button and the picture being captured. You end up with a blurry face, or eyes closed or just a nose. However, take six photo's from that position and chances are one of them will come out as you planned it.

At this point, it is probably worth relating this to my picture above. The final picture in the centre was the one I wanted to capture:- floof blowing in the wind, covering the eyes, mouth open like he's saying something about it. So to get that I took half a dozen pictures in quick succession - one had the fur too flat, another just didn't look natural, in most the mouth was closed etc etc. Only one had all the elements I wanted in the same picture, so that one got used and the others never saw the light of day (until now).

Once you've accepted that you can take many, many bad pictures of your bunnies and it doesn't matter, you should feel liberated. Once the idea sinks in that you can instantly delete any evidence that might suggest you are anything but the next Steve Huff, you will also feel more inclined to experiment. Try holding the camera at different angles and positions, take some pictures without looking through the viewfinder or screen, any weird idea you can come up with for taking a picture, just try it. So often, a huge step forward in our skills comes from something we learned by making a mistake, and all the better when we can erase any history of these mistakes after the lesson is learned!

Let's also not forget the fabulous plays and poetry those infinite monkeys write. Even if you blindfolded yourself in a room with one bunny and waved the camera around snapping away, eventually you would get a great shot. Eventually. It might take 10, 100, 1000 or more, but take enough... OK, I'm not suggesting taking thousands of random shots as a legitimate way to get a good photo, but if I can generally get a decent photo of Whisky within 2-3 shots, then maybe a beginner can get an equally good shot of their bunny in 20-30. And maybe the next time it will only take them 10.

Lastly, when you get that perfect picture you maybe never even thought about when you took it, always be sure to consider what exactly about it you like. The more you reflect on what makes a good picture for you, the more you will notice things and the easier it will get to capture those better pictures in future (and in less shots!).

I hope you find this useful. In future tips I hope to cover some of the technical aspects of bunny photography, like which settings to use on your camera for best results, as well as some more simple techniques for improving your success rate in shooting. As always, feel free to comment below if you have any questions or suggestions of your own for future tip topics and I will see you back here tomorrow for more Tiny Tales!