Bird and Animal Portraits West Sussex
Some of my students are very quick to point out that they lack inspiration. When specifically prodded, this evolves into ‘there’s nothing to take pictures of’. I know this isn’t true, and hopefully most of you feel the same way. But there is no doubt that when we’re at the beginning of our photographic journey the prospect of finding something to practice on can be daunting, confusing, or it sends us into gridlock. But here’s the thing – there are great subjects to photograph pretty much everywhere. We just need to learn to recognise them. The personal section of this website is crammed full of the pictures I’ve taken when I’ve been out and about, and that is almost entirely within less than an hour’s drive of my home. You’ll see towns, country houses, beaches, and wildlife. Plus I have a separate area to this website dedicated entirely to pet and animal photography.
Regarding the latter, animal and bird photography is incredibly popular and we can find all sorts of creatures in all sorts of locations. We don’t need to go on an African safari in order to seek out animals of some sort. Birds in particular or easy to get hold of – and most of them are just begging to be photographed. It can be as simple as visiting your local pond, and many of us have nature reserves and lakes within reasonable travelling distance. I’m a huge fan of native animal photography for a couple of reasons. Firstly animals and birds (and the places they live in) provide fantastic opportunities for practising. Practising what, exactly? Portraits and landscapes of course. I’m a location photographer and I use the environments which are familiar or relevant to my subjects in my day-to-day work. Wild animals are great for that kind of thing – you get to practice creating environmental portraits, landscapes, and composition all in one hit. The trade-off is that we give up control with animals, but that in turn helps us to practice our timing and sense of storytelling.
We had an unusually bright day here in southern England (at least for an hour or two) so I headed off to a local bird reserve to see what was about. We found everything from tiny birds to huge ones and it was relaxing following them around while we took pictures and enjoyed their company. That’s the other benefit of animal photography – it’s therapeutic and it really does take your mind off the tedious or stressful side of life. If you normally photograph people, streets or still life – give animals a go. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy it. You’ll need a focal length of around 300mm (in 35mm/FX terms) or longer if the animals are distant. It’s pretty dark where I live so a fast lens is helpful (but be extra careful with your focus point because the depth of field will be extremely thin). Don’t be scared to crank the ISO a bit if you need to. I was shooting at anything from 400 to 4000 ISO this morning. Shooting at fairly high ISO values isn’t really a problem providing you’re not making huge prints. Your version of ‘fairly high’ may be different to mine, but I routinely print up to 36 inches with shots taken at ISO 2000 on my Micro 4/3 bodies (with beautiful results). Remember to make sure your exposure is spot on at the time of capture because brightening your photographs afterwards can make noise seem worse in shadow areas. And a photo which is largely light in tone will rarely show the noise anyway.