Wildlife photographer Paul Hobson shows three AP readers how to photograph small British mammals up close using a macro lens. Oliver Atwell picks up some tips

The Background

‘The
first thing I learned as a wildlife photographer is that your
background is as important as your subject,’ says Paul. ‘When you’re
shooting wildlife, having the wrong background can destroy your image.
If you’re photographing a small mammal such as a bank vole, for example,
it’s likely that you’ll want to keep the subject relatively large
within the frame and create a nice portrait shot with the head and
shoulders. However, if there’s a white leaf or a distracting line in the
background, your eye is going to be drawn to that straight away. If
that happens, the quality of the image is lessened significantly.

Photo by David Morton

‘So
many shots can be ruined by not paying attention to the details. A way
to tackle these potential problems is quite simple: use the depth of
field preview button. It’s one of the most neglected functions on a
camera. I’ve actually had people say that they pressed it and thought
they’d broken their camera because everything went dark. It’s there for a
reason, so use it.’

Photo by David Morton

At eye level
One of the most important things to remember when arranging a shot is to get the eyes of the subject in focus.

‘It’s
definitely true that the viewer will look at the eyes first,’ says
Paul. ‘I suspect it’s something that’s been passed down to us through
hundreds of generations, something primitive and instinctive. As humans,
we engage one another with eye contact because it’s a part of
communication. When the eyes of an animal are in focus, it creates a
level of intimacy that relates to meeting their eye level. Having the
eyes in focus draws you into their world.’

Photo by Pam Sherron

Something else Paul was keen to point out was how important it is to shoot from the same eye level as your subject.

‘If
you get down to the animal’s level you see the world as the subject
sees it,’ says Paul. ‘Importantly, getting down low pushes the
background a lot further away, so it becomes more blurred and that can
really help to accentuate your subject. If you stand over the subject
and angle your camera pointing down, then there is no background to push
out of focus – there’s only the ground, which can contain many
distracting elements and render your image quite flat. But, if you shoot
at the subject’s eye level, you can keep your f-number quite low and
push your background right out of focus.’

  1. 1. Would you like to take part?
  2. 2. Page 2
  3. 3. The Background
  4. 4. Framing and Composition
  5. 5. Using natural light, fill-flash
  6. 6. Page 6
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