Getting a Great Shot

I’ve always enjoyed taking photographs of animals – and have traveled to Africa several times to shoot the wildlife there. I don’t consider myself a great photographer, but I have managed to get some good shots over time.

Combining my interest in photography and

African elephant in Etosha National Park. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

my career with zoos and aquariums has added an interesting dimension to my job. Your local AZA accredited zoo or aquarium is a great place to get some shots that may not be possible in the wild, but also a good venue to practice your photography skills.

There are three basic rules I’ve always followed to getting a good wildlife photo:

(1) Buy a good camera – this is perhaps the most important rule. Today’s digital cameras really take a lot of the work out of getting good pictures – but if you insist on using the camera in your cell phone, chances are you aren’t going to get very good photos. I’d also get a decent zoom lens – I use a 70-300mm as my basic day-to-day lens.   I use a Nikon D80, but there is a wide range of great digital cameras to choose from.

(2) Find an interesting subject in great location – this may seem obvious, but a lot of times people get it wrong. Animals can be beautiful subjects, but make sure that you take a photo in a way that hightlights the beauty of the animals and the exhibit that it is in – and unless you are doing it for artistic purposes, make sure the sun is behind you and not in front of you when you take the shot- this will ensure the subject is not obscured by shadows.

(3) Get close ups – Animals’ eyes and faces make compelling images. Don’t be afraid to zoom in and get on eye level with your subject. If the animal’s head is down low – sit down if possible and then take the shot. In general, it will look better than standing and shooting down at your subject.

Impala doe in Namibia. Copyright Tim Lewthwaite.

It’s always satisfying to get that great shot. And the great thing about digital photography is that if you don’t like the photos, you can just delete them on the spot and try again.

Tim Lewthwaite

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One Response to Getting a Great Shot

  1. Jamie McGonnigal says:

    Ahhhh! I’ve been to Etosha! So gorgeous! We got to see lions and rhinos there. And in Swakopmund (a small Bavarian town on the coast), they had incredible dolphin and seal cruises. We have some incredible photos from there. Great post!


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