Backgrounds

Think carefully about the surroundings and background against which your subject will be shown. Many animal pictures are ruined because assertive and irrelevant details clutter up your photograph. Animals cannot be directed in the same way as people, and what may start out as a good background easily changes to something worse as you follow your subject into a different setting. The safest background to pick is a relatively large area of similar color, tone and texture. A large stretch of grass is a good option, especially when the camera viewpoint is high enough to make this fill the frame. Alternatively, by bending your knees and shooting from a low angle you can use the sky as a background.

Better still, pick surroundings showing something of your particular animal's own habitat, adding character and enriching the portrait. A scared kitten neurotically observing a confusing world through its reeded glass front door is one case in point; a pair of horses gently dozing under the shade of a tree is another.

Not all animal portraits are set up, of course. Always look out for opportunist pictures (for which a compact camera is the quickest to bring into operation). Just like candid shots of people, you will discover a rich source of animal relationship pictures at gatherings - pet shows, livestock markets, pony races, farmyards, even dogs' homes - where plenty of 'animal action' is always going on.

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