Animal Photography: How To Impress An Animal In Portrait

Big or small, fast or slow, wild or domestic … who has not ever photographed an animal? Surely you have done it more than once or twice. Has it happened to you that you have not been satisfied with the result? Do you mess with your camera settings but would like to get snapshots like the ones you see in magazines? Animal photography is not an easy subject, but it is very rewarding. So, in today’s article I will give you some ideas and tips that will improve your photos and allow you to enjoy this initiative more.

If what you want is to delve into pet photography, in this guide you will find all the tricks to achieve impressive photographs.


Animal photography is a very broad subject, it is not the same to photograph a lion in the middle of the jungle than a fish in an aquarium or your pet resting in your living room. Each moment requires a different team and settings, first we will talk about the team.

  1. If what you have planned is a photographic safari, you will have to arm yourself with a good telephoto or super-telephoto lens, 70 to 200 mm for animals that you can get a little closer to, and a 500 or 600 mm lens to make large shots of more wild animals. These little animals are not going to make it easy for you and of course, don’t even think about getting close! A stabilizer will also be of great help. You should also have a good tripod, camouflage equipment, binoculars to locate the precious specimens and arm yourself with patience.
  2. You don’t have to go to the jungle to photograph a tiger or a giraffe. Find the closest zoo and take a telephoto lens and a 50mm f / 1.4 or, failing that, f / 1.8, yes we are talking about the King of lenses and the prince, for something Mario calls them that, right? You can get photos like these:
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Photograph of a Giraffe, by Randi Deuro
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Tiger, by Carol Green
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crocodile, by Carol Green
  1. Maybe you don’t need wild animals and what you want the most is to photograph your pet, Well, in this case a bright lens will suffice (again I recommend the 50mm f / 1.4 or f / 1.8). You can also get creative and use other lenses like the fisheye to get fun and interesting results.
Dog seen through a Fish Eye – Oscar and Rose photography
  1. If you want to get the most out of your macro, don’t forget that insects and bugs are also very interesting animals. It will also help you get closer to your pet and for the smallest inhabitants of aquariums or terrariums.
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Cicada, by Lola Hierro



  • For calm animals use the Single AF mode and focus on the eyes.
  • For busier animals Continuous AF (AI servo if you are from Canon), more suitable for moving elements.


  • Adjust the ISO to the lighting conditions of the moment.
  • Use wide apertures to capture more light and to blur the background.
  • eye! Forget the flash or you’ll scare the animal! Use natural light.


  • Keep an eye on the backgrounds, a wonderful photo can be spoiled by a distracting background. If you are in a zoo or in a farm, avoid fences and the like, look for the sky, grass or smooth and colorful backgrounds to enhance your images. If you can’t, a trick is to change the frame, move around, zoom in on the subject and remove the annoying background.


  • With animals, as with any other subject, you cannot forget the rules of composition and framing. I leave you a link to this post as a souvenir.


Never lose sight of the animal’s eyes, in most cases, if you lose your eyes, you will lose the photo. Focus them well and your image will win.

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The expensive frog
  • Activate burst shooting mode, if it moves you will have more possibilities to choose the image you like the most.
  • If you are going to photograph through glass, either in a zoo, in a terrarium, aquarium …: do not go too far from the glass so that the spots are not seen and do not shoot at an angle so that less reflections are seen.
    Rest the lens on the glass and shoot in parallel.
    Tip: wrap a dark cloth around the lens to avoid reducing reflections if you have to shoot at an angle.
    If the aquarium or terrarium is yours, clean the glass well and you will avoid a lot of later work on the computer.
  • Be careful with the barbed wire that separates you from the animal. If you can’t avoid it, make it disappear with a telephoto lens by bringing the lens as close to the wire as possible and using an open diaphragma.
  • Do not settle for just one specimen, try to find the interaction between several species or several specimens of the same. You will get a much more emotional photograph.
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Elephant Love, Paolo Camera
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Gorillas, by Joao.bud

Observation is very important. Take time to observe their gestures, their habits and their best postures, it will surely help you to get better snapshots.
Practice over and over again, look for little animals close to home and experiment until you find the result that you like best. Practicing is the best way to learn.
Respect animals and their environment. It does not matter if you are on safari, in the field, at the zoo or in the garden of your house with your pet. The most important thing is the animal and not the photo, never make it suffer, or prioritize a photograph over its well-being.
Last but not least… respect the animal, but… respect your life even more! Do not take unnecessary risks by bringing a steak to a tiger or to a lion to get closer to you … you know there are other ways! 😉

I leave you some other examples so you can finish encouraging yourself to capture that beautiful animal image that you are about to get 😉.

This has been my humble weekly contribution. I hope these photos move something inside of you and make you want to use your camera to produce photos as impressive as you just saw them. Remember to put everything you have learned into practice, and as always, don’t stop sharing the blog’s content.