Backgrounds in your wildlife photographs

Today is the last day of wildlife photography tips from the Yukon. Today I wanted to discuss another question that was asked on my recent workshop.

(Q) What do you do about backgrounds when photographing wildlife?

(A) Wildlife photos can be ruined because the backgrounds are cluttered, distracting to the viewer, or just plain ugly, ugly. An example, black bears on a seashore can be beautiful… black bears at the local dump just seems wrong. It just far less natural and not inspirational.

A general rule to follow… “Anything that does not make my photo better makes it worse.”

black bear wanders the shoreline in Tofino.jpg

This does not mean you can’t take a good wildlife photo at the zoo, for example. You just need to manage the setting.

A good tip to remember is… If your background is spoiling your shot, zoom right in on the subject to eliminate as much of the background as possible.

By zooming in, you will also reduce the depth of field to a minimum, so any background that does appear in your photo will be out of focus and less distracting.

On the flip side, a wildlife photograph that captures the subject in a beautiful natural setting can be even more effective than a simple close-up.

mountain goat at yukon wildlife preserve

My photo of a mountain goat in the crest of the hill above shows the subject in its natural setting and framed by the tree and the mountain vista behind.

If you take your wildlife subject as part of a wider landscape, you need to consider all the techniques of composition that apply to landscape photography. Remember to position your animal so that the subject and the background work together to make a more effective composition. Also, try to position your wildlife so that it looks toward the center of the picture, not towards the edge of the frame. Give the wildlife room to move inside the frame of the photo.

Why don't you come up to the Yukon with me on my next trip, or even one of my other wildlife workshops. See all my workshops by clicking on the button below.