Nothing makes you smile more than looking at a cute little animal with a nice blurry background! But what makes that shot even better? If those big round eyes are in tack sharp focus!

There’s many different ways to take shots of living subjects (like people and animals), but not all achieve that WOW factor. So if you’re interested in taking shots of people or Animals that stand out above the rest, here’s some tips that you’ll not want to miss!

Thailand Monkey

When shooting people or animals, make sure you open up that aperture nice and wide and get a real shallow depth of field. This will help bring out your subject as a point of focus, and give you that nice and smooth blurry background called “bokeh”.

The three factors that contribute most to achieving that nice bokeh is:
1) Open wide aperture (e.g. f/1.8). The lower the better.
2) A closer subject (2 metres away is better than 20 metres).
3) A higher focal length (200mm will give you more bokeh than 18mm). Ultra wides are a no no when it comes to accentuating your subject in this way.

If you can combine as much as these as possible, the more pop your photo will have. Of course, you can’t always combine a higher focal length with a close subject, so think about your composition and frame your shot as accordingly.

Often these combinations can render some of the subject in focus, and some out of focus. So as I mentioned before, make sure those eyes are as in focus, rendering them as sharp as possible! Most of the time this really is the maker or breaker of the image. I must say, this isn’t an absolute rule that must never be broken, as I’m sure there’s plenty of examples out there from great photographers where a different focal point on the subject provides a nice result. But as a rule of thumb, or if you’re unsure, your best bet is to nail the focus on the subjects eyes.

Here’s some examples:

Mountain Gorilla, Uganda

Baby Elephant, Serengeti
Thailand Monkey
Lion in the Serengeti

So what you need to do is switch your focus settings to single point (or “spot”) focusing, rather than the center area or entire frame on multi. This means a single AF spot will be the sole point throughout the entire frame that will be used for focusing. This enables you to place that spot right over the persons (or animals) eye, quickly focus, and shoot with much more control to get exactly what you want in focus.

Nearly all cameras these days will allow you to move that point of focus, or choose a different single point of focus around the frame. The beauty with this is that if you want your cute little critter to line up on one of the thirds, you can quickly move that point of focus to the left or right (like the point above), compose and shoot to finish up with a beautiful composed, tack sharp shot!

Here’s some further examples, but with people:

Hindu Man, India

Ethiopian Girl
Young Girl Monk in Myanmar (Burma)

Live subjects tend to move also, so you’ll likely get better results if you have a faster shutter speed. Luckily this is easily achievable with a wide open aperture.

So if you’re a fan of shooting wildlife outdoors, or your perhaps even your favourite pet, but not entirely impressed with the final image, then try the above method and I’m sure you’ll be quite happy with the results…

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