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Static subject? Small changes can make a difference

Quick wildlife photography tip. Next time you find yourself in front of a static subject and have taken ‘the shot’ that’s available. Rather than keep shooting the same thing over and over again, it’s always worth changing focal lengths or trying to reposition yourself a little to see if you can get some variation between photos.

A distant shaded tree creates a dark background

A distant shaded tree creates a dark background

With this shot of the Harvest Mouse at the British Wildlife Centre, there was little to do. It is after all, simply a (very cute) mouse on a thistle. But with a couple of quick changes I was able to get a detailed, intimate portrait, and a colourful small in the frame image. Both taken a minute or so apart, outside on a (believe it or not) very overcast afternoon.


For the first, image above, I shot at 400mm, which was a shallow enough field of view to allow me to use the shaded tree trunk behind as my sole background. By doing this and exposing for the mouse, I knew the background to the image would be almost entirely black, placing full attention on the details of the subject. I also knelt at the mouse’s eye level to increase the intimate feel to the photo.

A change of focal length and step to the side

A change of focal length and step to the side

With the second image, I shot at 200mm which was too wide a field of view to continue using the tree trunk to maintain a clean backdrop. And so, I moved about two feet to my right and stood, so that I was pointing down a little at the green grass in the dipped ground beyond.


Of course, how much variation you can get from the same scenario will have a lot to do with the light, how much you can move, how close you can get to the subject and what lenses you have available. But in any case, once you have a shot you’re happy with, it’s always worth playing around to see what else you can do to create some variety, no matter how big or small.

And a quick word on the subject itself, it is a captive subject taken on one of my workshops at the British Wildlife Centre. A lovely place and great subject that served a purpose in illustrating this tip.

About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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