Choosing the hero shot from a sequence

Andrew Beck Andrew 11 Comments

In todays world of super fast 14 frame per second cameras, its inevitable that you’ll capture multiple images with only a slight difference between frames. Small differences however can have a massive bearing and impact on the overall story of an image.

Those who have travelled with me will know I encourage my guests to pay a great amount of attention to the posture and positioning of our wildlife subjects, looking for and anticipating subtle changes in posture and positioning that will make for better images.

Even if you chose to shoot only a single frame or two, its easy to miss the decisive moment if you’re too caught up in the moment and not paying attention to your subject. There are many examples of this…

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The first image, as cool as it is, just feels a bit wrong as the subject, a beautiful female leopard, has been caught in an awkward position. Flat footed with the front left paw about to lift off of the ground but just not quite there yet. The tail is just clipped and hidden behind the tree stump, not a major issue but it would be great to have that in full given that is is such a definitive feature of a leopard.

The second frame captures the entire length of the tail, has the front left paw about to unfold and even captures a bit of movement. The story of movement is just so much stronger in the second frame than the first.

Its not only important with moving subjects but with inanimate portraits too.

The first of these two images has a hint of catchlight in the eye but the second, taken after a slight adjustment in the position of the head, brings the eye to life.

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I know its subtle but it can make a big difference to an image.

Ears are probably the most obvious and important features when it comes to waiting for the decisive moment to capture a frame.

In this first frame our subject seems distracted. One of her ears is turned to listen to the background sounds.

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A moment later and with both ears directed to the front, we are left with a much stronger image.

Now, and I know the rest of the Wild Eye team share my sentiments on this, the position of the ears when it comes to capturing images of all cats is VITALLY important.

Cats use posture and ear positions to display mood and temperament. Aggression and defensive postures are usually reflected in flat ears and dilated pupils.

Pretty much like these examples…

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Now we were the only vehicle in this sighting when these images were captured and the young female in the images was in no-way aggressive towards us or disturbed by our presences. She had been engaged in an extensive exploration of the tree, sniffing and rubbing herself all over the branches and leaves. Not only was she laying down her scent but she was picking u the scent of another individual.

My guess is that this is what elevated her to a stimulated and possibly even anxious state.

Regardless, the calm, deep green tones of the image do nothing to dial down the tension created by her posture and ear positions.

Her posture just moments before these two frames made for a much stronger image with a more relaxed mood to it.

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The same go’s for a host of other species. Just a fraction too early or too late on subjects such as buffalo, rhino, wild dogs and kudu and you’ve missed the decisive moment.

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It is easier said than done but paying attention to the position of your subjects ears can make a big difference to the overall feel and story of the image.

So, how do you go about choosing the Hero shot from a sequence after purposefully paying attention to these subtle changes in posture in the field?

Lightroom makes it easy for you by allowing you to select the first and last images in  a sequence whilst holding down the shift key and then simply hitting “N” to enter the Survey mode.

Survey Mode in Lightroom

Survey Mode in Lightroom CC

Now you can display all images from a sequence and start to look for the subtle differences between them.

Lightroom allows you to mark images as rejects (X), picks (P) and even assign star ratings (numbers 1 to 5) as well as allowing you to remove images form the Survey view, leaving you with only the pick of the lot.

The take home message here is to shoot less and pay more attention to these finer details when you’re out in the field, you’ll become a better photographer and story teller for it!

About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

Comments 11

  1. Pingback: Choosing the hero shot from a sequence - Africa Freak

  2. Andy H.

    What subtle differences make in photography. Just a slight second more and there’s the perfect image. Do you shoot with single shot or high speed shutter setting?

    Wonderful photographs!
    Andy

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      Author
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Andy!

      Thanks for the feedback. I shoot mainly in continuous high on both the 5D MKIII and 5DsR but am able trip just a single shutter action on both of these. When shooting on the 1DX I shoot on continuous low unless I am anticipating some serious action.

      I hope this helps?

  3. Nicolas

    After a week with Andrew pushing you to wait for the light in the eyes, the position of the ears, the movement of the front legs, or the background behind your subject, I can assure you that you pay attention of every details before to shoot 3-5-7 images per second.

    The only moment when I’m still shooting intensely is for birds in flight, if they fly off! You will obtain a lot of different postures of your bird and finally find the one you are looking for. I was happy to have a canon 7d mark II.

    Thanks to Lightroom which gave us the possibility to see in one screen, all your images and give the chance to see the small details in order to maintain just one or two images in your catalog.

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      Author
  4. Terry

    I always thought that I was cheating by taking a few shots after each other, and always thought that professionals did not do that. Thank you for enlightening me and making me feel a little betters about my way of photographing wild life. Love your articles and lessons on photography. Thank you once again.

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      Author
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Terry

      Thanks so much for the kind words. As Nicolas says, there is a time and a place for shooting multiple frames. When there is action you will almost undoubtedly need to have a number of frames from which to choose the best of the lot. The flip side of this is when you have a leopard sitting in your viewfinder and you have to resist the temptation to simply fire away and start to become more selective of the shots you take.

      Glad you’re enjoying the blogs!

  5. Pingback: Trip Report: Timbavati Photo Safari May 2016 - Wild Eye

  6. Jens Hauser

    Sometimes it is really hard to pick out just one of the photos of a sequence because they are almost the same, Then I either just pick one or use the compare mode and put two side by side and pick of them until there is only one left.

  7. DaveT

    Really, really interesting Andrew. I am happy with identifying things like movement and eye contact, but short of attending a safari with you, Is there anywhere that I can find out more about body positioning of animals (such as your excellent explanation of the ears)?

    It would really help me to sort through may own images from a much more informed standpoint. And besides that – it’s fascinating.

    Thanks for the post,
    Dave

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      Author
      Andrew Beck

      Hi Dave

      Apologies for only replying now but i have been out on safari in Kenya (Keep an eye out for the trip report). Feel free to drop me a mail on andrew@wild-eye.co.za and lets see if we can arrange for an informal coffee at our offices and we can have a look at a couple of images?

      I look forward to hearing from you!

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