Two Questions For You

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Right, I have two questions for you.

The first one has to do with this image.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife & Nature Photography

Do you think that the focus in this image detracts from it?

Looking at the image closely you will see that my focus point was on the front animal and the shallow depth of field left the leopard in the back, the one with open eyes, a little soft and out of focus.

If we go according to wildlife photography ‘rules’, the eyes of a subject should always be in focus and the main point of visual mass in the frame.

So the question again.

Do you think that the focus – if we feel the need to stick to the age old belief that you must not, shall not ever break the rules – detracts from the image?


Does the shift in focus tell a different story?

I am still in two minds but I’m kinda leaning to the second option.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Then, and this is something I have been thinking about for quite some time, the second question is simply this…

Is a wildlife image better, by default, when it has a leopard as a subject?


This might not be a bit of a tongue-in-cheek question but it does seem to me that a leopard image, almost regardless of how good it actually is, gets a huge amount of likes and attention when compared to a superior image of, dare I say, a lesser species?

Yes, this question can then lead to other ones like ‘do you really care about the amount of likes your images get?‘ – no – and ‘is not because the leopard is such stunning and seldomly seen animal that people like the images? – could be – which then leads to “so if I need more likes on my images or Facebook page I just need to post leopard pics? – ummm, ok?


What do you think?

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt

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Comments 0

  1. Morkel Erasmus

    Interesting thoughts/questions Gerry. I will see what others say before I weigh in…LOL

    As regards to leopards-for-likes…yikes…then I am in trouble as I am possibly the one with the smallest most insiginifcant leopard portfolio in South Africa…my nemesis species as it were 😉

  2. Joey

    1. Rules are there to break. If you know how to.

    2. No it should not be about the subject but the story it portrays.

    In wildlife (for me) its about the story and not the subject. If it is a portrait – different story. Then i think the focus must be on the eye and everything should be in focus. But with a image like this… unnecessary.

  3. Christo Kruger

    Like Joey said, this is an amazing image. And the fact that the leopard at the back is not perfectly in focus does not subtract from the image.

    But to answer your first question. Yes the shift in focus does tell a different story, and asks the viewer to focus their attention on the closest leopard. But I find my attention is drawn more towards the leopard at the back as its eyes are open.

    Regarding leopard images getting more views than “lesser subjects”, I personally think there is nothing more special than a Male Kalahari Lion, but it’s probably true that leopard images draws more attention.

  4. Myer Bornstein

    Well, rules and photography a recommendations not absolutes. In this picture. If you focused on the eyes of the 2nd weapon it would’ve made the front, leopard, soft the blurry, and personally I don’t like that. In this picture, which you posted. I think it is perfect, because, unless you really get up close and personal. I really don’t notice the softness of the rear leopards eyes.

  5. Justin

    While, my focus in photography isn’t wildlife, I do have a keen interest in it and occasionally go out and take a few snaps of whatever I come across (usually birds, as I’m usually with Mark when I go out into the wild)

    But in my opinion, sticking to the rules are for camera clubs. Yes, there are certain things which will either make or break your image, but at the end of the day, the image is yours and what you capture and how you process should be indicative of what you were trying to show to your audience. Was it purely documentary or were you trying to convey something a bit deeper?

    Coming from a fashion and commercial side of photography, I am more prone to doing the artier and creative side of images, where doing the total opposite of what the rules say, may actually land up making an amazing image.

    I reckon working for likes can be compared to getting votes on Idols.

  6. Piet Venter

    I like the focus and DOF of this image – it imparts a feeling of intimacy to the image that would have been lost imho if the focus had been on the other leopard or the DOF greater.
    I dont’ believe an image of a leopard is better per se than one of a “lesser” species. However, most viewers of images don’t see leopards all that often and/or from up close. I believe this is the reason why leopard images attract more attention, “Wow’s” and likes.

  7. Mark Needham

    Lovely shot and I agree with the others that rules are in fact just helpful guidelines and can be broken when the opportunity presents itself. For example, one “rule” is that we should always be close to the ground at eye level and never “shoot down.” But, check out Marsel’s recent snow monkey shot taken from an overhead angle:

    Most wildlife photographers (me included) tend to use f-stops such as f4, 5.6, etc. and spot focus on the eyes to ensure blurred background and sharp eyes. But, you could have stopped down to say f13 or so and selected more than one AF point, and may have gotten both leopards more “in focus” – who knows.

    Regarding leopards, I have witnessed this phenomenon too, but not just with leopards, but also lions. I feel that it is due to their beauty (e.g., markings, colors, facial expressions), sense of power, and secretive lifestyle (well, at least for leopards). That said, however, on 500px it seems like the critters getting the most attention tend to be commonly seen deer in the UK and birds often found in our backyards – and many times these shots are not all that creative or well executed??!! Sometimes I wonder if people are seeing something I am not , but that’s photography – an artform that is always interpreted differently by different people.

    Great thought provoking post, Gerry. Cheers!

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