Generally speaking, wildlife photos work best when they capture an animal doing something. Anyone can take a picture of a bird perched on a wire, but a patient, experienced photographer captures images of the bird landing on the wire, or mating in mid-air, or hunting or building a nest. However, I’m just a backyard photographer who occasionally gets to visit a National Park or the local zoo, and I don’t have to impress a magazine or stock editor with images illustrative of animal behavior. I have the luxury of attempting animal portraits now and then.
Animal portraits require great patience, because you cannot direct the models, and you can only control the background to the extent you can reposition yourself. As with any portrait, finding or creating the right light for the subject can make or break the shot. The first ape image was shot in bright sunlight with strong fill flash, whereas the second ape image was natural light streaming through trees. The bird was in the open shade of its cage, whereas the moth was in bright afternoon sun. Four lighting scenarios, and four very different looks.
And, as we find with many people portraits, technical excellence does not always carry the day. The moody lighting and plaintive expression of the ape in the blurry picture get me every time.