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The Animals We Love

This assignment ran from Jun 2 to Jun 23, 2014.

Animals have been my passion my entire life. Animals are my guiding light, my vice, my joy, my therapy, and my companions. If you identify with any of these statements, then this assignment is for you.

This assignment is about following your passion for animals and photographing from the heart. It is most important to photograph what you care about and not worry about making a proper photograph. Never feel embarrassed about how much you care about animals! Remember, the personal becomes universal in a strong photograph. Avoid the pitfalls of making a generic “stock image”—photograph it all and then edit yourself. My editing challenge will be to differentiate between poignant and too cute. I'm sure I'll love all your photos but know I must make hard selections for this assignment.

Your approach can range from creating an intimate portrait that communicates the distinct personality of an animal to photographing your observations of an animal within a landscape, on the street, in parks, or in zoos. More ...

Curated by:

Robin Schwartz
Fine Art/Editorial Photographer
Assignment Status
  • Open

    Everyone’s welcome to contribute their best shot to open assignments. Learn more.
  • Closed

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  • Published

    Once the submission period is over, we'll review all contributions and select our favorite images to be included in the story. Learn more.
Published Jun 30, 2014.
Thank you for your contributions!

Make or Break

Posted jun 19, 2014

In no particular order, here’s what I’ve been looking for as I edit:

• Poignancy, empathy

• Beauty in content and light

• Something unusual, strange, or that I have not seen before

• Animal behavior

• Cultural insight

• A quality in the photo that makes me smile or haunts me, an image I go back to, try to figure out, or that works on several levels and makes me think

• Make or break: consideration of the frame, crop, and horizontal and vertical choices

• A universal but not stock image

• The caption, backstory and information, location

Sometimes I marked photos as favorites that were not technically perfect but made me just plain stare or catch my breath—for reasons that I could not always pin down. In other words, I looked for photos that made me feel. Thanks for showing the wide range of emotion that can be felt when photographing the animals we love.

Watch Your Crop

Posted jun 11, 2014

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this wonderful photo sharing community.

I so enjoy seeing each and every photograph immensely and want to mark with a "like" way too many of them, for many different reasons. My challenge as an editor is to be selective and to write constructive comments. I have had a technical learning curve navigating the website, but now I think I have found my rhythm for viewing each image and its description.

How I edit: Foremost I edit for image content, but an added wonderful aspect is being able to take note of the comments, which sometimes give me more insight into the work and satisfies my curiosity. Ultimately it is the personal content added in the description that gives a memorable story to an already compelling image.

After considering the main subject, my process for selections is often based on cropping and framing, then lighting, followed by how the subject’s environment either contributes content or detracts from it and is distracting. I appreciate a context to the subject, which helps me to understand the environment the animals inhabit, as well as to admire a portrait with a minimal background.

Sometimes there are absolutely wonderful subjects, but I opt not to select those because the zoom is too close (this has occurred often in this assignment), with body parts seeming to be arbitrarily cropped out of the photo, such as ears, chins, necks, and parts of legs. I very much appreciate a thoughtful crop of the body.

I do not edit to a formula either. Rules are meant to be broken in art; there is always a wonderful surprise that breaks all accepted standards. I suggest that, if you're zooming in or using a long lens, you change up the framing, shooting verticals as well and varying your crop. Many zoomed, tight horizontal portraits might have been more successful with a vertical approach that came down on the neck and left off the unnecessary information on the horizontal sides. When zooming in, pull back and cover your bases if you have the time.

You can always crop closer, but you can't add an ear. When I shoot, I check my viewfinder edges, since I already see what is in the center. Most of us are shooting digital, so get another, larger, faster memory card. Then, to contradict myself, you can overshoot and miss the moment, a throwback to hunting with film, film had limits.

That said, there are always exceptions, and I do not base my edit selections on any rules. A wonderful photograph shouts out, takes my breath away, and stays with me.

Show Us You Care

Posted jun 2, 2014

Photograph for a while before sending in your selection. Warm up to the assignment, then select the images you care most about. The most important aspect of this assignment is creating photographs that you value, despite what any other person says. With this assignment, it is most important to enjoy the process and experience of the animal. Trust that the value you place on a photograph might come through in your capture.

As I have learned from the previous editors of Your Shot assignments, captions can provide the intent and tell your story. Your caption should absolutely connect to your image, extend your vision, and provide me with more insight into your personal individual image. Please, no digital manipulation; I want to see real life—the real animal is the ultimate experience.

I look forward to seeing your photos and for you to be able to share images about who and what you care about with fellow “animal people.” Eccentricity can make great photographs. Be safe, be respectful. Remember, all your photos are valuable, meaningful, but we all have to edit to communicate within our limits.

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz

Fine Art/Editorial Photographer
Robin Schwartz's photographs are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, among others. Her photographs are included in over 50 books, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Time Lightbox, The New Yorker Magazine, The Oprah Magazine, and many other publications. She has presented Master Talks at the National Geographic Magazine Photography Seminar, LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph and The Eddie Adams Workshops. Schwartz earned a MFA from Pratt Institute and is an Associate Professor of Photography at William Paterson University of New Jersey.