Never Photograph the South End of a Northbound Animal
By: Gary Gray
A common rule but one that rookies seem to struggle with.
If you've learned from another pro, one of the the first things you'll probably be taught is to never photograph the south end of a north bound animal. There are exceptions to every rule, but for this one the exceptions are far and few between. Nobody wants to see the nether regions of a wild animal. It's a common rookie mistake and for good reason, there are very few good shots to be had of an animal's ass.
In wedding or journalistic photography, taking a picture that features somebody's butt is a no-no. Feature means, that the butt is a primary feature of the image. Your job as a photographer is to capture an interesting, compelling or flattering image of the subject. A picture of their rear end doesn't meet this requirement and settling for it is lazy.
For wildlife, the temptation to take a photo from any angle available is often strong. The first clue you're too close to an animal or that an animal is aware of your presence is when the animal turns their butt towards you. By turning his/her butt towards you, the animal is preparing to flee the scene. Move any closer and the animal will move away. Learn to approach an animal so as not to spook it. Have the patience to wait for the better shot. Learn to get the angle before getting close. Often, the animal will sense you are no threat and move towards you, and you should be ready for that to happen.
About the only time you can get away with photographs of someone's rear end is with fashion or model photography, where the subject's rear end is the actual subject. Don't fool yourself though, most people (and most women) don't want their butt photographed.
(Originally published, Jan 6, 2011)