Friendly Critique #4: Elephant in the Shower

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For our friendly critique #4 we decided to go for the portrait of an elephant about to enjoy its bath in Miami Zoo, by Nancy Bettencourt. This is a tightly-cropped portrait, where one can see only half of the elephant's head, and a spray of water, motion blurred by a slower shutter speed, against a dark background. The close up portrait allows the viewer to explore the elephant's skin texture with all its dots and wrinkles, as well as anticipate the coming refreshing shower.

The Elephant, by Nancy Bettencourt
The Elephant, by Nancy Bettencourt

This is an unusual crop for a portrait, whether for a person or an animal, and it definitely works in this case as there is no need to show the whole animal to bring impact. The photo was taken in the busy surroundings of a zoo, and a tight frame is a good solution to keep the image simple while removing any distracting elements.

Although the light in the image is soft, the greenery in the background is very dark, almost black. The contrast coupled with shallow depth of field allows both the elephant and the water spray to stand out effectively.

Points to consider next time:

  • The colours of the image are not very bright, the light is soft and all the elements in the image have a slight greenish tint. The texture of the elephant's skin and slightly blurred drops of water are the key elements here and would benefit from some additional contrast. Since the colours do not play a major role in this image, I would suggest converting it into black-and-white, thus enhancing the contrast and bringing more attention to the textures of the skin and the water.
  • While most of the background is dark and unified, the bright area in the grass in the lower part looks somewhat distracting. Remember that anything bright in an image draws the attention. Here, a slightly tighter crop would remove the problematic area and help emphasize the main subjects: the elephant and the water.
  • When the photo was taken, the elephant was definitely aware of the water spray, but was not yet interacting with it. I would be curious to wait for a few more moments to see its reaction and capture the water bouncing off the skin.
BTP version of The Elephant, by Nancy Bettencourt
BTP version of The Elephant, by Nancy Bettencourt

Overall, it is an interesting and unusual elephant's portrait, where the photographer was bold enough to crop it tightly for a more effective and dramatic composition. So be brave and take your time to experiment for strong and eye-catching photographs!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.