When photographing Pandas you want to show some detail in the black fur while protecting the highlights from overexposure. It's a balancing act that's made much easier by using your histogram. In this example, we'll refer to it as the Pandagram.
Black Mid Tones White
Notice how the there is no "data" touching the right side of the Pandagram. This means that I have not lost detail in the white fur. This is important, as lost highlights can never be recovered no matter what software you use.
Here's an explanation of each of my camera settings:
Shutter speed, 1/500: Since the Panda was eating Bamboo with his hands, I needed to use a fast shutter speed to freeze any motion. 1/500 is about the slowest I would recommend when photographing moving animals.
Aperture, f5.6: In order to slightly blur the background and foreground and bring more attention to the Bear, I used the widest aperture my 400mm lens allows.
ISO, 800: Since it was overcast, I needed to use a high ISO in order to get enough light into the camera considering the fast shutter speed. On the Canon 40D, I have no problems with noise/grain even at ISO 800.
The camera was mounted to a tripod.
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