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How to Photograph Through a Wire Fence (7 Effective Tips)

How to get great photos through a fence

If you come across an interesting subject that’s surrounded by a wire fence, then getting a good shot can be a real pain. This is a challenge most often faced at the zoo, but I’ve run into similar problems when photographing at pet stores, as well as when shooting old buildings (where the buildings had beautiful facades but were surrounded by wire fencing).

Really, you never know when you might need to photograph through a wire fence, and you can find yourself struggling in the most unexpected of circumstances (for example, I recently photographed some kids on a trampoline, which had mesh around it).

Now, you can’t always eliminate the fence entirely from your composition, depending on the size of the fence wires, the size between the wire gaps, the distance to the subject, and your equipment. However, there are always ways to minimize the fence’s impact, even if it doesn’t seem like it – and there are also ways to approach fenced-in subjects so you have an easier time focusing.

So how do you take good photos through a wire fence? Here are a handful of my best tips:

1. Switch to manual focusing

When you’re shooting through any kind of fence, especially if the material is especially noticeable or somewhat far away from your lens, your camera may not know what to focus on – the fence or the object behind it.

If you switch to manual focus mode, you’ll be in complete control of what is in and out of focus, and you can carefully set your plane of focus so your main subject looks tack-sharp.

2. Get close to the fence

how to shoot through a wire fence

The best way to eliminate a fence from your images is to make the fence so out-of-focus that it’s imperceptible.

One strategy is to get up very close to the fence – so close that the fence wire turns into an unnoticeable blur.

It may not be possible to get right up against the fence (when you’re shooting a lion at the zoo, for instance, you may encounter other barriers in place for your own safety), but the closer, the better.

3. Use a large aperture

Getting close to the fence will cause it to blur, but if you can widen your lens’s aperture as far as it can go – to f/4, f/2.8, or even f/1.4 – the depth of field will be narrowed, and the wire will be rendered even more out of focus.

Note that the longer your focal length, the shallower the depth of field. So if you use a telephoto lens and you shoot at an aperture of f/2.8, the fence will be blurrier than if you photograph with a wide-angle lens at f/2.8.

4. Wait until your subject is away from the fence

How to photograph through a fence

This won’t help when you’re photographing fenced-off buildings or landscapes, but if your subject is moving around behind the fence (such as a monkey at the zoo), wait until they’re a little further back to take a shot.

The closer they are to the fence, the more the fence will be in focus – but the farther back they go, the more the fence will blur (assuming your subject is in focus!).

5. Position your lens to shoot through larger gaps

This one isn’t rocket science, but it’s important to consider the size of the fence gaps. If the openings are large, you’ll do better to position these gaps in the middle of your frame.

It can also help to examine the fence for any areas that might have larger gaps, and then adjust your position so these are included in your shot. (Of course, don’t do this if it’ll compromise safety; the goal is to get a clear shot, not to get close to your subject in a way that’s dangerous.)

6. Avoid reflections and highlights on the wires

How to photograph through a fence

If you’re shooting through a relatively reflective fence on a sunny day, you may notice reflections from the sun. (This can also happen when shooting metal fences at night, assuming there are bright streetlights or car headlights around.)

These reflections can be very noticeable, even if you manage to blur out the fence metal fairly effectively. Therefore, try to find a part of the fence that’s shaded, or change your camera angle until the reflections disappear. (Another option is to get someone to stand in a way that casts a shadow on the fence!)

7. Incorporate the fence into your composition

How to photograph through a fence

You don’t always have to eliminate fences from your shots. Sometimes I like to actually include in-focus fences in my compositions, so if you’re struggling to shoot through a fence, why not try to use it creatively?

For instance, you can let the fence wires create interesting leading lines, or you can take a few steps back and capture the fence plus your subject. Fences don’t always make for bad photography!

how to shoot through a wire fence

Go photograph through some fences!

Fences often seem like a huge photographic problem. However, I’ve shot through plenty of fences, myself, and I assure you that they’re not as bad as you might think.

Just take steps to blur the fence so it’s not visible. And if you can’t blur the fence, then try to work with it to create an even more powerful photo.

So the next time you come across a fence, just remember the tips I’ve shared, and see if you can get some good shots!

Now over to you:

Do you have any additional tips for photographing through fences? Do you have any example photos to share? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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