7 wildlife photography Tips
Updated: Aug 23, 2018
Helpful tips when photographing wildlife in natural settings.
1. GET LOW Getting low when photographing your subject can help create a more natural perspective. This not only draws viewers in and creates a strong connection to wildlife (being at their level), but also helps to create a more distant and less distracting background.
In the case of this ground squirrel in the Canadian Rockies, I lay on my belly to capture an image of this endearing mammal.
2. THE NEED FOR SPEED High shutter speeds help both to freeze the action and to reduce any effect of camera shake or blur. Fast shutter speeds are often imperative for birds in flight or fast moving animals to capture their action and highlight their behaviours. Think of shutter speeds of 1/800 to 1/1000 sec or faster for moving wildlife and 1/2000 sec or faster for birds in flight.
3. THE EYES HAVE IT When photographing animals especially as tight portraits, always focus on the eyes. The ‘windows to the soul’ the eyes are a dramatic focal point that draws viewers in and helps them relate to the species, and helps to convey emotion. This lion in Botswana's Okavango delta had a captivating gaze and elicited powerful emotions and raw majesty.
4. CONSIDER DEPTH OF FIELD & THE BACKGROUND When composing an image consider the depth of field as well as the background. Do you want a sharp subject tight in focus, with a clean bokeh background? For these situations consider a shallow depth of field and a f value of f/2.8, f/4, or f/5. Do you want multiple features highlighted in your photograph such as perhaps several herd animals, or a landscape setting? This will require a higher f value, greater depth of field, such as f/11, f/13, or f/16. In any case make sure backgrounds are also clean and do not have distracting elements behind your subject in question.
5. LIGHT IS KEY After all photography is all about ‘painting with light’. Do you want side light, front light, backlit subjects? Generally speaking when the sun is at a low angle (early morning, late afternoon), side lighting and backlight (as well as front lit) subjects look superb. With soft glowing features highlighted, especially the edges of bird feathers or mammal fur. Front light works best most times of the day. This is used to show rich detail and accurate colours and tones in your subject. When the sun is high in the sky and harsh (midday) backlighting and sidelight subjects don’t tend to work as well.
6. DONT CROWD ME Leaving space around your subject and not centring them can be an effective tool to compose your images. Especially when considering ‘animal-scapes’ setting the subject off to one side; moving or looking into the scene is much more dynamic and visually stunning than to directly centre the animal in a wide open frame.
7. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE Spend time with and understand your subject. Learning about animal species behaviours and adaptations is not only paramount to ethically enjoying them and gaining valuable knowledge, but it also greatly helps predict behaviours ahead of time that can be captured in dramatic images. Spend time with an animal species, instead of running off to go to other animal without first giving proper attention and respect for the first. Patience does pay off and the greater time you spend the more you will be rewarded with phenomenal and interesting behaviours and intriguing imagery!
Most of all have fun, respect wildlife and share your knowledge with others to help conserve nature’s wonders!
To learn more about nature and wildlife photography and animal behaviours, contact us to join one of our intimate and engaging tours.