10 Nature And Wildlife Photography Tips
Before you set off on your wildlife photography trip, you need to consider what gear you’ll need. If you don’t plan ahead, you won’t get the spectacular shots of nature you envisioned. So here’s a list of gear you should consider taking with you for your wildlife shoot:
- Tripod- if you’re using a telephoto lens, you won’t be able to hand hold your camera, and so a tripod will be needed to avoid camera blur. If you’re using a much longer lens, around the 600mm mark, you may need a heaver tripod, or you could try hanging your camera bag from it to give it more stability.
- Telephoto lens- this is essential for all wildlife photography, because likely you won’t be able to get too close to your subject without scaring them away, so you’ll have to take the photo from a distance. The minimum focal length you will probably need is about 300mm, which should do a good job for fairly big animals about the size of a deer. If you’re taking photos of birds or animals that are likely to run off if you get too close, you may need a much longer lens, around 400mm-600mm.
Tip 2: Practice
Before you go on your nature shoot, you should try out some local photographing to practice your skills. A local zoo will have all the wildlife you need to practice, or perhaps a trip to your local woodlands, or even in your garden you can practice taking photos of birds. The only issue you’ll come across at zoo’s is a lot of the animals will be behind wired fences, and glass windows, but by getting as close as possible to the fence or window and focusing on your subject, you should be able to put them out of focus and make them barely noticeable.
Tip 3: The Rule Of Thirds
It’s a good idea to learn the basics of composition before you even start taking photos, this doesn’t mean you have to stick to the rules every time you take a photo, but they’re good guidelines to get good looking photos quickly, and then you can start changing things around. The rule of thirds involves splitting your photos into sections, with two equally spaced vertical lines and two equally spaced horizontal lines. The rule is to place your subject, or a point of interest at one of the intersecting lines or along one of the horizontal lines. You should get a well balanced photo by following these rules, and once you’ve got your head around this, you can start moving things around and breaking the rules.
Tip 4: Taking The shot
Once you’ve sorted your gear, and learnt some composition basics, it’s time to take the shot. If you’re in the wild taking photos, as opposed to a zoo, the animals are more likely to get startled from your presence, so you need to decide how close you’re going to get to the animal, and you may want to find a place where you’re well hidden from the animal, such as a hide. If you don’t have an animal hide, and you can see the animals from your car, it’s worth using your car as a hide, and winding down the window. You can then use the bottom of your window to prop up the camera which should help with camera shake. Once you’re in position try not to make too many sudden movements, and try to move slower because animals are always looking around, and will notice any fast movements, even from the corner of their eyes. Zoom into the animal until they’re filling the whole frame and then focus on the eyes, to make sure they’re sharp. If the eyes of your subject are out of focus in your wildlife photos, this is the first thing that anyone viewing them will notice, and could potentially ruin your shots. Finally try and get eye level with your subject, as opposed to an above view, because this gives a much more interesting photo and more of a sense of the subjects point of view.
Tip 5: Patience
This is the biggest problem with nature photography and the most essential that you do, but it’s well worth the wait. You could be waiting for hours to see your subject, or for them to get into the right position for a shot, and then once they are you might only have minutes or seconds to take the shot before they disappear again. So it’s essential you know exactly what photo you’re looking for, and the settings you’ll need to use to get the right shot, or you could easily blow your chances.
Tip 6: Light
The best times of the day that will give you the most dramatic lighting is in the morning and evening. Anywhere in between these times when the sun is directly overhead isn’t that great for any type of photography more often than not. This is because when the sun is much lower in the sky, shadows are more noticeable and the light is usually a lot warmer. If the day is very overcast though, this can also be a perfect opportunity for photos as the clouds act like a softbox.
Tip 7: Moving Subjects
Animals are almost always moving to some degree, unless they’re asleep, in which case you probably won’t be photographing them anyway. This will take a lot of trial and error to get right, and will be different for each subject. If the animal is moving and you want some background blur, it’s probably best to pan with the animal, for example if you’re taking photos of a running lion, and you want to keep the lion sharp, but also want to add some movement to the photo, panning is a good option to try out. Panning means moving your camera, and keeping the subject in your viewfinder as it moves, this will enable you to use slower shutter speeds and keep your subject sharp while blurring the background. Another option is using a much faster shutter speed, and freezing your subject and background for a much sharper photo, for which you’ll be looking at a shutter speed in the hundredths of a second, depending on how fast your subject is moving.
Tip 8: Handheld
If you decide not to use a tripod, and hold the camera you might not be able to use much longer telephoto lenses, but this depends on the lighting conditions and how well your camera handles high ISO settings. If you’re using a telephoto lens, as a minimum you should aim your shutter speed to be at least the same as your focal length, so for a focal length of 300mm, aim for at least a shutter speed of 1/300s. You will probably need to increase your ISO considerably to get this shutter speed, unless it’s a very sunny day, and so a good camera that can handle high ISO settings without giving you a grainy photo is a plus.
Tip 9: Go Wide
Since you’re already there, why not try taking some wider shots of the whole scene, if you take a wider lens with you, you could get some landscape shots with some animals or your subject in the frame. This opens up more photo opportunities and you could even get better photos from a wide angle than your zoomed in telephoto shots.
Tip 10: Use Burst Mode
This is particularly useful for high speed shots, where your subjects are running or flying, simply hold down the shutter button and the camera will continue to take photos until you take your finger off the button.