10 STEPS TO GREAT WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY
I have always been passionate about animals so it was no surprise to anyone that I turned to wildlife photography after receiving my first camera a few years ago. In the beginning, I photographed at facilities (zoos, wildlife refuges, etc.) until I discovered the joys of the wild. Below, I’ve listen my top 10 tips for wildlife photography.
- Know your subject: Study what you hope to photograph. Knowing habitats, behaviors, food preferences, sleeping habits, tracks and field marks can all can help to know when and where to find subjects. As you learn to identify different bird species, go ahead and start your Birding List, a list of birds you have seen in your lifetime. See how many different species you can find.
- It is an exercise in patience: Animals are unpredictable and will almost always do the opposite of what you would like. They are masters at positioning themselves just behind that twig or branch or even worse, in the shade. You must often wait for the perfect shot. Re-positioning yourself sometimes helps, but it is not always the solution. Shooting wildlife requires perseverance.
- Work the light: In the wild, your light source is the sun, of course. It is not always going to work in your favor. If possible, position yourself for the best lighting conditions. In unfavorable conditions, using exposure compensation and adjusting shutter speed are essential. Always keep in mind, though, that animals move, so be prepared to take multiple shots if using slow shutter speeds.
- Become part of nature: Walk as slowly and as non-threateningly as you can. Act as if you belong there. Until actually taking a shot, act as if you do not even notice the subject. Take shots periodically while you move closer. If they leave, you at least have something. Often animals that vacate will return when they realize I am not a threat.
- Get down low: Get down on their level. This makes for much better photography. It isn’t unheard of for me to lay on the ground or crouch low.
- Be ready: Have your camera ready and be prepared to change settings constantly. One minute you can be shooting a sitting bird and the next a hawk flying overhead. Both require different shutter speeds, so I find shooting in shutter speed mode to be very helpful with bird photography.
- Be Doctor Doolittle: Talk to the animals. It really does work, especially with birds. The best picture is when the subject is engaged and connected to you. I talk to everything and don’t care who notices.
- The eyes are the key to the soul: I shoot primarily in single point focus and like to focus on the eyes when applicable. Truthfully, a bird looking straight at you is comical, but sometimes silly can be fun!
- Be careful: Watch for venomous snakes and obstacles. I once slipped in slick mud and down I went. I endured the “walk of shame” to the car coated from head to toe while toting a mud encrusted camera. Was not my finest moment!
- Be Respectful: The animals should always come first. A shot that will jeopardize the subject is a shot that should NOT be taken.
Equipment used (affiliate links): Nikon D7200 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR
Tracey Fandre is a hobby photographer. Her goal is to show to others things they otherwise would not have seen or noticed. I want to make the creepy “interesting”, the ugly “cute” and the beautiful “shine!”.
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