5 Wildlife Photography Tips
Spending time with animals is a rewarding experience. Photographing them in the wild is even more so. As you venture into wildlife photography, remember to carry the right gear and follow a few fundamental rules. From learning the virtue of patience to bringing the best equipment, here are some of those basic wildlife photography practices to capture the perfect shot.
Capturing an amazing shot takes patience. Unlike photographing humans, wildlife will not always face the camera and strike the perfect pose. So regardless of whether you’re snapping photos of birds or lions, get comfortable and expect to wait. Fortunately, even if you have to return day after day, patience will eventually pay off.
As you frequent the area and the animal’s habitat, you can also get a sense of each animal's unique personalities. Whether it’s cute, playful cubs or foals leaping about or majestic, mature adults loafing or establishing dominance, you can learn each subject’s character and traits so you can anticipate and better prepare for the next shot.
Learn Their Habits
Learn the habits and daily routine of the wildlife you are trying to photograph. If you are patient, you’ll come to know where they roam throughout the day and have a better chance of success. Beat the crowds for a nice space, especially when touring parklands, and give yourself time to set up.
Learning their habits can also set you up for a fantastic photo. Whether it’s capturing a pride of lionesses on the hunt or a flock of birds taking a drink at a watering hole, you can capture activities. If you are lucky enough, the wildlife may even become accustomed to your visits and less fearful or annoyed.
Get a Telephoto Lens
Telephoto lenses are essential for wildlife photography. How long of a lens you need may depend on what you plan to photograph. Consider a super-long lens for small, flighty birds and other more timid wildlife like deer and gazelle that tend to keep their distance. Select a 400mm to 600mm lens.
When photographing from a car or taking the occasional break along a parkway, weight is not much of an issue. However, when you need to lug it around, it can be awkward and adds weight–roughly 20 extra pounds–to a camera bag. In instances like these, you could carry a magnifying teleconverter lens instead, which weighs only a few ounces. One downside to a teleconverter lens is that you tend to lose sharpness and details, affecting the photo’s image resolution.
Find Support or Carry a Mount
When capturing wildlife on camera, it pays to stabilize the shot. The longer the lens, the greater the chance you will get blurring–even at the slightest movements with fast shutter speed. So, if you intend to use long lenses, they will need support.
Tripods are exceptionally sturdy, but they can be quite cumbersome, especially the heavy-duty models that support a 600mm lens. This decision could come down to portability, similar to making a personal choice over a telephoto lens or teleconverter. If a full-size tripod is out of the question, you can also find countless smaller camera mounts that attach to cars. More often, wildlife photographers can simply find a nearby rock, fallen tree or even a fence post that will get the job done just fine. Place it on a jacket or soft cloth for some extra stability and protect the underside from scratches and other dirt and debris. Your camera case works wonderfully, too!
Capture the Environment
Up close shots show the unique quirks and personality traits of an animal. But their habitat, whether it’s plains or forests or the deep blue sea, represent a lot about them. That’s why it’s important to capture the environment.
Zoom out enough to take in the surroundings using a wide-angle lens. For example, remember to capture an entire herd, rather than solely focusing on up-close shots. Capturing the environment also means other flora and fauna. After all, you want your photos to tell a story.