Photographing wildlife can be an exciting experience, especially when you manage to capture that perfect shot! That being said, there are a lot of variables and a lot of preparation behind capturing that perfect shot. Since wildlife is not a subject that is going to sit still and pose for you, you will have to take a different approach to capturing it! Keep reading below for some tips and tricks that will help you capture your best wildlife photographs yet!
Remember that You Can’t Control Everything!
First, it is important to remember that when it comes to photographing wildlife, you can’t control everything. Maybe on the day you choose to go, the weather is perfect, but the animals aren’t around, or you wait for hours, and the animals show up, but the weather ruins your shot, or maybe you sit outside for hours, waiting to see something, and you don’t see anything.
The name of the game in wildlife photography is patience. Wild animals are going to do what they’re going to do, and there is nothing you can do to change that or make them do what you want them to. You simply have to be there and be ready when they finally do something interesting.
Although this is not a guarantee, one way to increase the likelihood that you will see animals doing something interesting and capture a great photo is to really know your subject. As is true will all types of photography, the more time you spend with your subjects, the more likely your images will be intimate and revealing. If you spend enough time observing a certain kind of animal, you may get to a point where you can begin to predict what they might do at a particular time of day or in a certain situation.
Get the Right Gear
The second important ingredient in achieving a great wildlife photograph is to have the right gear, and know it well.
For wildlife photography, telephoto lenses are a must-have! How long of a lens you purchase will depend on how close you can safely get to your subject, what your subject is, and the size of your subject. You should have a lens with a focal length of at least 200mm, but if you are photographing birds, for example, you may need a 400mm or 600mm lens because birds are very small and flighty.
If you are carrying around a large lens, you will need something to support it while you shoot as well. A tripod is an obvious solution, but these can be heavy and bulky to carry around as well. If you know the area you are going to be shooting, you may find that there are fallen trees or boulders that you can rest your camera on, or your camera bag may work as a support, or you can even look into mounts that fit on your car door, if you will be shooting from a vehicle.
Once you have selected the camera and other gear you need, you have to make sure you know this gear inside and out! Most of the action-packed moments that you are hoping to capture will only last a few seconds, so you do not want to be left fumbling with your camera when they happen. A good goal is to get to the point where you are able to make the necessary adjustments to your exposure/focus settings without lifting your eye from the viewfinder.
Work with the Natural Light
Go out early in the morning before sunrise, and in the later afternoon to take advantage of the last hours of sunlight and get some shots in the middle of golden hour. If you try to go out in the middle of the day, the light will be far too harsh, and your photos will not turn out the way you want them to.
The exception to this is an overcast day. On days like these, the clouds help to filter out the light evenly and you will be free to shoot all day long!
Don’t Forget About the Habitats
Don’t spend all of your time with really long lenses getting super tight shots. While animals have personalities and you definitely want to showcase that, you need to show their environment too! Use wide-angle lenses to give viewers a sense of where the animals live. This adds an extra level to your photos and gives insight into how that animal lives and the habitat it calls home.
Wildlife photography is an exciting genre of photography, and with the right gear and a lot of patience you can capture some truly incredible photographs! No matter where you live, there are interesting animals around you that each have their own personality, just waiting for you to try and capture that essence. So go out and explore, and see what exciting wildlife photographs you can capture!