Clicked 11 consecutive shots of the squirrel on the tree outside your house, but not even one was perfect? You must be wondering what went wrong, when you were actually using your brand new Nikon. Might have been the light, or the angle, or you might not have focused properly. If you are passionate about getting your angle right while doing wildlife photography, apart from getting the right camera lenses, make it a point to learn some effective wildlife photography tips.
As an amateur, often our excitement with a new camera skyrockets, but our knowledge might be restricted to switching the camera on, clicking some off-the-cuff snaps, and pushing the camera back into its pouch. So, the next time you are planning to book a guest house in a forest for mingling with the animal friends around, make sure you do your homework on wildlife photography tips well and use your camera judiciously.
Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners
Get, Set, and Go with the Right Gear
Just when you are about to click a white rhino cuddling its calf at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana,you realize that you are unable to focus on the subject, thereby missing a brilliant shot. This is exactly why knowing the functions in your camera becomes crucial, before you are out on a wildlife photography trip.
Get hands-on practice of changing exposure settings, adjusting your tripod, setting focus tracking, and changing shutter modes. Do not underestimate your camera’s manual…you might actually learn some creative concepts from its literature.
Else read up to Know the hidden functions of DSLR camera to use yours optimally.
If you want to primarily concentrate on capturing various birds while hiking, getting and knowing how to use a medium telephoto lens is recommended. Similarly, if you are targeting animals who prefer to maintain distance from humans, ensure you carry your best zoom lens with you.
If you are confident of spending some quality time with the more domesticated lot, where you might capture a few close photos with them, then keep a 50 mm lens to get a neat click. Keeping your wide angle lens handy will prove beneficial, in case you wish to capture the landscape along with the wild ones.
While you have all the accessories for your camera ready, make it a point to carry them in a bag, which is comfortable to carry and water-resistant. After all, you would not want to damage your prized possessions due to a poor quality bag, would you?
Livingit Tip – If you can afford, do not hesitate in spending some extra bucks on buying the best lenses. They remain faithful to your camera for years together.
Do a Thorough Research on the Subject
If you didn’t have a clue that the yellow-billed hornbill that you saw at Kruger National Park in South Africa was eyeing the spider as its prey, you must have missed the opportunity of clicking that rare moment. Although it isn’t important that you learn the traits of each animal and bird, it is essential that you read up on the animals and types of wildlife you might encounter at your destination, during the season that you are visiting. Learn how different species display their angry gestures; this will help you understand their warning signals.
This will help you prepare in advance in terms of the equipment you need to carry.
One of the key wildlife photography tips is to talk to locals who belong to that place. They have indepth knowledge about the eating habits, behavior, movements, and sleep patterns of the wild creatures. Based on this knowledge, you will be quick in finding the animals and also changing your camera settings or the angle at which you need to click. Also, you will be able to make intelligent guesses about their whereabouts.
Moreover, once you have gone through the details of your planned destination for photography, it will help you gauge how you could explore the maximum variety of wildlife. Knowing about the best places for shooting and the right time of the day for clicking is very useful while you are out in an unknown land to follow your passion.
Practice to Get Perfect
As a newbie in the world of wildlife photography, neither should you expect every photo that you click to be of the highest quality, nor should you let your zeal go down just because you messed up with one shot. Similar to acquiring any other skills, getting good at wildlife photography comes with practice and continuous learning.
The good news is that in this digital age, you do not have to stop clicking after a few shots. Keep experimenting with different light settings, angles, and zoom lenses and continue to click till you are satisfied.
To know how to click amazing images, read How to Find Your Lens’s Sweet Spot: A Beginner’s Guide to Sharper Images .
Wondering how to practice wildlife photography when you do not stay close to any jungle area where wildlife is in abundance? Fret not. Your little pet, a zoo in your city, parks near your home, or your neighbor’s backyard will definitely help you during your practice sessions.
Birds, insects, squirrels, and stray animals are never in dearth at these places. Not only is practising locally a convenient option, but also a very economical way of getting used to the gadget and its features. Plus, according to some experts, practicing in a tame environment is ideal for novice wildlife photographers – here you will get the chance and the time to train your eyes as well as learn about your gear, focal lengths, and the subject.
Create and Follow a Checklist
Before stepping out of your home, you must do your due diligence on some aspects related to wildlife photography which may include, but may not be restricted to, the following:
- If you are travelling to some forest land for the first time, check the anticipated weather conditions of the place and keep the necessary accessories ready. For instance, if you know that the place is extremely sunny, invest in a good lens hood to block the sun rays and avoid improper lights.
- Go through online photography forums, blogs, or expert suggestions to find out if you need any special permissions to click wildlife in a particular area. This is especially relevant if you are visiting some wildlife sanctuaries or national parks. Proactively checking on this aspect will help you avoid last-minute goof ups and disappointments.
- Enquire about the business hours of a park or a jungle you are heading to. In most cases, there are set visiting hours. If you are not aware that a specific forest area amidst scenic beauty is open to visitors only from 9 in the morning to 6 in the evening, your hope to click the herd of deer against a beautiful sunrise may be totally shattered.
- Check your pair of shoes to ensure they are weather-resistant and comfortable for difficult terrains. Wear clothes that have multiple pockets so that you can keep your flash cards and extra lenses in them. Ensure you pack sufficient water and food with you, if you know you are going to be out for a long time. After all, with wild animals, you just can’t predict when and how you may be capturing them!
Take Light into Account
One of the key wildlife photography tips to keep in mind is the right use of light in your photos.As someone new to wildlife photography, you might often come across the words “hours of golden light” or “the golden hour”. It basically refers to the hours with the first morning light and the last evening light.
According to most mavens in this field, clicking pictures during these early morning hours as well as in the evening, when you can use the sunlight to your advantage, gives the best output in terms of crispness of images. At such times, the sun is at a low angle, which aids in illuminating the subject. In addition, a shimmering golden tone reflects on the subject of your photo. Make sure you do not click when the shadow falls directly on the face of your subject.
Although the golden hour is a good-to-have aspect, there is no reason for you to be disheartened even on a cloudy day. Clouds can, in fact, make your photographs speak a different, yet soothing language. For instance, capturing a ruddy mongoose relaxing by a tree on a rainy day in the Kabini Forest Reserve in India might win you loads of accolades.
Livingit Tip : Avoid capturing photos during midday if it is too sunny, as excess brightness may hamper the quality of your images.
Keep the Background Simple
Imagine this!You are focusing hard on a leopard taking a stroll in Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in Africa.While panning on the leopard, a sudden blockage in your viewfinder appears in the form of a random photographer – how frustrating could that be!
It is true that choosing the best position to take a shot is not in your hands, since the animals do not, and will not move according to your convenience. However, you must aim to keep the background of your subject plain and simple. This will let you highlight on the animals and its close surroundings better, thereby making your subject dominate the photograph.
In case you feel the need to have a blurry background, select a shallow depth of field using a large aperture setting, and zoom in on the animal. One more point to keep in mind is that your background, however unassuming, must be in sharp contrast to your subject in focus.
Ambitious to capture a tiger in a neat background? Then A Passion for Shooting Tigers – Debashish Dutta is a must-read for you.
Livingit Tip – To take a magnified portrait of a bird or an animal, focus on its eyes.
Be Ready to Click Some Wide Shots
You might be trying to master the art of taking close-up shots of a scampering deer or a rabbit sleeping in its burrow. As much as it is required that you learn the art of taking portraits, do not be ignorant of the wider shots, which convey a whole lot of meaning to the viewer.
Here are 8 Tips for DSLR Beginners , which you might find useful.
Capture wider shots to include the natural environment around the animal. This will better represent the location at which you took the photograph, whether it be a dense forest, a zoo, a park, or just a green pasture surrounded by trees. In short, the image of an elephant you clicked in a zoo must look different from the one you took in a reserve forest.
Have Multiple Characters in One Shot
While most photographers focus on just one animal at a time, it is a good idea to try capturing the entire family or multiple members from the same species or different animals within one frame. Don’t underestimate these wildlife photography tips. Not only will you have an element of interaction and liveliness in your photograph, but you will also be able to get a better overview of the habitat and the behavior of the wildlife.
For instance, grabbing the opportunity to click a candid photograph of a Thomas leaf monkey in Indonesia’s Gunung Leuser National Park is certainly appreciable, but photographing the mother monkey feeding its infant is what will qualify as a “wow” moment.
Whatever be your level of preparation, never rely on wild animals; their behavior is totally unpredictable. If you have the option, travel in groups. Follow rules and do not trespass into prohibited areas; remember,these have been prohibited for a reason. Always keep your backpack or bag ready with some food and drinking water, if you know you are out for a while. Also have your torch lights, maps, hats, gloves, and cell phones in place so that you may swiftly deal with emergency situations.
Take cues from the body language of animals. For instance, on your trip to the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, you see a moose who apprehensively looks at your camera lens; it is safer to wait for the next opportunity and let the moose go its way.
Similarly, do not attempt to click baby animals if you see their mothers around; it may be dangerous. Apart from wildlife, be prepared to face unpleasant weather conditions.
Limit your excitement levels; avoid unnecessary jumping around cliffs and climbing trees, especially in the dark.
Arm Yourself with Patience
There is nothing more important than patience when you are exploring your skills in wildlife photography.Most successful photographers accept that they have had days when they were out in the fields and forests, trying to click some good snaps of birds and animals, but all in vain.
There wasn’t a single good picture. Nonetheless, it is the experience and the learning that counts. Acclimatizing yourself to an animal-friendly environment is an art in itself. Give yourself the space and the time to gradually pick up the finer skills of wildlife photography.
Within an average of 4 to 15 seconds, capturing the finest shots is no joke. You might have to wait for hours together amidst adverse weather conditions, before you shoot a cracking photo for the day. All the wildlife photography tips will be useless if you are not able to gather the patience required in this passion.
Livingit Tip – Never take proactive steps to come in front of animals; instead wait for them to come out of their hiding and greet you.
As you continue trying your luck on clicking the various moods and actions of the wildlife around you, remember to stay ethical. In other words, do not forget that animals too have a space of their own and they may dislike the fact that you are encroaching on their natural habitats. Fulfilling your passion towards photography is important, but not at the cost of animal welfare.
Let us know if these wildlife photography tips helped you out and yes, as you become a pro in wildlife photography, do share your best shots with us.