Tips to Take Your Wildlife Photography to the Next Level
Updated: Oct 31, 2021
Study Your Subject
Serious wildlife photographers spend a lot of time learning about the species that they are after. The more you learn about the wildlife you are shooting, the better you will be at photographing them. Study their habits and traits, which will give you a better idea of what to expect. All of this helps you get amazing photographs. What time of day do they like to come out? Where are they going? How common are they?
The more you learn about the ecosystem as a whole, the better you will do as well. You may be in British Columbia for amazing pictures of the moose, but you’ll probably snap some pictures of a grizzly bear if it wanders your way. Photographers seldom pass up an opportunity to add another species to their collection, so being familiar with all of the rare and exciting animals in an area is beneficial.
Be an Ethical Wildlife Photographer
The best wildlife photographers respect the animals and their environment. Wildlife photography is photojournalistic–the photographer is there to document the events and not create or affect them in any way.
Be a Low Light Master
Knowing the low light characteristics of your camera can make a world of difference in your photos. Shooting with a long lens means you’re often working at the threshold of slow shutter speeds and high ISOs. Knowing the limits is critical. If you don’t, you risk coming home with a card full of blurring images.
Patience is the Key
Be patient. There is a lot of waiting around for this type of photography. Usually, the way the best shots are taken is by noticing a particular type of animal has a habit of returning to a specific location at a particular time of day. So you make yourself comfortable, plan your shot, and wait. And sometimes you wait and wait.
Compose your images
Animals don’t take your direction or go where you want them to, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your images. You can still plan your framing and shooting direction, and then wait for the animals to cooperate. Animals are nearly always low to the ground, so with your telephoto lens, it pays to plan most shots from close to the ground.
The background is important and often overlooked in these types of photos. From down low, it’s easier to get more scenery in the background. A little bit of background can add an entire story to the image. It adds location information, and maybe even the season or time of year. A good background helps you capture the environment and ecosystem, not just the animal.
With this in mind, you might also want to consider zooming out occasionally. Making the animal smaller and adding the scenery will blur the line a little between wildlife and landscape photography. And that’s a good thing because the best animal images are shown in their natural habitat.
One important component of all of that waiting is to stay in the moment. If you’ll excuse the pun, you need to keep your focus. Distraction means that you’ll miss your moment.