Wildlife photography is a genre that has been growing in popularity over recent years. Maybe this is because we are a species that thrives on the great outdoors, or maybe it’s because smartphones have made it increasingly easy for us to capture our surroundings and share them with the world. Either way, wildlife photography has become an exciting niche within the wider sphere of photography as a whole.
In this article, we will be looking at some tips and tricks on how you can develop your skills as a wildlife photographer and take shots like the professionals. If you’re anything like us, you’ll have grown up with an innate love of nature and all its inhabitants. Wildlife photography lets us come face-to-face with these beautiful creatures again – but this time with a camera in hand! But if taking photos of animals makes you nervous (after all, they won’t stay still forever), read on to find out everything you need to know before heading out into the wild…
What Equipment (and Skills) Do You Need?
The first thing to ask yourself before heading out into the wild is: What do I need to bring with me? As with any genre of photography, there are a lot of different pieces of equipment that can help you improve your wildlife photography. In fact, there are so many that it can be pretty overwhelming – so we’ve narrowed it down, and put together a list of all the essentials you’ll need, along with a few optional extras that you might like to try out! Let’s take a look…
As with all types of photography, you’ll need a camera to start taking wildlife shots. But which one should you choose? There are a few different types of cameras that you could use, and each has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Here are the three main types of cameras that you might want to consider when starting out:
- DSLR: These are some of the most popular cameras for wildlife photography. They’re usually quite cheap, can be found in a variety of different price ranges, and are easy to use for beginners. Plus, you can use them to take photographs in all sorts of different environments.
- Mirrorless Camera: These have been gaining in popularity over the last few years. They offer some of the benefits of a DSLR (such as interchangeable lenses), without any of the bulk that DSLRs can often bring. They are often lighter, and run much more silently, which makes them perfect for stealthy wildlife photography.
- Compact Camera: These are a great option if you don’t want to splash out on a more expensive camera, or if you are looking to take photographs in low light. Also you won’t be able to get a really good zoom lens. Compact cameras come in a wide variety of different models, so you can choose one that best suits your needs.
So you’ve decided what type of camera you want to use – but what about lenses? Which ones should you choose?
When choosing a lens for wildlife photography, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind:
- Telephoto: The most popular type of lens for wildlife photography is a telephoto lens. This type of lens allows you to zoom in on your subject without having to get close to them. This can be really useful if you want to take photos of animals that might otherwise be scared away by your presence.
- Wide-Angle: A wide-angle lens is a great choice if you want to get a wide overview of your environment.
- Macro: This is made close-up photos of your subject, and is great for butterflies, insects and smaller species.
Some photographers also choose to use filters while taking wildlife shots. While they’re actually most commonly used in portrait photography, there are a few different types you could experiment with while taking wildlife shots.
- UV Filter: This type of filter is designed to protect your camera lens from getting scratched. It’s a good idea to use one while taking wildlife shots – particularly if you’re using a zoom lens, as you will be pushing the lens right up against plants and leaves that could easily get caught in it. These are also a good choice if you’re taking photos at sunrise or sunset – when UV rays are particularly strong.
- Polarizing Filter: This filter is designed to cut down on glare. It is particularly useful if you’re taking photos of water (i.e. lakes and rivers) or skies, or if you’re photographing through a glass window or roof. It’s also a good choice if your photographs are coming out too ‘blue’ – i.e. too bright.
Here are some must haves for your camera kit:
- Tripod: If you want to take long-exposure photos with low light, or if you’re using a long-zoom lens, a tripod is a good idea. This will help you avoid blurry photos caused by camera shake.
- Remote Shutter: Taking photographs of wild animals often means getting very close to them. This, of course, can often cause them to be nervous – and, in some cases, scared away. A remote shutter can be a good way to avoid scaring your subjects away. This will let you take photos of them from a distance without having to touch the shutter button.
- Memory Cards: You don’t want to run out of space in the middle of a shoot, so it’s a good idea to bring a few extra memory cards with you.
Before we move on to locations and timing, there is one more thing that you should consider when taking photographs of wildlife; your skill level. Understanding your own skill level is a good way to know what you should practice, and what you should leave to the experts.
Wildlife photography comes down to three main things:
- Knowing your equipment: Familiarizing yourself with all of your equipment is the first step to good wildlife photography. Make sure you know how to use everything on your camera – from the shutter and zoom, to your flash and filters.
- Knowing your subjects: Understanding your subjects and their behavior can make a huge difference to your wildlife photography. It’s a good idea to do some research before you start shooting, so that you can anticipate your subjects’ movements and know when to start shooting.
- Patience: Wildlife photography, as the name suggests, is about photographing wildlife. This means that you will often have to wait for animals to do something interesting. Be patient, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning shots!
Finding The Right Location
Now that you’ve got your equipment, you need to find the right location. Finding the right place to take wildlife photos can be a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack. There are so many different places to go – it can be difficult to know where to start!
Here are a few tips that can help you find the right place to take photos of wildlife:
- Choose the right season: Different animals are out and about in different seasons. So, if you want to photograph certain types of wildlife, timing is everything. For example, birds tend to migrate in the spring and autumn, whereas squirrels tend to be out and about during the autumn. – Pick the right time of day: Wildlife is most active at different times of the day. If you want to photograph certain types of wildlife, you should try to visit during their ‘peak hours’. For example, raccoons are most active at dusk or dawn, whereas squirrels are most active in the afternoon.
- Be aware of your surroundings: When you’re picking a location, it’s important to think about the wider surroundings. You want a place that gives you easy access to both water and land animals. It’s also a good idea to stay away from areas that are frequented by humans (such as hiking trails and parks), as these can scare animals away.
Timing Is Everything
One of the most important things to consider when taking photographs of wildlife is timing. If you want to capture your subjects at their most active, you’ll need to know when that is. And the other important element is to have fun.