Wildlife Photography is undeniably one of the most challenging yet the most rewarding form of photography. It requires patience, passion, and persistence. Wildlife Photography is known for putting the skills of a photographer at the test as one has to shoot in the wild, out of the comfort zone.
While it is necessary for a photographer to master a camera and equipment, there are some major things that a photographer has to keep in mind while taking that equipment in the wild. So, if you are a beginner photographer who wants to do wildlife photography, take a look at this guide. It will tell you everything you need to know about taking your camera in the wild and capturing the unseen.
What is Wildlife Photography?
Wildlife photography is the type of photography genre that deals with capturing animals in their natural habitat. It is among the most challenging types of photography as one has to deal with the subject that cannot be controlled or tamed. It’s the animals that you are dealing with. While some animals are welcoming and easy to approach in the wild, you will also come across animals that can’t be approached directly. That’ when a photographer has to use a telephoto lens. There are also many other ways to capture that rawness and authenticity of the wild using various camera techniques without the photography being physically present.
Here are 10 Great Tips to Master Wildlife Photography
1. Choosing the Right Camera and Equipment
While doing wildlife photography, one cannot and must not shoot with a point and shoot camera. Point and Shoot cameras have so many limitations that we would just say that it is unprofessional for you to use one while shooting in the wild. Just stick to a functioning DSLR. There are many DSLRs available in the market.
Just go with the one which provides you with better features and picture quality. As far as other equipment is concerned, you have to have a tripod, a camera bag, an ND filter, a telephoto lens, a rain cover, spare batteries, and binoculars. A good wildlife photography camera can help you capture some really amazing pictures.
2. Know Your Animals
Wildlife photography requires a great amount of research about the animal you are shooting. Wildlife is filled with uncertainties and poor knowledge about an animal or its habitat can put you at risk. Let’s suppose you are capturing a wild animal like a hippopotamus.
Now, this creature looks calm n all when it cools off in a lake but things can take a dark turn when the same calm looking animal turns towards you thinking of you as a threat. The point here is, the animal can run faster than you can imagine and their jaws can crush your head like a nutcracker.
So, before stepping into the wilderness, have a good amount of knowledge before studying the daily routine of an animal. Unlike pet photography, wildlife photography comes with a number of uncertainties.
3. Choose The Right Lens
Now the first choice of every wildlife photographer is a telephoto lens and there’s a reason behind that. If you have knowledge about telephoto lenses then you must know that they let you zoom and take photos from a long distance with ease.
So, if you are going into the field then you better be equipped with a telephoto lens. There are different types of telephoto lens you can find. Some have fixed focal length while some can let you zoom in and out. Another favourable lens to use for wildlife photography is a macro lens. A macro lens is amazing at capturing small birds and insects.
4. Use The Right Camera Setting
It’s true that you have to know about the animal that you are shooting and its habitat before stepping into the field but it is also important to use the right wildlife photography camera setting to shoot an animal. Now, you may know that there is a vast difference between shooting a still subject and shooting a subject in motion.
Both of these require a different camera setting. Now, to capture a subject in motion, you have to opt for fast shutter speed. Keeping the shutter speed of the camera fast allows you to capture a clear image of the animal and helps you avoid any blurs.
The best part about shooting at fast shutter speed is that you are not missing out on any moments. This is also true for capturing birds. It can be hard to capture a decent image of a flying bird. So opting for fast shutter speed in your best bet.
Another setting you have to take care of is ISO. Now, ISO is the setting that allows you to control the noise in the image. While low ISO prevents noise, high ISO can make it evident. So, the key is to shoot at low ISO (100) when there is ample lighting and in case of low lighting, shoot at high ISO (800 and above). It's not a studio set up where you can just use three-point lighting and get the favourable lighting for your photoshoot. You actually have to choose the right time to do wildlife photography so that the lighting is in your favour. And choosing the right camera setting can make the work a whole lot easier.
5. Avoid any crisis before it happens
Now, this is especially true when you are shooting for the first time. The chances of things going wrong are high. The thing is, while shooting in a studio, you are very safe and so is your equipment.
You can charge your batteries whenever, you can easily find a replacement for your equipment, you are in a controlled environment where you can set up the right lighting but all this becomes a mere dream in the wild where nothing is under your control.
You can run out of batteries, your equipment can break, and then there are other natural factors that can affect your perfect photoshoot in the wildlife such as rain, dust, thunderstorms, animal attack, etc.
So, you have to be well equipped in that department too. So, bring protection for your equipment such as covers, keep extra batteries, raincoat, and a bag pack which is waterproof. At the end of the day, wildlife photography is just a photoshoot you are doing in the wild. There’s no point of making it a do or die situation by putting yourself and your equipment at risk.
6. Don’t Forget to Invest in a Good Tripod
Yes, we told you about buying the right equipment for wildlife photography before. Apart from investing in a good camera, you also should not neglect to invest in a good tripod. Tripod is what holds your expensive camera and if it’s too cheap or flimsy, the chances of your camera falling on the ground becomes high. So, it is best to invest in a tripod which won’t collapse. You can buy the ones made of carbon fibre or other sturdy material.
7. Research Location
While it is important to do research on the animal you are about to capture, you also have to research the location. Location research allows you to choose the aptest and scenic location for your wildlife photo shoot. Also, location plays a very important role in wildlife photography. Firstly, it helps you in figuring out the density of animal population you will find there and you also find out about the preferred chilling spots of animals at certain hours such as lakes. Once you know that, you can do a recce to set up the stage for your photoshoot. Every outdoor requires recce so that the photographer can get the idea of the location of shooting for example destination wedding photography, outdoor fashion photoshoots, architectural photography, event photography etc.
8. Keep a Low Profile
Keeping a low profile should be your priority if you are looking forward to capturing the most candid moments of the wild. Every creature you find in the wild and even in cities shows some extent of defensive behaviour. This means that your mere presence can be a threat to an animal around you.
Also, an animal can perceive you as a threat and may try to attack you. That’s why it is important to keep a low profile while doing wildlife photography. You must avoid making a loud noise, or sudden body movements that can alert the animal.
Keeping a low profile becomes easy when you are using a camouflage. There are many creative ways to hide your presence from animals for example, you can wear a white dress during winters. Since the ground is mostly covered in snow, you can take advantage of a white outfit. The same way if you are shooting in a desert, khakis can be really handy.
Another thing to keep in mind while keeping a low profile is to cover your scent. Animals have a strong sense of smell, much stronger than humans. So, if an animal catches your scent, it will try to avoid you. You have to make sure that your scent isn’t prominent. There are many camouflage suits available that work towards hiding your scent. There are some other things you can keep in mind such as not wearing any perfume while going for wildlife photography.
9. Be Patient
While doing wildlife photography, patience is what will help you in the long run. It is very unlikely that you will go to wildlife photo shoot and capture the best picture of your life. It is also possible for you to witness a majestic animal or a scenario that is almost unreal and you were not able to capture it. That’s when patience comes into play.
Patience will teach you to sit still in a single position for hours to capture that one shot that can make or break your whole career. Patience will help you witness some beautiful and too good to be real moments in the wild.
Wildlife photography is not just a type of photography but it is a great teacher. Wildlife has a lot to offer to a photographer who is patient enough to let the wild unveil its magic.
10. Practice and practice hard
If you ask us or any other professional wildlife photographer, you will find that consistency is the key. There is something called beginner’s luck but that’s far from the truth what wildlife photography beholds. There’s no such thing as beginner’s luck while shooting in the wild.
Luck will only favour you when you know about the subject when you know about the location when you know the routine when you know the camera and most importantly when you know that today is the day that you will find that perfect moment, that perfect shot, that will help you bring something new to the world. Something that the world is yet to see.
What Is The Best Aperture Setting For Wildlife Photography?
When you are out capturing these elegant creatures, you have to make sure that you use a wide aperture. Using a Wide aperture has a lot of advantages. When you use a wider aperture, you can use a lower ISO as the light is being compensated by the lower f/stop. And not just that, when you use a wider aperture, you can also increase your shutter speed which is very important when you are out to capture some fast-moving animals.
How Can You Make Your Wildlife Pictures Sharp?
If you are someone who is looking to capture some razor-sharp wildlife images, then all you have to do is follow these 5 easy steps and you could distinctly see the difference:
1. Use a faster Shutter Speed
This is one of the major aspects that make your photos look sharp. Slower shutter speeds can result in some really blurry images. All your camera settings depend on the lighting conditions of the particular situation, hence you have to make sure that your shutter speed is quick enough to capture a sharp image.
2. Choose A Wider Aperture
Aperture directly has nothing to do with the sharpness of the image. But when you use a wider aperture, you can use a lower ISO and faster shutter speed. These 2 factors, the ISO and Stutter Speed, definitely affect the image's sharpness.
3. Choose a Lower ISO
ISO is the sensitivity of the sensor towards the light, and we have to tweak up the ISO in conditions of low light. But if you are shooting in adequate lighting conditions, make sure that you use a lower ISO, as higher ISO increases the sensor's sensitivity, which can lead to grains.
4. Use a Tripod
Wildlife Photography is all about patience, hence you need a tripod to rest your camera. This can also help you if you are planning to take long exposure shots. When you have a tripod and an external shutter button, you can take sharp images even with slower shutter speeds. Provided your subject doesn't move.
5. Turn On The Image Stabilization Of Your Lens
Your Lens also has an image stabilization switch and you should keep that on so that all your photos are sharp.
Which Lens Is Best For Wildlife Photography?
When it comes to Wildlife Photography, you want your lens to have a variable focal length so that you can photograph your subjects from afar without disturbing them. Hence you need a telephoto lens which has a wide aperture for sharp images.
What Equipment Will You Need For Wildlife Photography?
For Professional Wildlife Photography, you need:
A Professional Camera
A Telephoto Lens
A Rain Cover
A Carry Bag
Batteries and Memory Cards
The above guide must have told you how intense wildlife photography is. A single mistake can cost you a perfect shot or in rare cases, your life. But don’t worry as wildlife photography is mostly fun as one gets to explore the world outside of cities. You get to experiment with different shots, see different animals, birds, and insects and witness the true wild. Just keep the tips mentioned above in mind and you can master the art of wildlife photography.