One of my favourite types of photography is wildlife photography. I get a real kick out of first finding the wildlife and then capturing their expressions, behaviours and activities. Recently I was incredibly lucky to have the chance to explore The Galapagos Islands which is absolute wildlife paradise! Prior to this I’ve spent some time in East Africa on safari and these are some of my fondest memories of my photography journey so far. I can get so absorbed that the day just flashes past and I realise I have barely surfaced from my camera lens.
So today, I’d like to share some wildlife photography tips with you to improve your wildlife photos and impress all your friends and family on Instagram!
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1/ Get the gear
The most important thing you will need to get you started is a DSLR with a decent zoom lens.Wildlife photography is tricky without a decent zoom. I can highly recommend the Nikkor 55-300mm lens. It’s cheap as lenses go but takes lovely photos. Most photos below have been taken with this lens. Of course if you can afford a better lens, there are many out there! Aim for a reach of 300-400mm or more. If you want a cheaper alternative, you could consider a teleconverter. Lighter, cheaper but slightly reduced quality, these essentially increase the reach of an existing lens e.g turning a 200mm into a 400mm. Also make sure you have a spare battery and memory card!
2/ Know your gear
You might only get a few seconds to get that amazing shot. To be good at wildlife photography, you need to be FAST. If you don’t know your camera and spend too long faffing, you will lose the shot! Get to know your camera and it’s settings REALLY well and practice practice! I also recommend ‘The Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Photography’ in order to learn how to get the best from your camera. You may also wish to sign up for my FREE e-photography course. It’s designed to teach you quickly how to use every button and gadget on your camera to start taking better photos.
I love this button on my camera. If you choose your focus/exposure, you can keep it the same and re-compose your photo by pressing the AEL/AFL button. Say you are on safari and you see a lion just sitting quietly. Focus on it’s eye and keep your finger on the AEL/AFL button and then wait patiently for it to do something interesting like yawn and show all it’s teeth! All you have to focus then, is on composition.
4/ Know your subject.
The better you know your subject the more often you will capture specific behaviours as you will be able to predict what is a about to happen. For example they may be showing signs of aggression towards another animal in their herd and there might be a fight about to break out – it would be a shame to miss that by packing up your camera a minute too soon! For example, we didn’t spot a sea-lion in labour – when we came back from our walk after 1 hour – there was a new-born sea lion. I would have loved to have seen and photographed the actual birth!
5/ Choose your angle.
With wildlife photography, it’s almost always best to get low. Get on eye level with the animal or even lower. This will allow you to capture the emotion and makes for a more engaging photo. Compare the 2 photos below to see how impact direct eye contact makes!
6/ Shoot both wide and close
Don’t be afraid to get closer and zoom in filling your frame with just part of the animals. Equally don’t forget to shoot a few photos wide so you get the background in giving your photos diversity and telling more of a story.
Always focus on the animals eye if possible! This allows you to connect properly with the animal.
Consider using a tripod if your lens is heavy to keep your camera as steady as possible. Sometimes resting your camera on a bean bag can help to e.g. from a safari vehicle window.
9/ Keep your shutter speed high
Keep your shutter speed high for 95% of wildlife photography. Remember your shutter speed needs to be faster than the length of lens eg if shooting at 400m, your shutter speed must be > 1/400th of a second. To freeze movement you are likely to need a much faster shutter speed e.g. >1/1000th second. So as long as the light is sufficient, set you shutter speed as high as possible. There are exceptions to this rule eg if you are panning and want to show movement and blur the background. But this is more complex so if you are just getting started I would definitely recommend keeping your shutter speed high to begin with.
10/ Blend in and be patient
Avoid bright colour clothes and blend in with your environment as much as possible. Keep still and quiet and avoid any sudden movements or noise which could scare the wildlife away. You will then have to be extremely patient for your shot! I once waited 2 hours to see if a group of wildebeest would cross a river as part of the migration in Kenya. They were being very indecisive, huddled on the cliff edge and we waited 2 hours only for them to change their minds – much to the disappointment of the crocodiles and hippos that had gathered below!
But despite all these tips and suggestions, my main suggestion is to practice practice practice! If you have a big wildlife photography trip planned then it may be worth taking a trip to your nearest zoo to get a bit of practice in before you go! Most importantly enjoy your trip, try not to get frustrated with lack of light etc, have fun and the photography will come!
If you’d like to learn more about getting the most out of your camera, consider downloading my FREE e-photography course! I really hope you find it helpful!
If you enjoyed this article about wildlife photography, you may like my other photography how-to guides! Learn how to take portrait photos to capture personality and how to take instagram worthy landscape photos!
Do you have any wildlife photography tips you’d like to share? Or have you tried any of these? I’d love to hear from you! If you enjoyed this and would like to share on social media, please use the icons provided below.