This genre of photography is all about documenting the plethora of wildlife within its natural habitat. Wildlife photography not only requires photography skills, but one also needs craft and survival skills to capture the dangers of the wild.
Wildlife photographers need to be trained in approaching animals, as this is not an easy task.
They should have complete knowledge of animal behaviors as it enables them to predict actions and survive dangerous circumstances. They should possess the skill to be secretive and know how to conceal themselves because not all species like their privacy disturbed.
The most important thing is the photography skills and the equipment needed to capture breathtaking views at the right time and at the right angle.
Successful wildlife photographers are those who know their equipment well, for example, which specialist equipment to use, using macro lenses to capture small species like insects, utilizing long focal lengths to catch birds’ flight, and using underwater cameras to capture marine life.
So it is a combination of both wildlife knowledge and photography skills that mold a great wildlife photographer.
It is common knowledge that for wildlife photography, one must know together with patience and good luck.
As patience and luck cannot be learned, this article can help you with the knowledge realm and enhance your photographic skills and your survival techniques.
As you read on, you’ll discover a handful of tips that will add wonders to your wildlife photography adventures.
These techniques and tutorials are firsthand knowledge from our experts, and they have disclosed it for you so that you can unleash your creative side of photographing.
Remember capturing animals in their habitat and their natural form is beyond beautiful but is quite complicated. So read this guide thoroughly, and you will find all that you need to be successful.
From advice on macro photography to crucial tips regarding capturing flying birds, this article covers everything!
Let’s get going into the depth of the wonders of wildlife photography.
Get familiar with the gear.
This might sound cliché, but you shouldn’t ignore it. It truly works if you want to be successful in any photography. The right equipment matters a lot.
Many people think choosing the gear is the most natural part, but they are wrong. It is the most crucial step, so you need to ensure that you select the tools that match your journey. Wildlife photography requires special equipment, and you need to familiarize yourself with them if you want to reap benefits.
It would be best if you had a camera that can capture the thrilling moments that only last for 5 and 20 seconds. So if you chose an expensive yet slow camera, you would miss the perfect shot, and these changes don’t come easy in wildlife.
Secondly, once you have chosen the gear, you need to become comfortable with it. You need to crawl in its skin and learn to handle it with your mind without waiting a second.
Becoming intrinsically familiar with camera settings and knowing the chosen lens is necessary if you want to capture mind-blowing images.
If you lack expertise and familiarity, you will lag and will surely miss or blow perfect shots. You need to have a thorough knowledge of your camera’s minimum shutter speed at which a sharp image can be obtained.
You also need to understand the added margins that the in-camera provides you and how to switch between focus modes quickly. You also need to get acquainted with the camera’s ISO setting and see how high you can push it still achieve the best results.
Summing it up, you need to make the best use of your gear and use it efficiently without taking much time to adjust as one hour of waiting for a cheetah can be lost within ten seconds you take your eyes off the viewfinder.
Familiarize with your subject
It is a saying, and it perfectly goes with wildlife photography. When in the wild, learn the wild ways.
As most of the photography is focused on capturing brief moments of animals’ behaviors within their natural habitat, it matters for you to understand your subject so that you can predict their behavior.
The animals are not easy to become friends with, and it won’t happen overnight. You won’t predict for every species, but at least you can identify patterns ingrained in every type and use them to realize what will happen next.
It is familiarizing with the subject, making all the difference as it makes you ready to capture the “golden moment” without missing it or blowing it. At the same time, other impatient and ignorant photographers watch it fly by in agony.
So how do you get to know wildlife? There are only one answer and no shortcut. You spend time with them.
Just hanging around for a few hours and then seeking a new subject is not considered time. If you want to deliver intimate details, you observe, you will have to sit with your subject for hours until it does that for you again, not only to observe it but this time capture it.
It’s a watching and waiting game. So basically, this ties in with patience as animals require patience to get familiar. A tripod would be handy.
For a better understanding of how difficult and, at the same time, attractive is wildlife photography, please watch this video by Morten Hilmer – a professional nature photographer:
Identify the “rules” and break the one that doesn’t fit in.
Every profession has some rules, and so does photography. No matter what the genre, there comes a manual of guidelines to follow. These are unwritten yet known to all and have become the foundation of excellent photography – regardless of type, nature, or time.
So wildlife photography comes with its own set of rules that are certain to be applied for success. Their application makes Wildlife Photography.
Easier to understand, for example, the right exposure, when to use the histogram, and how to properly compose, etc. These guidelines have been ingrained in the world of wildlife photography and have become a vital aspect of it.
Thus, you need to memorize them and follow them subconsciously to gain the ability to capture that brief yet spectacular moment accurately.
Once you become familiar with the “rules” and know the guidelines thoroughly, you need to start applying them practically. But remember, every situation is different. Don’t try to make the rules fit in. Just bend and break the rules as you seem fit.
As now, you know the rules well, you can cut them where you know they don’t work. Push the boundaries where you can, as extraordinary things don’t happen within the boundaries. If you don’t want your results to be turned out as stock-standard images and typical to the eye, you have to put in some extra effort and go beyond limits.
If you want something different from every other photographer, you have to be willing to break some rules and make some new ones, like having eye contact with an animal or pursuing a wild lion. Sometimes a little risk adds colors to your image and takes it to a whole new level.
Make the light work
One of the first pieces of advice you will ever get when venturing into a wildlife photographer’s world is to make the best use of golden light.
This means to photograph when sunlight is the best, and for this, you have to get up early in the morning and being shooting before the sunrises to get perfect shots of dusk. And then get ready to shoot in the hot burning afternoon and end at sunset to utilize the best hours of sunshine and capture the amazing sunset.
Remember, too much light, especially at midday, is of no use as it is harsh and reduces the spunk in images. Only on an overcast day, on which it is cloudy, and the beams are filtered evenly, you can shoot all day long if you find willing subjects in such gorgeous weather.
As photography requires light tuning, you need to know how to take the sun’s best advantage in the wild. You will often find lightning not ideal, or find good light but in the wrong direction, but try making the most of it by moving around and finding a perfect spot.
Capturing images in less than ideal positions is complicated, but remember that you can pull it off if you have the right gear.
Shooting wider and shooting closer
The issue with wildlife photographers is their obsession with getting too close to animals, thus isolating them from their habitat, thus cropping their environment. This results in an artificial image and looks like it is taken from a controlled location with a captive subject.
To get a real picture, challenge yourself and shoot with wider angles and provide the viewer with a better image covering the aspects of the wild you are experiencing. Let the living in the wild be exposed.
The opposite side of shooting wider is shooting closer, which means close, face-to-face.
This can be done by charging position and by tuning a sufficient focal length via a longer lens. This helps create distinct and exciting close-ups of the animals, which are breathtaking and contain lots of details.
The more is only, the merrier.
More usually makes it crowd, but it gives you more opportunity if you know how to pull it off. Yes – in wildlife shooting, detail matters, so one species is suitable enough, especially if there are limited food and shelter.
But if you are in a good position with a spectacular view, why not stay a while and do both! First, go for a single image of your best pick and then throw a group photo in the mix and get a mind-blowing picture of interaction.
Get as low as possible.
How you portray all that matters is how you describe your subject. It is your perspective that the viewer looks at, so bring the viewer an image that looks at them right in the eye and confronts them.
If possible, try going eye level, which can’t happen for a giraffe, but you get the idea. Remember to keep the situation in mind before deciding on your perspective, as the environment can restrict it. For example, in South Africa, you cannot go into the field and have to shoot from a distance, limiting you to a certain perspective.
Hopefully, these insights will help you in your wild adventures as they have helped me and will add life to your images. Just follow these tips, and I assure you, you will come back with a smile as wide as a chimpanzee when you return with a camera full of beautiful and breathtaking views.
Have a good time in the field, and may the lighting and sightings be in your favor!