Taking pictures of your local wildlife is a great way to connect with nature and better understand the area you live in. But wildlife photography is perhaps the hardest photography skill to master. It requires a good eye, the right gear, and most importantly, patience. But just because it’s difficult to learn doesn’t mean that you can’t give it a go.
To help you make the most out of your trips out into the wild, no matter how good your gear or advanced you are, Tusk Photo, have put together some top tips and tricks to ensure you get the best shot.
Understand your subject
Many first time wildlife photographers are a little over eager to get out there taking shots straight away. But the world’s best wildlife photographers take time to research their subjects before they take a step out the door.
Well animal behaviour is often erratic. And that means you could spend hours waiting for a sight of the bird you’re looking to shoot photographs of if you don’t know or understand their habits. This is obviously only true when you’re looking to photograph a specific animal.
Online you’ll find tonnes of resources that will help you gain a better understanding of the bird, critter, or mammal you’re looking to capture. Find out their sleeping habits, when they like to eat, what they like to eat, where they nest… learn anything and everything you can about them. It’ll make finding and photographing them easier than it would be going in blind. Not to mention the fact that learning about your local wildlife as well as photographing it will be a much more fulfilling experience.
It’ll help you in the long run, too. As you spend more time in the outdoors, you’ll know which seasons are the best photograph the subject you’re looking for. You’ll gain a sixth sense for when, where, and how to photograph certain animals.
Research is vital to good wildlife photography.
Get to know your gear
While getting good pictures isn’t all about having the best photography equipment on the market, knowing the ins and outs of the equipment you do have, is. In wildlife photography, the best, most action-packed moments often last 10-20 seconds. That’s a tiny amount of time to capture a great picture.
The better you understand the settings, buttons, and capabilities of your gear the faster you can react to your subject’s actions and movements.
Patience is a virtue
Wild animals aren’t vain. They aren’t looking for a portfolio of great pictures of themselves. They don’t care if you have a camera in your hand. So don’t expect them to come out and pose for you.
You could find yourself waiting 10 minutes for a glimpse of the local bird you’re looking to capture a snap of. You could find yourself waiting ten days. There are no rules or regulations. It’s often pot luck and a whole lot of patience that helps the very best wildlife photographers capture their award winning images.
If you aren’t patient, don’t expect great pictures.
The right lighting
Unlike other forms of photography, capturing pictures in the wild means you can’t manipulate lighting. And lighting can make or break a shoot.
A golden rule of getting great shots is to head out early (before sunrise) and then head out again in the afternoon to make the most out of the dying hours of sunlight. Mid-afternoon lighting is often harsh and creates shadows and light spots on your pictures.
Because you can’t manipulate natural light, you’ll have to learn to work with it. This can take many years of practice and a great deal of understanding on how to manipulate the filters on the camera you have, before mastery.
To help draw a viewer into the photograph it’s a good to get to the eye-level of the animal you’re photographing. This helps create a sense that you’re there in the bushes with the animal experiencing a natural view of them. Getting an image from this perspective isn’t always possible of course. Some safaris in Africa don’t let you leave the car, restricting your ability to get lower with the subject, but a great rule of thumb is to photography from as low an angle as possible.
Understand that when photographing these animals you’re often encroaching on their territory. It’s important that you respect their habitats and never, ever, attempt to manipulate an image in a way that’ll harm the animal.
‘Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time’
Wildlife photography is one of the arts most fulfilling forms. When you’re out in the field take a minute to really appreciate the nature around you and the animal that you’re photographing. Sure, it can be frustrating being sat there waiting hours for that rare bird to fly into your path, but believe us when we say that the waiting game is always worth the payoff.
All images by TuskPhoto