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10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

I've got 10 tips for you to improve your wildlife photos. There are always some tips that I find myself coming back to again and again and that's because they are just so good at improving wildlife photos in an instant. So whether you're just stuck in a bit of a rut and you are trying to improve your pictures, take them to the next level, or whether you're relatively new to photography hopefully these 10 tips are going to help you out.

1. Get down low

So this is all about the perspective of your shot. And getting down onto the eye level of your subject is really good for introducing impact into your images. So take a look at this red squirrel. Now, this is taken from a relatively high angle above its eye level. But if we move the camera down and get onto eye level with the subject, there's immediately a load more impact in the shot.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

And you feel like, as a viewer, that you're kind of the same size as that subject. So here are some other pictures where we're on eye level with the subject and you can really see the impact you have. You're drawn into the picture.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

So getting down low is a really good way of getting rid of that amateur feel to your shots and taking it to the next level.

2. Use light

Now, there are a number of different types of lighting you can take advantage of in wildlife photography. You may well have heard people talking about light before and it is a similar story across all genres of photography because the light is key and it can really make all the difference.

Now, there are three main types of lighting that you'll want to take advantage of.

1. Backlighting
2. Sidelighting
3. Front-lighting

So these are just three of the main areas and there are, of course, lots of different variations on this. But my favorite has got to be backlighting. So look at this bear here. You can see it lit around the edges by some strong backlighting and this is taken with the sun directly behind the subject.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

And it's great for bringing out all that fur detail. Backlighting is easiest to get in the morning or the evening but you're looking for a really low, unobstructed sun. But it is the perfect way to get this beautiful warm, golden feel in your shots.

Now, side lighting is similar.

It's not going to be in the middle of the day, but it's when your subject is lit from the side and it is a great way of, again, highlighting some fur and things on your subject in a different, slightly different way. But it is great for introducing some contrast into your images as well.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

Front lighting comes when the sun is looking directly at your subject from the front. And this is a nice way of getting just perfectly clean, well-lit portrait shots. Now, most of the time, and this is not a rule that should be applied all of the time, but most of the time if you're shooting in the middle of the day, you're going to have a really harsh sun coming straight from above introducing horrible shadows and contrasts into your shot.

Now, one of the ways to get around this is to shoot on a cloudy day which means the clouds act as a giant diffuser and this can be really nice actually and introduce some very clean uniform lighting around your subject.

3. Learn about your subject

Now, this can make another massive difference to your images. If you actually know about the animal you're shooting, you're able to predict movements, spot when a particular behavior might be about to take place and it gives you the upper hand and now you're not just relying on luck all the time.

So look at these two gannets courting. Now, this is a courtship behavior between two individuals and knowing about the animals, it happens when one individual comes back to the nest and it's how they great each other after they've been away, one of them's been away at sea for a while.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

So understanding the behavioral routines of these animals helps you anticipate that this potential for a shot is coming and then you're lined up ready to shoot it in time. You can get in position for the perfect angle. Another really good that learning about your subject applies is when shooting with birds, for example. So it's not always going to be species-specific for these things you learn about, but with birds, when they're about to take flight, they'll often start tilting forwards.

They might go to the toilet as well to lose some weight. But they'll lean forwards and you'll see them twitching a bit before they then take flight. So knowing that gives you the upper hand again when it comes to anticipating the flight movements.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

So if you're just relying on luck, you're going to be sitting there waiting, waiting, waiting, and then suddenly it moves and oh, it's a bit late and you might miss it. Whereas if you know it's about to take flight, you're ready to move the camera with the bird.

4. Experiment with shutter speed

Now it's very easy to get comfortable in the shutter speed you're using. If you're always shooting and freezing motion perfectly to avoid camera shake, et cetera, now that's perfectly fine, but it means that you're missing out on some potentially more creative shots. So let's look at this puffin here flying past the camera. Here the slow shutter speed has meant that I can pan with the animal and introduce this motion blur into the shot.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

I convey the motion, it conveys the speed of the puffin flying. Now, if I was to choose a really fast shutter speed, then this picture might be pin-sharp, hopefully, but that would mean that there was no actual motion in the shot. It would be frozen in time. But a slower shutter speed allows you to introduce a different dynamic into the shot.

5. Not be afraid of ISO speeds

Now, I always say that it's important to have an ISO speed as high as necessary but as low as possible. Now, when you increase your ISO speed, you make the sensor more sensitive to light, but you also introduce digital noise into your image. That's all of the grain you see in the background across the shot and it can ruin your image if it's really, really high. But if you do wildlife photography, you're probably shooting in low light which means that you need to use these higher ISO speeds.

So the key thing is to be aware of how your camera responds to these ISO speeds. Different cameras have different capabilities. But don't be afraid of pushing the limits of your camera if it's going to make the difference between a noisy but sharp shot or a not noisy but completely blurred shot which is useless really.

If you're already comfortable with how your camera responds to different ISO speeds, then when the situation comes that you are photographing an animal, you've got that short window of opportunity, you'll already know what your limit is and how long you can keep shooting for.

6. Always be ready to press the shutter

Now, this may seem like a really basic tip, but if you're not ready, you aren't looking down the viewfinder, you don't have your finger on the trigger, you're going to be missing that shot when the animal does something key like turning its head, looking towards you, or performing some quick behavior, you're going to miss the image. So if you're not ready and you're not waiting and it may mean your arms ache if you're always in a position waiting to take that picture, but do it because it makes all the difference.

7. Keep both eyes open

Always keep both eyes open when looking down the viewfinder. Now, this may seem a little tricky at first and it does take some getting used to, but if you're looking down the viewfinder with your right eye and your left eye's open, that means that you still have the rest of the scene around your subject available to watch. You don't need to be focused on both at the same time, but if an animal moves on the left, you're going to catch that movement in your eye.

And it might mean there are two animals in front of you, say you're in a wildlife hide for example. If you're focused on one, you might not see another animal approaching and if those two are about to interact, that could be a great image. But if you don't have that eye open, you're not aware that's going to happen and you can easily miss the shot. So just get used to it and try both eyes open.

8. Use back button focus

Something I love to suggest people try and it's quite an advanced technique is to use back button focusing. Now, this is where you separate the act of focusing and taking the picture from the shutter button on your camera. So that AF ON button on the back of your camera becomes the focus and the shutter only takes a picture.

10 Wildlife Photography Tips You Can’t Miss

So if you half-press the shutter nothing'll happen. But if you fully press it, it takes a picture whether the image is in focus or not. Now, if you're focusing with your thumb on the back of the camera and your finger on the shutter to take the picture, that means that you're able to utilize all three focusing modes at the same time. That's manual, AFS, and AFC, or one shot and server, focusing modes. Now, if you're able to use all of these at the same time, that means you're never going to need to switch focus mode for different situations.

So, for example, you've got an animal in front of you and it stops still on a branch. Now, you might want to take a nice portrait shot of it. Now, usually, if you're just focusing and taking a picture with the shutter button, you have to move along, focus on the animal, keeping the shutter half-pressed, recompose, and then fully press it to take the shot. If you let go and then press it again, unless you've moved that focus point, you're going to change the focus into probably the background.

Now, if you're on the back button focus, you can focus on the animal with the focus button, you can let go of that, and then you can recompose, and take the picture. Now, if the animal starts moving, you can track it, you can hold down that focusing button, and you'll continue tracking the animal. Now, this has to mean that you're obviously in server or AFC mode first, but you're able to adapt it, so you're able to use AFC mode as if it was AFS mode just by letting go of the button on the back of the camera.

Now, you can also use manual focus by not touching AF ON at all. And that means that you just move the focus ring and when you press the shutter, the camera doesn't adjust the focus. So there you have manual, AFS, or one-shot, AFC, and server modes all in one.

9. Always watch your background

Now, when you're focused on the subject, it can be really easy to not realize what's going on behind the subject and it might be that you take a nice portrait of an animal. But there could be a branch in the background that appears to be coming out of its head or a bright highlight which is quite distracting. Now, some people will say this is a bit too perfectionist, but if it's a case of moving a couple of feet to the right, it can make all the difference.

You could move that odd highlight away from the animal out of the frame, or that branch is no longer intersecting your subject. So always pay attention to the background even if you're shooting at a shallow depth of field because you're still going to get those distracting shapes and highlights in the shot. Frame Rate

10. Put in the time necessary

Now, you might think that spending a few hours in a hide is a lot of time, but you'll find that most wildlife photographers are spending hours and hours, day after day, week after week, month after month, or even year after year to properly document and photograph a species in depth. So don't be afraid of putting the time in even if you're not finding that you're getting many results. Landscape Photography Tips.

It's spending that time and being there for that opportunity when it arises that makes your shots much better than other shots you see.

So don't be afraid of spending time and make your own luck. There we have it. These are my 10 top tips for wildlife photography. Hopefully, you find these useful, maybe have some of your own tips, so let me know in the comments below. It'll be great to see what you guys think and what kind of things you've learned over the years as photographers as well.

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