5 Basic Tips for Starting Out
With more and more people owning digital cameras, it is only natural that wildlife photography is becoming a popular hobby. The main attraction is that it allows one to be surrounded by many fascinating species. The following basic tips should help those starting out in this field to get a headstart.
#1 Learn About Your Subject
I cannot stress this enough. Understanding the animal you are trying to photograph is of the utmost importance. This allows you learn its behavioural traits, helping you to predict movements and capture that perfect shot. This is particularly important with fast moving animals. If you are finding it hard to follow the subject in the viewfinder, you may be able to estimate where it will travel to and pause.
Further Reading: “How to Photograph Birds in Flight“
#2 Put Wildlife First
There is nothing more important for a wildlife photographer than to be ethical when taking photographs. Disturbing, harassing and frightening animals in the name of photography is a big no-no. Patience and respect allow you to observe and capture natural behaviour, ultimately resulting in more impressive images.
Read our article about the ethics of wildlife photography for more information on good photographic practice.
#3 Use Your Lens Hood
That plastic thing that came with your lens; it’s not just for decoration! Countless times I have seen photographers with their lens hood on backwards. This sometimes fiddly contraption actually blocks stray light from reaching the sensor of your camera, helping to keep clarity in your images. It also stops irritating sunspots occurring in some instances.
It also provides essential protection should you drop your lens. I am guilty of this, although I probably shouldn’t admit it. I was photographing seals on an island, and the rocks were very slippy. Suddenly, I was heading down. My Nikon 200-400mm f/4 VR II lens took the full force of the fall onto a rock, with my weight on top of it. Luckily, it landed directly on the lens hood. The result? Two small screws in the hood snapped, but the lens was safe without even a scratch.
#4 Get Down Low
Getting on eye-level with your subject is extremely effective in an image. It never ceases to surprise me the difference this can make to a photograph, even if it is just a few feet lower. Don’t be afraid to get wet or muddy. Most animals are not as tall as us, so laying down on your front can help you to achieve the best angle. The extra impact this will add to your portraits is well worth it.
#5 Break the Rules
The “rule of thirds” is the most well-known rule when it comes to composing an image. I prefer to think of these more as guidelines than actual rules. Sometimes it pays to change things around, and the rules don’t always suit a particular image. Don’t be afraid to go against the trend, even if it doesn’t always work out as you planned. For example, placing your subject directly in the middle of the frame may have much more impact than keeping it to one side.