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6 Most Common Mistakes in Wildlife Photography

You’ve spent hours waiting for your target animal to appear. You lift up the camera and fire the shutter, securing yourself a series of images. But with the adrenaline rushing, have you accidentally made some of the most common mistakes in wildlife photography? Quite possibly.

To take the best shot you can, it is important to keep in mind the basics and ensure that you don’t panic and just take as many pictures as possible without thinking. One good picture is better than ten rubbish ones.

When I offer tuition sessions, I see many photographers making the same mistakes when faced with a relatively rare wild animal to photograph. The excitement takes over, and the essentials are forgotten. Luckily I am there to remind them, so I have put this article together to help you. Read through these points, and make sure you don’t make these mistakes! It’ll help you get closer to the perfect shot.

#1 Failure to Review Images

When you are trying to take as many images as possible, it is very easy to forget to review your images and check for any mistakes. Once you’ve taken a selection of frames, pause for a moment and quickly review a couple of them. Check to see if they are overexposed or underexposed. If this is the case, adjust your settings to improve the image.

There’s nothing worse than looking at your images later, and finding out that they are all unusable and headed for the bin. We’ve all been there and made this painful mistake at some point, I can assure you!

#2 Motion Blur

Animals often move quickly, and thus you can regularly find motion blur in your images if you aren’t careful about your shutter speed.

Don’t be scared to increase the ISO value if you need a faster shutter. A noisy image is better than a completely blurred one. If you review your images and find that they are sharp and you are shooting at a high ISO, then take a second to reduce the level until you are happy.

common mistakes wildlife photography

#3 Not Ready to Press the Shutter

I’ve seen many photographers who are guilty of this little, but impacting, mistake. When shooting from a hide, it is more comfortable to rest your camera on your knee. But if there is an animal in the area, don’t wait until it is in position before you lift your camera. Make sure you are always following your subject in the viewfinder and have your camera poised in position.

The most incredible moments can happen in a split second, but if your camera is pointing at the floor then you aren’t going to catch it.

#4 Depth of Field is too Shallow

If you’re shooting at a very shallow depth of field (wide aperture), you may find that parts of your subject are out of focus. If you’re shooting an image of a bird facing you, you might find that its beak is out of focus. This is because the depth of field is too narrow, and you need a smaller aperture.

For this reason, it is not always the case that you should photograph at the widest aperture setting. Consider the size of your subject and your distance from it (the closer to the camera, the smaller the depth of field will be), and adjust your aperture accordingly.

For a more in-depth look at this issue, read our “Aperture: Is Bigger Always Better?” article.

#5 Not Being Patient

It sounds simple, but people can underestimate the mental challenge that is waiting in a hide. Hours and hours can be spent for days and days without seeing anything. That’s the game of wildlife photography, and it makes it much more rewarding when you get the photo you have been dreaming of.

Be prepared to be disappointed time and time again. Don’t give up at the first hurdle, thinking it will “never happen”. With patience and dedication, you’ll probably get to see what you’ve been waiting for.

#6 Not Watching Your Surroundings

Don’t let your attention become focussed in one specific area for too long. Make sure you are wary of what is going on around you, as you may miss another amazing photographic opportunity nearby.

It can help to keep both eyes open when looking through the viewfinder. This technique takes some practising, but you will be able to monitor other animals in the area and spot more potential shots while you click away.

 

Will Nicholls is the founder of Nature TTL and a professional wildlife photographer and film-maker from England. Having been photographing since the age of 12, Will's images have won a string of awards, including the title of "Young British Wildlife Photographer of the Year" in 2009 from the British Wildlife Photography Awards. Will is also the author of the book On the Trail of Red Squirrels.

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