7 Advanced Techniques to Improve Your Wildlife Photos
There comes a time when we all get a little bored of shooting simple portraits of wildlife. They definitely have their place in a portfolio, but eventually you will want to try something more interesting. For photographers, the sky is the limit, with the only limiting factor being your imagination and ability to convert an idea into reality.
Here are some advanced techniques you can experiment with to take your wildlife photos to the next level.
Lighting. It’s probably the most important thing in a photo; it can easily make or break a shot. One of the most effective ways to use light to your advantage is to backlight your subject. This is possible when the sun is in front of you, and it’s great for highlighting fur around the edges of an animal. This ‘rim-lighting’ is extremely effective and adds an essence of quality to your work.
Learn more: “Master Backlighting in Wildlife Photography“
#2 Wide-angle View
Using a wide-angle lens with wildlife photography is great for introducing the environment into an image. It allows you to harness a completely new perspective than is offered by a telephoto lens, and it can make for some very unique images. It can be tricky to get right at first, especially if you are triggering the camera remotely so have to rely on manual focus, but the results are definitely worth the patience.
Learn more: “How to Photograph Wildlife with a Wide-angle Lens“
#3 Fill Flash
The use of flash with wildlife is a very advanced technique. Not many people do it, but it can be a game changer. Fill flash is generally low power and fills in the shadows in a photo. This is particularly useful if you are photographing somewhere with harsh lighting, such as looking at into the canopy in a forest. When done properly, you won’t even be able to tell that flash was used in the photo.
The technique is somewhat controversial due to the intrusive nature of flash. However, we are big advocates of ethical photography and find that most negative comments about using flash with wildlife are based on presumptions. If you are concerned, make sure to read our article ‘Does Flash Really Harm Animals?‘, which looks at scientific research on the topic.
Learn more: “A Guide to Using Flash with Wildlife“
#4 High-key Scenes
The high-key technique is perhaps a little ‘marmite’ – that is to say, some people like it and some don’t. With high-key images, you work to overexpose the highlights in a photo. Blowing out the whites and recording little, if any, detail gives quite an artistic result. It usually works best with a completely white background, isolating the subject entirely from its surroundings.
Learn more: “High-key Wildlife: How to Create a White Background“
#5 Rain Streaks
Perhaps something that you haven’t thought about, but shooting in the rain can definitely be worth getting soaked for! If you manage to introduce rain streaks into your photo, you can produce some rather pleasing results. Conveying extreme weather in a photo is difficult, but it helps to transport the viewer into your shoes. If you think about it, the majority of images are shot in sunshine; going against the grain makes your photos stand out.
Learn more: “How to Get Rain & Snow Streaks“
#6 Slow Shutter Speeds with Birds in Flight
Should you always use a fast shutter speed for birds in flight? No way! Don’t be afraid to slow it down and introduce motion blur into your photos. By panning along and tracking a bird flying past, a slow shutter speed will convey speed in your photo. It takes luck too, but eventually you’ll capture a frame where the head is still in pin sharp focus. The image above was taken at 1/160th of a second.
Learn more: “How to Photograph Birds in Flight“
7. Reflect on Your Photos
This one isn’t a photographic technique exactly, but requires more of a DIY skillset. However, if you can build yourself a reflection pool then you’ll be able to take beautiful images of wildlife reflected in water. Whilst this technique is perhaps ‘overdone’ at the moment, the photos are still great to look at and turn heads.
Learn more: “How to Build a Bird Reflection Pool“