eleven Wildlife Photography Tips for Beginners

One of the great challenges associated with wildlife photography is that there are numerous things to consider in such a short amount of time. Even if you do everything right, the uncontrollable stuff can still stop you from getting “the shot. ” However , there are some basic tips that are simple to remember and will bring your own wildlife photography to the next level. In this article, I’ll share 11 of my favorite such guidelines that I use again and again.

Stand of Contents

Don’t Shoot inside Harsh, Direct Midday Sun

If I could only keep one particular rule on this list, it could be this one: Don’t shoot creatures directly illuminated by the unobstructed, midday sun. It is almost impossible to get a good shot under conditions like that. You’ll usually end up with harsh shadows in your subject and no catchlights in their eyes.   Harsh lighting furthermore often gives a reduction in apparent sharpness due to glowing effects from feathers and hair.

And it isn’t really just the subject. Backgrounds in such light will often have harsh, specular highlights, stealing attention far from your subject (as within the shot below). When I am editing my pictures, We rate my photos from 0 to 5 superstars, and midday sun pictures almost always get 0 characters!

Mexican_Jay_Dappled_Light
Try and seek shady areas with harsh light. Nikon D500 + 500PF @ 500mm, INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG 640, 1/500, f/5. 6

Can you ever shoot when the sun is high? If you can find clouds softening the sun, or you are deep in a woodland, you can sometimes do something during these difficult times of day time. And the harsh look sometimes works for very specific subjects. But as a rule, possibly more than 95% of the good shots are taken a few hours after sunrise or perhaps a few hours before sun – generally when the sun is not more than 30 levels in the sky.

Upgrade Your Lens Before Your Camera

Most of the time, a better zoom lens will go farther than a better body. For example , if your optimum focal length is 300mm, getting a lens that would go to 500mm will be so much more beneficial than upgrading to the latest and greatest body.

As a general rule, a good time to upgrade your lens is if you find yourself cropping a lot or boosting ISO values too high. A new camera may offer you a few more pixels to crop or slightly better high ISO performance, however the improvement you’ll get from a better lens is much more significant. The difference between, state, f/5. 6 and f/2. 8 can be night and day. Likewise for the difference between something like 200mm and 500mm.

Nikor_50mm_f18_G
If this is your animals lens (a 50mm f/1. 8), you might want to upgrade

Test New Locations

A can think about dozens of beautiful places which are pretty bad for wildlife digital photography. Sometimes it’s because the animals have favorite spots which are too far away, and many times it’s because there are too many distracting background elements.

Often , animals are easier to see in edge habitats: those are the places in which two different habitats satisfy, like a river in a forest, or a grassy plain close to a lake. For birders, I highly recommend eBird. org , which will allow you to browse hotspots. Although these hotspots are more for locating birds rather than finding image spots, I’ve found a lot of great places for picture taking this way.

I recently looked at eBird’s complete listing of birds from most in order to least photographed, and it has been interesting to see that some supposedly “common” birds hardly ever photographed if they only live outside the United States. So , in case you live or travel outside the US, it might be worth taking an especially close look at assets like this one.

eBird_Hotspot_Map
eBird’s hotspot maps can show a person new places to go to get bird photography

So , if your pictures aren’t coming out the way you expect, don’t immediately think you need to upgrade your camera equipment. Finding a new spot can get you much better shots for any lot less expense compared to buying a new camera.

And even though eBird will be the one I’ve used the most, there are similar sites plus forums to help you search for various other wildlife subjects. For example , there are people who track recent tolerate and wolf sightings in various National Parks and write-up them online. All you need to know is the type of wildlife you want to photograph, and you’ll most likely find good, new areas to photograph them if you look carefully!

Shoot at Vision Level

Shooting at or close to eye level will improve many shots by an order of magnitude. This does 2 things: It gives a much better viewpoint on the animal, and it provides you with a more distant background (and hence more subject isolation).

Gull_In_water_Sun_Low
Nikon D500 + 500PF @ 500mm, ISO 280, 1/1000, f/5. 6

For subjects close to the terrain, this usually means getting close to the earth yourself. I am constantly seated and kneeling to get eye-level shots. Cameras with a rear tilting screen have a huge benefit here, since you can put the camera low – such as on a short tripod – and just tilt out your display to compose.

Watch Your Shutter Swiftness

Lighting is so precious in creatures photography, and usually there’s not enough of it! That’s exactly why it’s crucial to use as long of a shutter speed as you possibly can, while still avoiding movement blur and camera get rid of. The longer your shutter speed, the more light you will get on your sensor, and the result is better image high quality.

Although you should certainly avoid blur on the perched bird at, state, 1/1000 of a second, you simply don’t need such a quick shutter speed. Birds also frequently pause to observe their surroundings, and in those moments, you can use longer shutter speeds without issue. By “longer, ” I mean in the range of 1/400 second, 1/200 following, or sometimes more – even with long focal measures like 500mm.

Groundhog_on_rock2
Nikon Z6 + 500PF @ 500mm, ISO 1100, 1/125 next , f/5. 6

Furthermore, if your subject is standing around like this, it’s fine in case you miss a shot or 2. The ones that are sharp may have enough image quality for making up for it easily. Above, I easily could have ended up shooting at ISO 4000-5000 if I had followed the most common reciprocal principle of “1/focal length. ”

On the other hand, don’t use too much time a shutter speed to get moving animals. For action like flying birds, I prefer in order to stick to 1/2000 of a second or faster – although for slowly soaring hens like raptors, longer shutter speeds can work. There is much more to say about this topic, and I highly recommend Libor’s excellent guide on parrots in flight   for more.

Constantly Evaluate Your Track record Possibilities

When I get to a location, I am aware there are various places where a parrot could land. Therefore , We check the likely branches with my eye and with the lens to see where the best spots are. By knowing this information before any bird lands anywhere, I can simply ignore the areas that will create problems.

If you practice this, it will turn out to be automatic. In your head, you should be telling “Yeah, this spot on the correct is great. But , if a bird landed on the left, forget about it. ” Of course , if it’s a rare species or even one you don’t have, you can take an image anyway, but you’ll furthermore know to pay extra careful attention to the most photogenic areas.

Sometimes I also like to include a bit of variance and texture in my history, like the Chiricahua Mountains that are behind this hummingbird:

Hummingbird_Ocotillo_Mountains
Nikon D500 + 500PF @ 500mm, ISO 320, 1/2000, f/5. 6

Try Different Focal Lengths

Lengthy focal lengths like 500mm, 600mm, or even 800mm reign over wildlife photography because the most popular wildlife subject is wild birds. However , shorter focal measures can also be used for wildlife.

A popular example may be the macro lens, which typically ranges between 60mm and 150mm, although there are some specialty macro focal lengths outside this range. Regardless, a macro lens opens up possibilities to photograph much smaller wildlife.

Fly_On_leaf
Panasonic G9 + Laowa 2X Macro @ 50mm, ISO 640, 1/200, f/3. 5

There is also a whole world of possibilities using wide-angle or normal lens to photograph wildlife. These focal lengths can show more of an animal’s environment in context and make for uncommon shots. Sometimes, you may need to use creative techniques like a remote control camera if you need to get this near to your subject without scaring it away.

Besides offering new methods for looking at the world, different key lengths can also give you a psychological break from your usual type of photography, giving you a new spark of creativity.

Try Different Topics

Is your specialty mammals? Try wildlife. Do you just shoot parrots? Try butterflies. At least where I live, the birds are easiest to photograph at certain times of the year. During the fall migration in Eastern Ontario, millions of geese and uncommon ducks like Mergansers and Goldeyenes flock to smaller sized bodies of water. During July, though, bird photography is like looking for water on the moon, thus instead I try and take insects.

Should you be just getting into wildlife picture taking, I recommend a guidebook to help identify the species you are shooting. This will help you find out about an animal’s behavior and habitat, and it can help you figure out what species to photograph next.

Know When to Use Direct exposure Compensation

Despite the advanced metering system in modern cameras as well as the plethora of metering modes, I still find publicity compensation to be very important. In the event that an otherwise dark parrot against a dark track record has a very small amount of whitened on it, the camera just won’t detect that and overexpose, usually no matter what metering mode you use. Enter exposure compensation . Such situations, I simply know to create down the exposure compensation to -1 EV.

Exposure_Compensation_Button
Know when to use that exposure compensation button — especially for animals with little bright spots on them!

Exposure compensation is especially easy with mirrorless cameras. Simply adjust your own exposure as you look through the particular EVF. If your camera offers zebras or blown high light warnings, active those and use the exposure compensation till the warnings are just no longer visible.

Capture in Raw

This could be a suggestion for any kind of photography. Of course , there are endless advantages in order to shooting in Raw rather than JPEG . Wildlife in particular often offers challenging situations where it is hard to control the light, plus shooting in Raw will provide you with extra latitude to recover tonal information.

Also, some cameras in JPEG mode have noise reduction enabled, which won’t end up being as good as the noise reduction you can do in your post-processing. Whitened balance is more easily corrected in Raw as well, plus I’ve noticed that the auto white balance on some cameras struggle a lot along with green leaves or grass.

Of course , this also means you should take time to find out advanced features of your Natural developer too. By pushing your files to the limit, you can add that final 5% to a photo that will really make it outstanding.

Ringbilled_Gull_In_Grass
Nikon D500 + 500PF @ 500mm, ISO 100, 1/2000, f/5. 6

Attempt to Incorporate Interesting Behavior

I like the bird on a stick as much as the next person, but it’s even more interesting to get a few behavior in your shot. This really is everything from animals in motion (there’s a reason birds inside flight are a popular subject) to interactions between more than one animal. Most animals also spend a lot of time eating, which is a great time to get an unique picture of them!

Pika with Grass Front
NIKON D3S + 300mm f/2. 8 @ 500mm, ISO 1600, 1/800, f/8. 0. Image taken by Nasim.

Often you won’t have to wait long to see behavior because several animals eat and shift all the time. Some behaviors happen very quickly, so I recommend using a higher shutter speed plus high speed shooting (like 10FPS) to capture them.

Conclusion

I hope a few of these tips will help you finding brand new wildlife possibilities. I use many of these every single time I’m out during a call, whether for photographing chickens, mammals, macro subjects, or any other type of wildlife photography.

Even after shooting for years, I am still continuously learning new things about wildlife photography, and I encourage you to definitely share your own tips within the comments!

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