7 Tips For Better Wildlife Photography
- By: Grant Ordelheide
Wildlife photography can be very difficult and because of that, it is very rewarding. Getting all the stars to align for that perfect animal image can be very frustrating, so here I have laid out seven tips to help take your wildlife photography to the next level.
1. Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact!
Eye contact is one of the most important elements of wildlife photography. If the animal is looking right down the barrel of your lens, it creates a connection between the subject and viewer. The viewer is more drawn to an animal making eye contact with the camera, than an animal that is disinterested and looking the other way. With direct eye contact, the animal takes on a personality and the image becomes more interesting.
2. Control the vibrations
If you are using a long telephoto lens (200mm or more) lay your arm out across the barrel of the lens to dampen the vibrations. A big telephoto lens magnifies even the smallest vibrations from the shutter and a hand laid out on the lens will help to stop the vibrations from hurting your image. This will lead to sharper photos and happier photographers.
3. Follow the food
Sometimes, finding animals to photograph is the hardest part. A great way to find animals to is to follow the food they eat. Animals, whether carnivore or omnivore, have to eat and if you know what or where they hunt, that can be a great place to start looking for your subject. Images of animals eating or hunting can also be much more interesting and exciting.
4. Incorporate the environment
One of my favorite ways to photograph wildlife is by showing them in their natural habitat. Not only does it give you the possibility to combine landscape and wildlife, it gives context to the image. The environment tells a larger story and helps the viewer understand the life of the animal better.
5. Shoot it wide
Sure wildlife photographers make their money with the telephoto lens, but don’t be afraid to switch it out for a wider focal length. Wide-angle lenses can convey a totally different feeling and atmosphere than a telephoto shot. Remember the old photojournalist rule: get the tight, medium, and wide shots to fully tell the story.
6. Shoot fast and often
Unlike scenic landscapes, animals are always moving and changing behavior. Every once and a while, a special “moment” happens. Always be ready for these moments to happen and take as many photos as you can. Use continuous shutter mode and keep taking photos, only taking time to view them after you are done. You might take 1000 frames, but if one has that “moment”, its worth it!
7. Be patient
Last but not least, be patient. Animals are on their own schedule and rarely accommodate visiting photographers. Ask any of the top wildlife photographers and they will tell you waiting is a key part of the job. It may take hours, days, or weeks, but stay focused and when the opportunity finally presents itself, you will be ready to nail the shot!