It is a myth that wildlife photography is for professionals. But, there are lots of experienced amateurs who take outstanding wildlife photographs.
Usually, beginning amateur photographers shoot average quality photographs because they couldn’t align creativity with technical skills and moreover, don’t have sufficient knowledge over what types of camera and equipment to be used for wildlife photography. In this article, we’ll deliver them wildlife photography tips that could help them gain expertise in this creative yet challenging branch of photography.
9 wildlife photography tips for beginners
Location of the Shoot
The location, where the shot is being taken, has paramount importance in determining the quality of the photograph. Suppose, you’ve visited a zoo to capture images of caged animals. You’d have proximity with the animals while taking photos, and for that reason, a shorter lens will do just fine. But, if you are taking photos of wild animals, a longer lens would be required because it is dangerous to go near untamed animals.
There are many custom locations for wildlife photography and you could search for them on the internet. Such locations provide an excellent environment for wildlife photographers.
The weather is crucial in photography. A normal day provides the most favorable weather condition. Bright light may result in photos with shadows. One way, to clear the shadows, is using flash. But animals may get scared if flash is used. So you need to have plan B ready. Plan B is to remove shadows by using Photoshop. A cloudy day is perfect to take a snap, but the amount of bounce light should be reduced.
Autofocus speed is a pivotal consideration for any wildlife photographer. If the photographer wants to capture an action-packed moment, AF performance of his camera needs to be superior. Bird photographers often face difficulties taking photos because birds fly away if they get scared or disturbed. The photographer gets 5-18 seconds of turnaround time at the max. Without standout AF performance, it’s not possible to capture such moments.
Before taking the snap, you need to set the ISO at the optimal level. ISO settings vary depending on the weather condition. If it’s a gloriously sunny day, the optimal setting should be between 100 and 200 ISO. If it’s a cloudy day, the ISO should be between 200 and 400. If it’s a dim-light situation, the ideal ISO setting should be between 1400 and 1600. It’s best not to use Auto ISO. You may have to use Auto ISO in some situations, but try not to use it as it could result in noise factors which you’d have to fix afterward using photo editing tools.
The rule of thumb, when you are into wildlife photography, is to keep the background as simple as possible. Simple backgrounds don’t distract viewers and enable them to fully concentrate on the photograph. Although simple, the background must create a contrast with the main subject. For that reason, the photographer needs to select an angle from where the subject appears contrasting to the background.
When you are capturing images of animals that are in motion or birds in flight, it’s essential to use continuous focus. To hone your skill, you need to practice a lot. Macro photography is highly recommended for you if you want to perfect your ability to focus continuously. Another thing is that you need an excellent shutter speed.
One problem that photographers face, when they take photos of moving animals, is that the image of the animal gets blurred along with the background. If you want to keep the animal on the dot while making the background blurred, a shutter speed of 1/30 sec is your best bet. If you want to capture moments that are too challenging, such as a kingfisher snatching a fish from the water surface, the shutter speed should be 1/500.
You need to keep practicing until you get accustomed with such high shutter speed.
The Best Perspective
There’s hardly any point taking photo of an animal or a moment in the wild if you don’t find the ideal perspective. You need to bear in mind the best perspective is not necessarily the most readily available perspective. For example, if you are taking photos of birds, it’s best to face down in the ground. Only then you’d get the most credible perspective.
The Best Lighting Hours
This one’s a bit tricky. Professional wildlife photographers prefer to depend on the natural circumstances rather than on technology. So they often take photos when the light is golden in color. You get such lighting either in the early morning before the sunrise or in the evening when the sun is about set. Pictures are taken at these two hours of the day look surreal.
There’s a reason why wildlife photographers have a predilection for wider shots. A wider shot covers a gamut of things. It wonderfully links the animal to its background. Secondly, if you are using lenses with less aperture, you’ll get more light and so you can even take photos when the light is too dim. It’s best to use f/1.4 to f/2.8 aperture lenses.
Following the tips above will help you groom yourself as a wildlife photographer. Wildlife photography involves fun as well as danger. So, safety, patience, and enthusiasm are all needed, but in right quantities.
And most importantly, you should have patience of a saint. There could be days when you go into the wild, prepare yourself to capture a remarkable moment but couldn’t take the photo due to technical glitches or some other reasons. In moments like this, you need to tell yourself ‘I’ll make it next time”.