PhotographyTips.com - the #1 guide to better conventional and digital photography Become a Member iPhone Posing GuideGuide to Posing the Female Model BookGuide to Posing the Model CD
Search
Login

Member Login

Find us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Find us on Flickr
Connect with us on LinkedIn

SPONSORS

Sell Photos Online

FEATURED SITES


Wildlife Photography

You are more important than any picture.


A long lens brings potentially dangerous animals close.
A long lens brings potentially dangerous animals close.

KNOW YOUR CAMERA CONTROLS

You must be able to react quickly when photographing most animals in the wild. In order to concentrate on your subject and to anticipate its next move, you should be completely familiar with your camera’s operation. Handling your camera should become second-nature to you, and using its controls should be instinctive. You can achieve this through frequent practice and test shooting before venturing into the animal’s domain.

Be sure to shut off autofocus when you are close to your subjects since the noise from its operation may disturb them. This also applies to autoflash if your camera is so equipped. Use a cloth wrapped around your camera to muffle your motordrive.

Wildlife photographer, Ken Laninga sent us this camera buying tip. He wrote: "Many of the pictures I take are of wildlife, particularly big game. I bought a $1,900 SLR (digital) camera. The very first picture I took with it was of a deer, standing about 30 yards away. The click of the shutter was noisy enough that it frightened away the deer - no chance for a second picture. I took the camera back and bought a Panasonic DMC-FZ20 digital camera which is completely silent. It works perfectly for wildlife shots. This is something that all the photography guides omit. It must be mentioned." Thanks, Ken. A noiseless camera can be a big benefit for photographing wildlife.


A LONG LENS WILL HELP FILL THE FRAME

Since it is often difficult or unsafe to get close to wild animals, especially big game and elusive smaller creatures, long (300 mm) and extra long lenses can do the job for you. The most useful lens is a fast 400 mm to 600 mm telephoto. Quality lenses in these sizes are, unfortunately, expensive. If a very long telephoto is out of your price range or you would not use it with sufficient regularity to justify its purchase, check with camera suppliers to find out whether they have long lenses for rent by the day or week. Select a lens with good light-gathering ability (a wide maximum aperture) since many animals are most active when lighting conditions are low at dawn or in the evening. A tripod or at least a light monopod will likely be needed for camera support.

Often the safest place to be when shooting dangerous animals is in a vehicle.
Often the safest place to be when shooting dangerous animals is in a vehicle.

An animal's natural curiosity may bring it quite close.
An animal's natural curiosity may bring it quite close.

FILM CHOICE or DIGITAL ISO SENSITIVITY CHOICE

Anticipated lighting conditions are the main factor in your choice of film or your selection of your digital camera's ISO sensitivity setting.

If you expect to be shooting in low light around sun-up or at dusk when some animals are more active, you will need film with a fast ISO rating, like ISO 400 or 800. The film you use should be one you have used several times before under conditions similar to those you expect to experience in the wilds, so that you will have no uncertainties about the results.

Digital cameras use the same terminology (ISO rating) for setting light sensitivity as traditional cameras even though there is no film. Use a high ISO-equivalency setting for low-light picture-taking, ISO 400 to 800, and be sure to reset it to ISO 100 or 200 when shooting under brighter light. Your camera’s manual will provide specific instructions on choosing the right setting.

When shooting animals that you simply can’t (or shouldn’t) get close to, using fine grain film or a digital sensitivity setting in the ISO 50 or 100 range on a bright day will allow you later to enlarge a cropped section of the picture and obtain a relatively sharp picture.


PREPARE BEFOREHAND

A shoot in the wilds calls for preplanning and preparation. You should carry only the minimum of gear with you. Think of your subject and its habitat while going through your camera bag, and discard anything that is not essential for good pictures under the circumstances in which you expect to be shooting. But, be sure you have plenty of film or a good supply of memory cards.

If you are going to be off the beaten path, in true wilderness, check anticipated weather conditions and bring appropriate outdoor wear and survival gear. Carry a first-aid kit, cellular phone, detailed maps of the area, a reliable GPS, a signaling device and other items associated with travel alone outdoors.

Animals are adept at concealment. You need to keep your eyes open and learn as much as you can about their behavior.
Animals are adept at concealment. You need to keep your eyes open and learn as much as you can about their behavior.

If you plan to travel in this fellow's territory, make sure you observe every safety precaution. His portrait is not worth risking your safety.
If you plan to travel in this fellow's territory, make sure you observe every safety precaution. His portrait is not worth risking your safety.

There are several excellent wilderness survival and travel websites, or you can visit your local library, to find out what gear is recommended for the area you will be going into.

Give your family members or a reliable friend a plan of your route and the timing of your trek. Give the same information to park rangers, wardens or other officials responsible for the area. The most important thing to bring back is yourself, not your pictures. You can always go back for them.

A WACKY TIP - Gophers close-up

For a little fun, check out Shooting gophers in our "Wacky tips that work" section for a pointer on photographing gophers close-up that might surprise you. An animal's curiosity can be a powerful thing, and can lead to unexpected pictures.

Planning an African safari?
Click here on Better Safari Photography for a free ebook based on 25 years of safari photography expertise. This 41-page guide will help you to get the best possible wildlife pictures in the limited time available on safari.


On-camera flash illuminated an egg-laying turtle in late evening.
On-camera flash illuminated an egg-laying turtle in late evening.
Further information...

Learn about your subject

At the zoo or wildlife park

Stalking wildlife

Blend in

Wildlife blind photography

Wildlife quick tips

Photographing Birds

Photographing snakes
Related topics...

Shooting gophers