Wildlife is everywhere.
Its your pet, its the birds in your backyard, its lions in Africa, and even sometimes, you will look at your little kid, and see a little tiger.
During the last couple of years i’ve been traveling to amazing wildlife destinations , teaching workshops and sometimes just by myself, but as you will see below ,some of my best shots were taken not far from my house.
2 things changed dramatically in the last few years that shaped wildlife photography :
Wildlife basic equipment is getting cheaper , making it much more affordable.
With the rise of Urban development, natural habitat of wildlife is getting destroyed.
it makes the animal living closer to us , and getting used to us.
Here are my 10 tips to get better wildlife photography:
1) learn the basics -
wildlife photography is first Technical.
shooting with longer lens requires a lot of attentions to camera settings.
rule number 1 : high Shutter speed.
lets say you are using a 100-400 lens on a Full frame camera.
if you are shooting at 400mm (which you will most of the time.. ) your shutter speed needs to be at least 1/400.
i usually double this number to get extra sharp images.
you need to know your subject. some birds are so fast that you will need a speed of 1/2000 to get a sharp image.
Rule number 2 :
Know when to use your VR/IS stabilizer on your lens.
It can help you to get sharper images handheld, but turn it off on a tripod , or when following a moving subject (or change it to sport mode for that) .
Rule number 3 : Auto Iso
Auto ISO is what i call the secret mode the manual don’t tell you about.
everybody knows Shutter priority or Aperture priority.
But in Manual mode, if you put the ISO to Auto, you control the aperture and shutter speed ,
and the camera will choose the ISO.
It my 90% of time the way i go as this leave you with more Keeper images.
try it out, but be aware of your setting at all time as light changes so your iso will not get too high.
Rule number 4 - Learn your Focus options, and how to change them fast.
When is it better to use Af-s/one-shot or Af-c/AIServo ? if the object is still or is going to move…
When is it better to use one focus point to a few ? (group focus or 9 points? ) if the object is still or is going to move…
2) research your subject -
every animal has a special behavior.
knowing when and where you will find them is a key factor.
if you will go to Alaskan rivers in may, you are not going to find the bears because the salmons aren’t there yet.
if you are looking to photograph a specific bird, you need to learn about her migration routing.
Learning the animals behavior will give you hints when are they going to move.
This Little kingfisher always comes back to the same stick after he hunts , so pointing the camera there when he dives , getting the picture with the fish when he returns.
Did you know most birds Pop before they fly from a tree? this one did, that now i know he is about to take off..
sleeping is for week people :-)
most animals are active during early morning and late afternoon , when its cooler and darker.
wildlife photography is no vacation. you always wake up early.
bump your ISO higher in the morning time , and decrease it as light starting to show.
3) “you don’t have to be rich to be my girl” - equipment
You don’t HAVE to buy expensive camera and lenses to get great wildlife photographs.
A Bad Photographer with 15k gear will have bad pictures.
But. there is always a but.
When you are starting to feel that your equipment is holding you back , holding your abilities to get better pictures, think about upgrading.
Better Camera usually get Better ISO performance , which helps in early morning hours.
Better Cameras Have Faster FPS (Frames per second) which can help you catch the right moment you want.
Better Lens get more Open Aperture , which results in lower iso and faster speed.
4) get close as much as you can.
closer means more “animal pixels” on your sensor, and less cropping needed.
Every wild animal have their own “safe zone” that when entering it , the animal will usually run away or fly.
Bigger Birds for example need more time to take of , so their “safe zone” is usually bigger than smaller birds.
shooting from a hide is the closest as you can get. you can have your own hide tent and set it up where there is an activity , or some places have permanent hides that you can use.
Shooting from your car is better than walking usually, because the animals got used to cars and feel safer around them than a human just walking by.
use a beanbag when shooting from a car. some of them can even connect to a gimbal head.
If you’re heading to a safari trip in Africa or India , you will probably be in a dedicated jeep very close to the animals. that will help you get great shots.
5) Look for emotions and action :
Getting a good sharp picture of a still animal is phase 1.
Getting a good picture of animal in action , or showing emotions will bring you the wow factor.
Hunting , chasing , grooming , feeding , ambushing , making love , etc…
look at the following images , do they make you FEEL something ?
Composition is something that many wildlife photographers don’t think about enough.
they just want to get the shoot sharp , not thinking about composition at all.
Best is to think about the composition in the field , but even if you didn’t, try to crop it in post processing to improve it
7) Think Different
Most wildlife pictures you will see will be closeups.
Try to get wider shots so your viewers can imaging they are with you in the field.
Try Panning , try silhouette , try abstract .
Different = special.
Shoot Video! your DSLR is an amazing video machine.
Don’t forget to make sure you are fully stable , on a tripod or on beanbag to get a good quality video.
Slow motions wildlife videos are amazing.
9) Get low
Eye level is a key to superb wildlife pictures.
When getting to your object eye level , you can get better background, and better perspective.
( Same rule for kids photography… ).
sometimes eye level shots is not possible , like when you are on a safari jeep.
Then you need to start being creative :-)
10) post process.
Post processing is a must in wildlife photography.
you will want your viewers eye to go right to the object, separating them from the background a little bit.
Look at the difference of this images with , and without post processing.
and don’t forget ,
always respect nature, and he will reward you back…