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10 Tips for Wildlife Photography

I have always had a huge passion for the environment and sharing the stories of the natural world through photography, hoping to positively engage people. After several years of assignments both in the UK and overseas, I have put together some top tips for getting the best from your next wildlife photography trip.

1. Your subject always comes first

As wildlife lovers and photographers we always have to remember that no matter what, our subjects come first. When out taking images sometimes it is easy to get caught in the moment, to push closer than we should, and to frighten or disturb. Sitting back and letting wildlife come to you is often the best way to shoot, as when animals are relaxed the images are can be far more powerful. If you’re away with a guide, ask them for the best ways to approach, as their skills and knowledge will be vastly helpful in safely getting yourself into position for some great images.

2. Learn your camera

{img_alt} Before getting stuck into some wildlife photography, be it at home or on an epic adventure in Canada, take some time to really get to grips with your camera. Sit down at home and delve into the manual. Learn the button placement, functions and basic settings to ensure you can quickly and efficiently find and adjust your settings when creating images. There is nothing worse than having a truly epic moment of wildlife watching unfold in front of you when you can’t remember how to change your capture settings!

3. Eye level

For powerful wildlife images, connection is key, and one of the easiest ways to develop this with your subject is to be at eye level with them. A far more natural and flattering position, being at eye level enables you to create more striking portraits, also giving you a better chance of blurring out background and isolating your subject from its environment.

4. Get supported

Learning how to support your camera is key to getting good results. When hand holding be sure to have one hand on the shutter and the other under the barrel of the lens supporting it. Hold your elbows in close and pull the camera towards your chest for stability. In some situations, especially with longer lenses, a tripod or support can be very helpful. If you don't have anything, look for solid surfaces such as cars, trees and walls to rest your arms on for additional stability. On safari, for example, a tripod can be cumbersome, so try a bean bag instead if you are in a vehicle. {img_alt}

5. Negative space

When composing your shots, be sure to leave some space for your subjects to look into. Often, tight crops can feel claustrophobic, so try to give your subjects room to breathe. If they are looking to the right, put them on the left side of the frame, and vice versa. This makes a far more pleasing composition than a subject looking out of an image.

6. Think wide

With wildlife photography, people often think about telephotos, but be sure to take in the wider view on your travels. Put your subject in the wider environment to add context as well as a sense of scale to your images.

7. Keep it continuous

When shooting wildlife photography, autofocus settings are important. You’ll want to be using continuous drive mode in order to keep up with the action, with the camera maintaining autofocus tracking for as long as you are pressing the shutter or AF- On button. This means you’ll be keeping your subject in focus, ready for those decisive moments. {img_alt}

8. Love the graph

Learning exposure in photography can often seem a tricky concept, but one key tool we have with modern digital cameras is that of the histogram - and what a useful graph it is! It shows us the spread of exposure within our image, with highlights to the right and blacks to the left. Glancing at it we can see if we have blown our highlights or underexposed, helping us to quickly adjust settings on location.

9. Anticipate action

As wildlife photographers, anticipating action is important to capture those perfect moments, however that’s no use if your card is full or your battery is dead! When moving locations or experiencing a lull in activity, be sure to check your memory and battery levels. If your card is getting full or battery is running out of juice, switch them ahead of time and be ready for the next shooting opportunity. {img_alt}

10. In a pinch

Sometimes everything happens quickly, and if you’re not ready and waiting you’ll need to react fast in order to get a shot. If you’re struggling, a quick tip is to dial in -2/3 underexposure and shoot. This will preserve the highlights and allow you to recover any lost detail in the shadows in post production. A quick look at the histogram, re-adjust, carry on shooting and nail those shots! 

Read Tom's next instalment on photographic gear. Join one of our specialist Wildlife Photography Trips for hands-on tuition and exceptional photographic opportunities.