If you love the outdoors and snapping pictures of animals, then Wildlife Photography may be just for you. Wildlife photography focuses on the act of taking photos of wildlife or non-domesticated animals. It is also considered as one of the most challenging yet rewarding forms of photography as it requires extreme patience and focus. Whether you’re new to shooting the wildlife, these tips and tricks will take your photography skills to the next level and help you get your perfect shot.
Start by Understanding Your Subject
The first rule of wildlife photography for me is to understand your subject and the best way to do this is by spending time out in the field studying behaviour. For example I have spent five years learning about Kingfishers…(they are my favourite subject), I have put hundreds of hours into watching and photographing them and it is this commitment and dedication that has enabled me to photograph them in various ways, understanding how they behave and anticipating what they are going to do has been key to getting the shots I have. Having said that different species require different approaches and fieldcraft is paramount to success. For a secretive species like the Kingfisher I found a spot on a slow moving river and placed a perch, from here I set up a pop-up hide to ensure I was completely hidden from the bird, and waited patiently. It took me 40 hours and several visits before I got my first Kingfisher landing, a massive thrill and my love of the Kingfisher has never waned since.
Obviously it is not practical or suitable to use a hide for every species out there and you will have to learn how to approach other subjects and this can be very tricky. With some species such as Mountain Hare, it is possible to do this but every animal is different but the golden rule here is to approach slowly and methodically. Sometimes an animal will bolt and you will have no chance no matter what you do, but quite often with this species you will find one that is tolerant as long as a sensible slow approach is taken. Getting down low and moving a few feet at a time, watching the reaction and behaviour, if they are relaxed they will go about their business and will continue to act naturally, feeding etc and you can continue with your slow approach. If they are uneasy they will keep checking you out so it’s important to react to this and stay completely still until you are sure they are relaxed enough for you to approach closer.
Of course, this is just a couple of specific examples and every species is different but these methods can be applied to other species but getting an understanding of them is the best way to achieve success. If you feed the birds in your garden practising with/watching these will help you learn about habits and behaviours, and how you can place yourself to get a shot you would like. You can gauge tolerance levels and see how this differs when you are hidden, it just gives you a starting point on understanding individuals and species in general.
I will be brief here as this is not a technical tips section just practical tips I have learned along the way. However, it is no good getting yourself into a great position to get an image only to mess up the shot because you don’t understand your gear. So read, practice and learn about how to get the best out of it. If you don’t understand, shutter speeds, exposure or apertures, etc then you need to, otherwise you will be forever frustrated with your results.
Getting the Perfect Photo
Photography of all forms is subjective, when I started out all my images had the subjects big in the frame as I love to see detail, however over time as my photography has improved and I have developed I have taken different approaches to this and now try to photograph in a variety of ways to try and vary my shots and not become too predictable. However, seeing the species in detail is still something I like to see in all of my images and this is something I will not change, even if they are smaller I like to see this. Backgrounds are also very important and where possible I always try to get a simple plain background and even though this is not possible in every situation it is something I strive to do in most cases. For anyone who is starting out I would say start off with a subject that is easy to photograph, experiment with it at different focal lengths and backgrounds to find a style that you like the best and then develop from there. Another tip I would give here is to look at others images to find inspiration, this is something I still do now to improve my own photography and has played a big part in the improvement I continually strive for.
Respect the Wildlife
My number one and most important rule of all is to respect the wildlife you are photographing. Remember that interfering in a negative way will disrupt them, especially during the breeding season. The welfare of the subject you are photographing should always be of paramount importance to you.
Rob Cross is a 49-year-old photographer from North Devon, UK. He’s had an interest in wildlife, especially birds since he was a young lad. Once his kids had grown up, he changed jobs, and had some time on his hands so he decided to try his hand at capturing some images of our wonderful wildlife. A few years ago he visited Skomer Island in Wales – a fantastic and beautiful place then he got some really nice pictures of Puffins and his interest in photography has grown from there. Rob started with a bridge camera to learn the basics but is now using a Canon 1D MKIV coupled with a 300mm 2.8 lens most of the time which has been a great combo for him. Rob’s favourite bird and subject to photograph is the Kingfisher, he has watched these birds an awful lot in the past few years and still get a buzz every time he hears or sees one. “In a world where man seems not to care enough about the disastrous decline in so many species, I am determined to enjoy it while I can.” You can see more of Rob’s photographs at his 500px profile or at his website.