Wildlife photography can be very difficult and very enjoyable. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over my years of photographing animals throughout Europe and around the world.
1. Be prepared to meet them. Always be prepared for a confrontation with a real animal. In whatever place you live, odds are there are animals nearby you can photograph. Be aware of local species. Investigate first to find out which kinds of animals live in your area and when they are nearby.
2. Eye contact. This is one of the most crucial aspects of wildlife photography. With immediate eye contact, the animal carries on a character/personality and the image becomes more intriguing. If the animal is looking directly into the lens, it creates a connection between the subject and photographer.
3. Shoot fast and often. Unlike panoramic landscapes, animals are always moving around and it’s difficult to predict their next move. Every once and a while, a special “moment” takes place. Always be ready for these moments and take as many pictures as you can. Use continuous shooting mode and keep taking photos. You may well grab 1000 pictures, but if one has that “moment” effect, its totally worth it!
4. Eyes on the prey. Keep in mind that when photographing action like moving animals, looking at your LCD will result you to miss possibilities. Keep an eye on the animal, literally, not on the LCD display.
5. Patience and determination are two very important things. The essential photographic discipline of patience is necessary for wildlife photography. These rare exceptional moments of primal behavior are what makes a shot enjoyable. It’s all about knowing where to be, what you are hunting for in that particular species, and then patiently waiting.
6. Observe. The more time you spend observing and learning the animal, the higher your probability of guessing its movements and behaviors and getting the picture you want. A set of binoculars can be handy for those times when you’re out in the bush, but not when you’re taking pictures. Is there a routine to what the animal is doing and, if so, can you use that information to guess where you should set up your camera for achieving success?
7. Love your subject more than your camera and your clothing. Quite often, if you want the best wildlife photos you have to get down and dirty. Many photographers have a bad habit of taking all their shots from the same height – standing right up with their tripod fully extended. For the wildlife and birds, you’re going to get the best images by taking your camera off the tripod and laying down on the dirt, brush or in the mud. Yes, your camera might get a little dirty and your clothes absolutely will, but you’ll also get a much better picture. If you’re cautious, any dirt on the camera will be trivial and easily cleaned off.
8. Use a telephoto lens. Your main goal in wildlife photography should be the same to your portrait photography goals. They both should depict a personality. In order to do so, photographers must try to get personal with their subject. In portraits, the subject’s face can clearly be isolated with a wider angle lens, but this wouldn’t be a good idea with a wild animals.
Alternatively, I would recommend a telephoto lens with large focal length and zoom to allow you to correctly separate your subject through framing. In this way, you can best catch an animal’s personality or essence.