Picture taken by one of our members – Natalie
10 Helpful tips for Photographing Wildlife
One of the hardest and most frustrating aspects of wildlife photography is not only finding the wildlife, but the actual process of composing and taking the photograph without disturbing the wildlife we love so much.
Knowledge is key!
By knowing a little about the behaviour of your chosen animal(s) as well as your own behaviour, you can greatly increase your chances of getting the photograph you are looking for.
Making yourself part of the environment – minimizing the impact your presence has on the behaviour of your subject, can make all the difference in getting positioned for a nicely angled, clear, and beautiful shot.
1) Get Outside: Of course the more time you are outside, the more opportunities you will have at seeing wildlife. But possibly just as important is where and when you are outside. Good light is important and along these lines, many species tend to be more active during the early and later times of day. Some of the best times to encounter wildlife is a sunny morning just after a storm has moved through the area.
Locations that have many people tend to have wildlife that is used to human presence, raising the possibility of seeing wildlife, and raising your chances of having the time to take a great photograph.
2) Be Patient: Patience always pays off in wildlife photography. You must be patient to find the wildlife. You must be patient and not rushed when taking the shot and afterwards you must be patient so you don’t disturb the nearby wildlife.
Being impatient, hurried, loud or frustrated, these can all lead to disturbing your subject as well as the nearby wildlife!
3) Move Slowly: Moving slowly might sound obvious, but it’s so easy to get caught in the excitement of spotting an amazing creature, only to have the opportunity slip away by your faster movements. We’ve all learned this lesson the hard way, time and again.
4) Be Quiet, but Make Noise: Some of the best photographs have been taken when the animal knows your there. On some occasions you should intentionally let the animal know your there. A light cough, shuffle of the feet, or a small non-threatening noise, sometimes helps remove the perceived threat of hiding.
5) Size Matters: Moving lots of gear around creates more noise and a bigger silhouette. Even if the light isn’t optimal you can opt for high ISO over a tripod. Quite often wildlife flee, whether it be from a backpack or tripod being used.
6) Approaching at a Diagonal: Walking directly toward wildlife works in certain situations, but in the majority of cases can easily chase it away. When possible you should almost always approach at an angle, using very slow motions.
7) Avoid Eye Contact: Eye contact can be seen as a threat by wildlife, easily scaring them away. But in addition, when near or trying to approach wildlife try to do so facing backwards or sideways looking away, as if unaware of the animal’s presence. During these times however, try and keep your camera pointed toward the animal – trying to create the perception there is no connection between the large camera lens and your aiming gazes toward the animal.
8) Use a Blind / Camouflage : Cover yourself in camouflage fabric, hide in a portable camouflage tent, or take pictures from a building or vehicle: hiding yourself is the easy part. The hardest part is knowing where and/or when to cover yourself, Blinds are a whole topic on their own, suffice it to say if you know where a species may be and can guess at when it may be there, it sometimes can be best to cover up and wait it out. Plus, who knows what will wander along and surprise you.
9) Make the Wildlife Come to you: Get a feeder. Bird seed, peanuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, and Suet are all things that birds will love. Provide perches nearby situated for good light and a good background. The birds will come. Check our wildlife help pages and work out which foods are enjoyed by the wildlife you’d like to take pictures of and then be patient and wait for them.
10) Have your camera ready: More often than not when walking or travelling there is the problem of having your camera stowed away in a backpack at the wrong time. It’s always optimal – although sometimes perhaps not practical – to have your camera at the ready. When carrying the camera, many times is a good idea to meter the light (expecting the worst out of what is around) and set the camera settings (exposure mode, iso, aperture, etc.) for those conditions. Doing this can buy you the extra seconds needed to snap off a few shots.
Conclusions: These are only a few tips to try while practicing wildlife photography. It should be remembered the safety of wildlife should ALWAYS be your first priority. There is often the story of the brazen and selfish photographer, and in the process of getting their shot they disturbed not only the wildlife, but also created a visual impact on wildlife’s habitat. Please also keep in mind, sometimes getting closer does not always guarantee a better image.
Please ensure you don’t leave any kind of litter around the area(s) that you have been waiting or walking, generally litter is dangerous to wildlife. Even if you didn’t leave it, take it with you. Carrying an old supermarket carrier bag will give you a quick way to take home other less informed peoples litter, and you’ll be safe guarding the wildlife you love to see.
You must also NEVER disturb or try to get too close to a breeding space where there may be live chicks, babies or cubs etc.
**Wildlife Protection Laws** – know the law before venturing out click here
REMEMBER LEAVE IT AS YOU FIND IT, OR EVEN BETTER IF YOU CAN!
Need to know which species are protected by law?
Click here for further information.
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We’re not solely interested in giving you helpful information about the wildlife around you. thewildoutside also records ALL Wildlife sightings in one place, using one record form, making it easy for you to record all your sightings / pictures, share them via social media and then also help the wildife while you do.