Wildlife photography is a challenging hobby to get into because it takes a lot of commitment. To excel in this field, you not only have to develop your camera-taking skills, but you also have to learn about the animals that you shoot.
If you’ve ever wondered how the photos in animal books and magazines were taken, then these twelve tips will help you understand how it’s all done. Once you become familiar with the basic techniques involved, you’ll realize that taking photos of wildlife can be a very rewarding experience.
Choose a good camera
There are many types of cameras out there, but only a few are versatile enough for shooting wildlife outdoors. The best choices you have are SLRs and mirrorless cameras. The mid- and pro-level models are typically weather-sealed, and they can be set manually and can accept different lenses.
A regular camera constantly exposed to harsh elements will not last very long, so you need a camera that’s weather-sealed. Although the extra protection makes it more expensive, knowing that it can perform in different conditions is enough reason to invest in it.
Shooting outdoors can also be challenging even for the most advanced cameras out there, so you need a camera with manual mode. You’re going to need full control when the situation becomes too complicated to use automatic features.
Use the right lens
The most common lenses people use for wildlife photography are telephotos because they can be used to shoot from long distances. Some of them feature optical stabilization (OS) to minimize shaking due to the extreme magnification, but these models can also be quite expensive. Thankfully, there are also cheap plastic ones you can use while you’re still learning. They may not have OS, but you can always keep them steady on a sturdy tripod and use a high shutter speed to minimize blur.
For a starter lens, consider getting a telephoto zoom to allow more shooting flexibility. A few hundred dollars can get you an 18mm-300mm lens that you can use to take photos from up close to long distances. If you look hard enough, you can even find some that feature optical stabilization. If you want to get a telephoto with a fixed focal length (no zooming capabilities), look for one that’s at least 100mm. The best models are from old film cameras because they not only feature quality glass but are also affordable and durable.
Protect yourself and your gear from the elements
Before you go out, make sure that you have all the essential gear to keep you and your equipment safe from the elements.
First, you need a hat to shield you from the harsh sun or the rain. A boonie hat is perfect because the round brim doesn’t just protect your face but your entire head. You can even get a hat with a mosquito net to keep you safe from little critters.
Also, bring a raincoat that’s big enough to cover you, your backpack, and your camera. You can use it as a mini tent in case of torrential downpours.
Use the right settings
The settings you choose on your camera ultimately depends on the shooting conditions, but there are general guidelines you can follow to get the shots you want.
The first thing you need to adjust is the ISO. Typically, it’s best to use a low ISO (100, 200, etc.) to minimize the noise in your photos. For low light situations, however, you can choose a higher ISO as long as it doesn’t affect the image quality. It all depends on the camera you’re using, but ISO 800 is usually enough to let you shoot in poor lighting without noise becoming too obvious.
Use a sturdy tripod
Get rid of the cheap tripod you bought at the department store if you’re serious about taking photos outdoors. Flimsy plastic legs can’t support a long lens attached to a heavy camera. To make sure your equipment is steady and safe, you need to get one made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Sure, it’s more expensive, but at least you’ll be confident it won’t collapse under the heavy weight.