In this article, we are going to take a brief look at quite a few tips on nature photography. These tips do
not have to cost much, and we are very aware that many people have to undertake wildlife photography
on a budget
Choose a good camera
In a previous article, we discussed finding the right affordable camera for wildlife photography, and I just want to stress how important it is to find the correct one for your needs. To recap. You really want to look for an SLR and
mirrorless camera that is weather sealed.
Know your camera and lenses
Having chosen a good camera, it is essential to study and get to know the capabilities of the camera. When you are out on a shoot, this is not the right time to be finding out how the camera works. Understand when to use different lenses and their purpose. For example, does your camera have optical stabilization (OS)? Find out what features your camera has and understand how to make full use of them.
Protect yourself and your gear from the elements
By its very nature, wildlife photography involves being out in the elements, and some of the best shots can be taken in inclement weather. Photography is supposed to be fun and the last thing you want is to be freezing while out there, so take appropriate gear for cold and wet weather. This preparation is not just for you, ensure that your equipment has all the right gear to protect it.
Use the right settings
You need to be confident in using your camera before you can be successful in nature photography. The
most important setting is ISO. In most situations, it is best to use a low ISO. This will reduce the amount
of noise in your photographs. With wildlife photography you need to be able to rapidly change settings,
you do not want to have to work out how to do this when you are out there, practice, practice, practice!
Use a sturdy tripod
To minimize the effects of camera shake you need to use a sturdy tripod that has a lot of adjustment in the legs, so it can be set firm on uneven terrain. A cheap tripod with thin plastic legs cannot support a heavy camera with long lenses. Better to spend a bit more on a quality tripod than to risk your expensive camera and lenses. The legs should also be multi-angle to ensure they can safely be implanted on rough terrain. Use the spirit level to ensure your tripod is standing straight. If possible use a gimble head on the tripod.
Learn about the animals you’re shooting – respect wildlife
Your chances of getting the best shots when photographing an animal is to understand how they will react to different circumstances. You should be able to read their behavior. With certain large animals, you also need to be able to read warning signs that they feel threatened. It also helps to understand their habits, do they come out most in the middle of the day or evening. For example, deer will typically feed at dusk. They also seek out places where there is vegetation/food available.
Even in your locality, there are usually plenty of birds and small creatures (if you look), and they are very
useful for honing your skills before you take time to go off into the forest or further. Keep practicing with
the local wildlife or even cats and dogs. The next great place to practice is the local zoo. Chat to the
keepers and experts there about the habits of the creatures you want to go out in the wild to shoot.
Keep a low profile – Get on the same level as the subject
To avoid scaring animals so much, keep a low profile so you appear less threatening. Crawl up close to
them, moving when they are not looking, and then as soon as in position quickly get their shot before they
notice you and get spooked.
Get close as you can but also keep your distance
If you are able to get close to certain animals then there are numerous opportunities for some really
excellent shots. To get close they have to be confident that you are not a threat, or even better, that they
never even see you. To do this the time that you spent chatting to the experts at the zoo, will be a great
investment. Having said get close is good, I am now going to tell you that there are times when it pays to
be some distance from the animal. This may well be for safety reasons, but also may be so that you can
place the animal in context.
Apply rules of composition
The rule of thirds applies just as much in nature photography as in any other branch. Another tip is to
allow plenty of space on the side of the animal where he is looking. You may also adjust the shot to take
in particularly striking landscape or vegetation.
Autofocus is going to be your biggest friend. It is very rare when you will get the opportunity to use
manual focus. Typically, you will select the continuous focus mode. You may well be shooting a moving
subject and you need the autofocus to rapidly keep track.
Experiment with depth of field
There are two easy rules – (1) Put something between you and the subject. This may be very close to the
lens, and it will produce a shot where the background is blurry. (2) Separate the background and subject, this is done by getting to eye level with the subject and getting nice and close (if you can). Again this blurs the background and brings the subject right into focus.
Follow all the rules – ignore all the rules
The rule of thirds and all the other regular rules of photography are there to help you get better shots, but
sometimes by breaking all the rules you can produce something even better. As a beginner, you are
probably better to follow the rules but do not be afraid occasionally to follow your gut feeling and flout
In wildlife photography, you may take hours to get that one shot you want. Be patient and you will get
Look for good locations
Wildlife parks are brilliant. They have rangers who know the animals and can normally tell you the best
location to see them.
Don’t be afraid to shoot in bad weather
Sometimes some inclement weather can turn a dull shot into something stunning. Dress accordingly,
protect your equipment, and do not let the bad weather put you off.