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Wildlife photography has become even more popular since the advent of digital cameras. Capturing wildlife can be a challenging undertaking whether your photographing animals for the first time or are well practiced. If you’re new to the subject and want to learn how to photograph animals, here are some tips to help you get started:
One of the most frequent questions I get asked about wildlife photography is, “Which lens should I use?” You may want to photograph birds in your garden, animals at the zoo, or even polar bears in the Arctic. Whichever is your preferred subject, I find that while a wide-angle lens is great for capturing the bigger picture, to really capture an animal from afar, you will need a telephoto lens.
A telephoto lens is the ideal solution to draw you nearer to the action where anything from 70-400mm will facilitate the ability to zoom in to photograph wildlife.
You will find photographing from a distance an advantage as getting too near to the creature could scare them away, particularly wild animals that are timid such as foxes. Animals living in urban environments are more likely to be used to people so you may be able to snap them from a closer vantage point.
Camera shake will be more apparent when using a telephoto lens rather than a standard lens due to its size and weight. The longer the lens, the more susceptible you are to camera shake. A shutter speed of at least a 1/100th of a second will help to photograph moving animals and minimize movement.
Clicking the shutter at faster speeds will enable you to freeze the action whether your subject is moving or motionless and will help you to capture sharper images. In addition, many modern lenses now have the option of image stabilization which can also be used to reduce vibration.
Sometimes filling the frame with an animal’s features can make a wildlife photograph more appealing. The intent stare of a lion or the face of a monkey, for example, can be a captivating subject and even more interesting than the animal as a whole.
As you begin to photograph wildlife more, you will notice the details about an animal that could make an interesting picture. Be sure to photograph different features that you find compelling.
This may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many times I have heard people say they have run out of battery power or that they don’t have enough space left on their camera card to take any more pictures. If you ensure your battery is fully charged and your memory card is empty, you will be prepared for any potential wildlife sighting.
During a wildlife safari drive or whilst out walking in the countryside, you never know when an animal encounter will happen. You could see wildlife at any given moment. With your camera charged and cards empty you will be ready for any photo opportunity as and when it arises.
Many newbie photographers that capture images of wildlife tend to place the animal right in the center of the frame. This can work well with the right composition. Try to photograph the animal off center too, by positioning it to one side of the frame to make the image more interesting.
Placing your subject on a third of the frame can create impact.
You could include part of the animal’s habitat in the frame such as a bird in its nest. Woodlands and rivers are great natural havens for wildlife and can make for an appealing setting to frame your subject within.
As animals are difficult to predict and they often move, you will find it challenging to capture a good shot with the first image you take. Be prepared to wait a while and you may get to see and capture a more rewarding image.
For example, when I came across this serval cat during a game drive in Tanzania, I spotted the cat looking for prey in the long grass. After pulling the car over and waiting a few minutes, the serval cat turned for a split second after being alerted by the noise of the engine and I captured the moment.
Next time you are out with your camera to do wildlife photography, whether you’re out walking, observing in your garden, or watching wildlife from afar, remember these tips. Hang around for a while and be amazed at what you might discover.
What wildlife photographs have you taken that you would like to share?
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