7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife

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Wildlife photography can be a great way to secure yourself a series of images of animals that you are proud of. However, it can be extremely challenging to capture good wildlife images because photographers often make errors resulting in missed opportunities.

1 - 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife

© Jeremy Flint

When you have been waiting for a while and are suddenly faced with photographing a wildlife encounter of a rare species, it is easy to get carried away with the excitement. You may forget the essentials and make mistakes, consequently missing out on the perfect shot.

To help you improve your chances of capturing a great wildlife image, avoid making these common mistakes:

1. Not doing your research

Knowing a bit about your subject, such as where and when you can see them, is an essential part of capturing a memorable wildlife shot. Turning up to a place and hoping for the best will likely result in disappointment. Your best bet is to do your homework and be as prepared as you can.

2. Motion blur

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Leopard, Wilpattu national park, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Generally, animals move quickly, and if you aren’t careful when taking your pictures, they can often result in motion blur. Sometimes adding intentional motion to your wildlife pictures can be effective and is a great way to add dynamism to your images through techniques such as panning. However, if you want to achieve sharper and more static images, which I would recommend for the majority of wildlife photographs, you need to take care that your shutter speed is not too slow.

3. Using too low an ISO

3 - 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife

Murlough Bay, Antrim Coast, Northern Ireland © Jeremy Flint

One way to ensure a faster shutter speed is to increase the ISO. Many photographers make the mistake of keeping the ISO low when photographing wildlife. This is usually to maintain maximum image quality. However, with a higher ISO, sharper shots will be achievable as the shutter speed increases.

4. Not being prepared

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Deer, Rondon Ridge Hotel, Mount Hagen, Papa New Guinea © Jeremy Flint

One of the biggest mistakes photographers tend to make when photographing wildlife is not being prepared. If you are not ready for the shot before it happens, you will miss it. Being unprepared could be something as simple as your battery going flat when you are taking photos or running out of space on your memory card.

Having prepared my camera the night before by charging my batteries and making sure my memory card had sufficient room to accommodate several images, I was able to take this shot of a deer as it appeared between the trees.

5. Out-of-focus pictures

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Green bea eater, Udawalawe national park, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Have you ever returned home from photographing wildlife images only to discover that your images are not sharp? This is one of the biggest pitfalls of recording good wildlife photos. It is likely that it may have been a case of not focusing on the subject properly. Therefore, be sure to aim and focus the camera on the part of the image you want sharp.

6. Your subject is too small in the frame

6 - 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Photographing Wildlife

© Jeremy Flint

Wild animals are easily spooked when approached by humans which means getting close to them is usually a challenging undertaking. As a result, you may find that your wildlife shots tend to have more of the surroundings in your shot, with your subject looking insignificant and lost in the background. Sometimes shooting an environment portrait of an animal can work well, but most of the time you will want to fill the frame with your animal shots. So if you aim to try and capture more of your subject, zoom in a bit closer.

7. The composition isn’t great

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Hornbill in flight, Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka © Jeremy Flint

Taking pictures of fast moving animals can often result in poor compositional shots. For example, a fleeting moment of a bird in flight or landing happens so fast that just getting a shot usually occurs to the sacrifice of the composition. Pictures can be spoilt by flapping wings, clipped parts of the body (such as the wings or tail), and not giving your subject enough space.

Conclusion

Common mistakes that you are likely to make when photographing wildlife include not being prepared or doing your research, motion blur, using too low an ISO, out-of-focus pictures, poor composition and including too small a main subject in the frame.

Now that you are aware of what not to do when photographing wildlife, turn these mistakes around to enhance your chances of capturing an image you can be proud of.

Now it’s your turn to venture out with your camera to photograph wildlife and share your images with us in the comments below.

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Jeremy Flint is a UK based award winning travel and landscape photographer, known for documenting images of beautiful destinations, cultures and communities from around the world. He recently won the Association of Photographers Discovery Award 2017 and the Grand Prize in the 2016 National Geographic Traveller and F11 Your Vision competitions. His pictures are represented by 4Corners images and have been featured in National Geographic Traveller, Outdoor Photography, Digital SLR Photography and national newspapers.