Wildlife photography is an extremely popular field nowadays. It’s no surprise, as it gives you an excuse to get outdoors and see some wonderful things in nature. However, it remains a difficult field to crack – and forever chasing the “perfect shot” can be tiring and time consuming.
This tutorial will run you through my top 5 tips as a professional wildlife photographer for anyone thinking of, or starting out in, this field.
1. Get to Know Your Subject
There is nothing more important with wildlife photography than really getting to know your subject. Whatever animal you are photographing will behave differently to the last, and it is important that you tune in to the behavioral traits of all the different species you observe.
Pay attention to how an animal moves, and you will begin to notice tell-tale signs of movement. If you’re waiting for a bird to fly from a branch, for example, it will often lean slightly forwards for a few seconds before taking off. This is when you should be ready to press the trigger.
2. Get On Eye-Level
Portrait images of animals are lovely to look at, but they are rarely impacting when composed badly. Make sure you are photographing on eye-level with an animal, as this will add a huge punch to your image. The difference of a few feet in height can change the look of a photo drastically, so don’t be lazy and get down in the mud if need be!
3. Use Your Lens Hood
That bit of plastic that comes with your lens that most people discard into a drawer is an important thing to use. It reduces stray light coming into the lens, and will keep your images clearer and crisper.
It also provides essential physical protection. I have slipped and fallen whilst photographing seals on some rocks on an island. I landed my entire body weight straight onto the nose of my four-figure telephoto lens. In horror, I looked at the damage. To my amazement, the lens hood had taken all the force, shattering just two small screws. The lens itself was completely undamaged.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, wildlife photographers often find themselves caught in the rain. The hood will do what hoods are supposed to do – and protect your lens from rain drops. It’s very annoying to have to constantly wipe them off, leaving a smear on the glass. This will help to solve that problem for you.
4. Break the Rules
Don’t be afraid to break the rule of thirds, or any other compositional guidelines you’ve read about. Some images just don’t suit the rules, and rules are made to be broken after all. Experiment and find your own unique style, and you’ll see your images develop immensely.
5. Be Ethical
No image is worth more than the welfare of an animal. Whether it is a bear or a mouse; every animal counts. Please be mindful about treating an animal with respect, as disturbance can seriously effect the breeding patterns of some species. For more information on good ethical practices, take a look at this article.
About the Guest Contributor
My name is Will Nicholls, and I am a professional wildlife photographer from the UK. I have recently set up a new website for nature photographers (both landscape and wildlife) full of tutorials, inspirational features and kit reviews written by the best photographers in the world. It’s called Nature TTL – click to check it out!