Wildlife photography is often associated with years of experience and eye-catching magazine features. While the genre is definitely filled with these glamorous things, it’s more than just an expensive hobby.
Every wildlife photographer was once a beginner with a limited amount of equipment. If you’re in a similar position, you can easily learn the art of taking stunning photos of wild animals, regardless of your experience.
It goes without saying that advanced equipment and professional zoom lenses will take your photos to the next level. If you can’t afford them, however, you can still make the most of wildlife photography. In addition to a camera, the following items will make your shooting experience fun and relatively easy:
You don’t need to know everything about your camera immediately. With time, you’ll learn which settings to use and which ones to avoid. There are a few important settings that almost every wildlife photographer needs to know, though.
Aperture determines how blurry or sharp your backgrounds are. If you want them to be sharp, your f-number should be big, such as f/4.0. If you want to create more bokeh and blur (things that will separate your subject from its background), use smaller f-numbers like f/2.0 or f/1.2.
ISO is a handy tool that’s perfect for capturing action or low-lit subjects. Most cameras nowadays can handle a lot of ISO without ruining the end results. Every camera has its own unique limits, so experiment with various numbers and figure out how much noise you’re comfortable with.
Shutter speed has a formula for capturing sharp photos: 1/your lens’s focal length or faster (thanks to Felix Bartelke for this tip!)
Before you go out and photograph wild animals, practice with domestic ones. Cats, dogs, or even farm animals will teach you more about lighting, camera settings, and spontaneity. On top of that, you won’t need to worry about running out of time, not capturing the right moment, or doubting your skills.
Busy backgrounds are considered pests in almost every photography genre. If you want your subject to stand out, make sure they’re located in front of a simple background, be it a blue sky, a golden field, or any other neutral-colored backdrop.
The beauty of wildlife photography lies in opportunities and spontaneity, so don’t feel discouraged if your first subject isn’t standing in front of a good background. The more persistent you are, the closer you’ll get to finding the perfect compositions.
Once you’re ready to photograph wild animals, observe them. Every animal has some kind of predictable behavior that is worth knowing before a photo shoot. Being aware of these patterns will help you take interesting photos.
If you have the time, research the animals you plan to photograph. This will prepare you for certain behavioral patterns or interactions.
Though knowing all the rules is important, there’s a bright side to inexperience. Make the most of this stage. Break the rules, dream as big as you like, and don’t worry too much about getting the perfect shot. You’ll thank yourself later. 🙂