Photographing wildlife animals requires you to develop skills. Wildlife photography exposes you to constant movements, surprises, and racing-against-time routine. Having developed skills will help you creating rare, exciting, and memorable moments that are completely unrehearsed.
Photographing the wild is an all-encompassing skill. You need to improve several aspects, not just the technical ones. Here are several strategies to improve wildlife photography skill.
Understanding Wildlife Photography Equipment
Understanding your own equipment sounds like an obvious suggestion, but many people fail to do it. Knowing the ability of your camera helps to create sharper images or to capture the best moments in continuous shots.
Knowing your wildlife photography gears may include:
- ISO limit
Beginner photographers usually start with low ISO, but when you photograph in low light condition, you need to increase the numbers. Knowing how high your camera can push the ISO limit without ruining the images is important.
- Shutter speed’s minimum limit
Shutter speed is useful to capture moving objects, like running animals. Knowing your camera’s minimum limit for shutter speed helps you capture the best shots.
- Stabilization margin limit
Camera stabilizer is important in wildlife photography, especially if you shoot moving objects (or in a windy area). Each camera type offers different margin limit that you can adjust to get the best stabilizing effect.
Ideally, you must make all adjustments without moving your eyes and hands from the camera. This is because many wildlife creatures, especially the fast species, only give a few seconds for you to capture their movements.
Understanding Wildlife Photography Objects
Wildlife photography objects for each person can vary. Some focus on certain species or families, like big cats, butterflies, or canines. Others photograph larger groups of animals, like mountain or rainforest species. Every species is unique and has its own characteristics.
A good wildlife photographer must understand his or her objects. In the case of animals, a photographer must know their eating, mating, playing, or competing behaviors. Wildlife photography aims to capture “golden moments”, the best shots that capture and emphasize the object in a special way.
You must learn about the objects you are going to photograph, especially their behaviors. You must also learn to wait patiently and capture those golden moments. You cannot just visit and snap a few pictures, expecting the results to be half-decent.
Understanding How to Use Light
In wildlife photography, light not only supports good shots, but also “paints” the images in a natural way. One popular strategy is to make use of the golden hour (times just before sunrise or sunset) and blue hour (times just after sunset). These hours provide natural color filter and emphasis for each shot.
The overcast sky is another great natural factor to take amazing photos. During this time, the sky acts as a natural soft box. Photographers love overcast sky even more than the bright sky, because the cloud “filter” provides more even light distribution, without making the images look harsh.
What if the light condition is not ideal from your position? Try using your camera’ specifications to create “perfectly imperfect” pictures. Less-than-ideal light often creates a beautiful moody atmosphere in the final images.
Knowing When to Go Low
Have you ever compared a picture of a dog being taken from human’s eye level and low angle? The second one looks more dramatic because the camera captures the eyes, full facial expression, and higher figure shape. Wildlife photography often requires you to take pictures from a low angle to get a dramatic effect.
Remember, this “eye level” rule does not always apply, such as when photographing an elephant or giraffe. You must also consider the location (for example, in many African plains, people are not allowed to get off the vehicle and crouch down).
Having Various Point of Views
Taking an eye-level, face-front wild animal photos is a rare opportunity, because they don’t pose deliberately. You need to be creative with the point of views and take beautiful photos in different ways. Examples are:
- Extreme close-ups
Extreme close-ups create almost abstract quality from an animal. You can focus on fur or skin patterns, unique features (horns, snouts), or eyes.
- Unique behaviors
Wildlife photography emphasizes not only the objects but also the things they do. You can choose to capture special moments, such as breastfeeding cubs.
- Composition photography
If there are multiple animals at once, and you can only observe in a safe distance, try capturing the composition. Consider the surrounding landscapes to find the right image.
- Focus on opportunities instead of species
Sometimes, the least impressive species make great images. In Africa, many people focus on large animals such as lions, water buffaloes, or giraffes. However, you may get rare images when following more common species, such as impalas.
Finally, you must also have the right attitude as a photographer. Patience, agility, and improvisation are important skills you can only get with experiences.
Photographing wild animals requires the right gears, skills, and experiences. You must also have patience and ability to see things in unique views. Hone your wildlife photography skills and create amazing images from the most mundane species.