Wildlife photography is one of the most challenging branches of photography, but it is also the most rewarding. Nothing beats getting that perfect shot after overcoming the challenges that you face. Many professional wildlife photographers spend days – even weeks – just to get the one perfect shot that they’re after.
Taking professional-quality wildlife photos, however, can be easier when you know how to overcome the challenges. We see top photographers returning from tips with stunning photos almost every time. You can too! Make your next adventure a fruitful one with these ten things you need to know to take professional quality wildlife photos.
1. Planning Is Key
Research is everything in wildlife photography. 70% of the work is not done on the field but rather back home when you are planning the trip. Find as much information as you can about the destination, the flora and fauna that you will encounter, and every detail in between.
Try this site if you want to learn more about the best tools and apps for planning your trip. Timing your trip correctly also increases your chances of landing the perfect shot. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to capture the perfect moment.
2. Patience Is a Virtue
When it comes to wildlife photography, patience is an asset. You may get lucky and capture the perfect moment on your first day of the trip, but you shouldn’t expect that to happen every time. In fact, it won’t most of the time.
3. The Right Gear
Choosing the right camera is important, but not as important as choosing the right lenses. You want telephoto lenses for shooting wildlife. A telephoto lens gives you enough distance and places you in a safe location while allowing you to capture flora and fauna in great detail.
4. Pack Some Protection
First of all, make sure you have bags and cases that protect your belongings from the elements. Equipping your camera and lenses with covers is also a good idea. You never know what you may encounter when you are out in the wild.
You also want to protect yourself. Packing the right clothes, bringing sunscreen and insect repellant, and of course, wearing a comfortable pair of shoes are some of the ways you can protect yourself throughout the trip.
5. Recognize Patterns
One of the most valuable secrets of wildlife photographers is that animals tend to move with a certain pattern. If you see a bird on a branch and you can’t take the shot the first time, give it some time. The bird will most likely fly to the branch again.
Patterns are easy to recognize in the wild. Be observant, and you’ll be able to position yourself better to get the perfect shot based on the patterns you see.
6. Think About Lighting
The ‘Golden Hours’, both in the morning and afternoon, are the best times to take wildlife photos. The light is relatively soft and very pleasing. You can capture more detail, and you will not have any problems with your exposure.
Hoping for the perfect lighting every time is not something you can do, so you must also be prepared to work with what you have. Leverage composition, angles, and choice of lenses to compensate for less-than-perfect lighting conditions. You can use filters for the same purpose.
7. Capture Raw
Speaking about using filters, you want to capture the cleanest image possible when shooting wildlife. While it may be a good idea to use color filters or graduated tints when shooting, you lose some flexibility in post-production when you do.
Also, skip capturing JPEG and go straight to RAW. This means you need to pack more memory cards, but the extra flexibility you win in return is definitely worth it.
8. Wide Shots Are Great Too
We tend to try capturing animals up close, and there have been some spectacular wildlife photos taken this way. That said, you don’t have to use a 600mm lens all the time. You can tell a better story by opting for moderate or wide-angle lenses.
A 50mm is handy when shooting packs of animals. You can go as far as 16mm if you really want to highlight the landscape and capture more context about the wildlife.
9. Shoot and Forget
The habit of checking if you got the shot after taking it needs to stay at home; no, it cannot come with you to the destination. You are wasting precious seconds checking every shot, and those seconds are better used capturing backup shots and enjoying the moment.
10. Go for Specific Targets
Last but certainly not least, always have a specific shot that you want to capture before going on a trip to shoot wildlife. We have a list of 20 weird animals that you can find in different destinations to help you get started. Happy shooting!