100 Steps to IYP – Lesson 4 – Wildlife

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Another very popular subject among photographers, wildlife is not easy to capture in its ‘element’. When you do however end up with a picture that does capture them the element, it is a feeling hard to describe, and if you’ve ever shot wildlife, you’ll agree. Getting straight to the point, here are some tips that will help you take beautiful pictures of these beautiful creatures.

TIP 1: Catch the eye…
Focus is critical in wildlife photography (including bird photography). In general you should try and focus on the eye of the creature, especially during close-ups. Whenever you look at an image of an animal or a bird, by nature your view is directed straight to the eye, and if the eye is not sharp, the picture is not good. Also, having the eye in focus enhances the image by making it seem as if the animal is making eye contact with you. Always keep the eyes in focus, especially if you’re using a wide aperture and depth of field is limited.




TIP 2: Bring out the tele, and use the IS…
This might seem like an obvious idea, but isn’t for many, especially the IS part. The value of zoom is very obvious in wildlife photography, and IS has made things even easier. Whenever you’re out shooting creatures, keep the IS on, and boost the ISO up a little so that you get sharp, blur-free images. You’ll also end up using your lens wide open (go to aperture priority mode and select the smallest f-number) ­in order to freeze the action.

TIP 3: Catch them in action…
Actions always speak louder than, well, simple monotonous pictures of the animals just sitting there. Not that those pictures are not good, they can be brilliant. But pictures that capture ‘moments’ and action are always more appreciable, not to mention a lot tougher to take. Moments like animals mating, courting, hunting their prey, feeding their young, moving in huge herds (like the legendary migration of the Wildebeest) are treasures meant to be captured (in your camera that is!).  



Photo by Martin_Heigan


Photo by iam_photography


TIP 4: Do your homework…
To capture moments like the ones above, you need to know when and where you’ll find such moments. It definitely helps to study your subjects and do some research before you go out to shoot. For example, I like shooting birds, and the easiest way for me to find them is by tracing their calls, which I’ve learnt with time. And with practice, you will be able to predict their behaviour to quite an extent. Use the net, and get hold of a field guide to your local wildlife. Both these will greatly benefit you in your pursuit for the subject of your choice.

TIP 5: Composing for effect…
Wildlife pictures should be composed in a way such that the subject’s action/position is complemented. For example, if you’re taking a picture of a bird looking to the left, then instead of centering the subject, you should leave some space on the left for the subject ‘to look into’.


Photo by Erik Veland


A common mistake beginners make when they discover an animal at a certain location is that they go too close. Animals are often not used to, and don’t welcome human presence so close to them. In fact, some even desert their homes and their young (esp. Birds), and some can be very aggressive to defend the same. THEY DON’T KNOW that you’re simply taking a picture! So PLEASE do not agitate the animal, and keep some distance.

TIP 6: Camouflage… And prepare to get dirty…
This is helpful particularly when you’re taking pictures in woods or areas where human presence is fairly negligible. Don’t wear bright colours. Blacks, browns and darker greens are more suitable. Some people who use huge lenses do camo’s on their kits as well!
And to shoot an animal, you’ve got to be prepared to be like one… I mean, you have to be prepared to end up VERY dirty, often bruised, and bitten and stung all over! But believe me, that in itself is a great experience.


Notice the Camo kit? And yes, that IS huge!


Wildlife photography is indeed one of the most difficult but also most rewarding kinds of photography. But in the end, a good picture is worth every bit of effort. I hope these tips can make a difference to your pictures. Your comments and suggestions are welcome as always.

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