Basic Wildlife Photography Tips

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When you look at the beautiful wildlife photos in a magazine such as National Geographic, it’s easy to be tempted to try your hand at getting out there and shooting some wild animals too – shooting with your camera, that is!

Photo credit: Mike Baird

Here are some basic wildlife photography tips:

1. Use a dSLR camera. I’m not really a camera snob and if someone is happy with their point and shoot camera then great! But when it comes to wildlife photography, a point and shoot just won’t give you the results that you want. If you don’t own one, try renting one.

2. Shoot with a long lens. Wild animals are beautiful but they’re dangerous because they’re unpredictable. While you might be reasonably safe around a squirrel, any animal can get crazed if they’re spooked by your presence, so you don’t want to be getting up close and personal. This is the time when you want to be able to use a telephoto lens so that you can still fill your frame while keeping a safe and respectable distance.

Photo credit: mape_s

3. Bring your patience. Unlike your pet dog, wild animals can’t be posed and coerced into having their photo taken. While you might have a grand idea about the shot you want to take make sure you have enough patience to sit – as still as possible, preferably – and wait for that shot to happen.

4. Blend in. If you’re wearing bright clothes in the middle of a grassy field you’re going to stand out and animals who spot you will likely be less inclined to come close enough to get the photos that you really want. While you don’t have to dress in full camouflage, consider where you’ll be shooting and dress to blend in to the background. For example, if you’re snapping birds in the forest, wear something in muted green or brown shades.

5. Keep cool! Shooting wildlife photos can mean long hours out in the sun and shade may be minimal or completely non-existent. Keep yourself safe and cool by wearing appropriate clothing and sunscreen, put on a hat, and hydrate yourself by bringing water with you (snacks are a good idea too since you may be there awhile). While you’re at it, consider your gear as well and keep anything not in use inside your bag, preferably in some shade if you have any.

6. Get in some practice in a more controlled environment. Go to your local zoo or a petting farm and practice your wildlife photography on animals that are in closer quarters. It will help you to figure out what you’re looking for and how to approach wildlife once you get out there.

Photo credit: Tambako

7. Respect the environment and the animals. This hopefully goes without saying but you know there are people out there who think they’re the next Steve Irwin so I’ll say it anyway – do not approach wild animals just to get the shot you want. As I said in point #2 wild animals are utterly unpredictable and could charge at you if you get too close for their comfort.

Also, when you leave the area after getting all the shots you want, please think of the environment and the animals who live there, and be sure you collect all your belongings and any trash you might have.

This is the first in a series of wildlife photography tips so stay tuned!

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