- The Complete Guide to Nature Photography: Professional Techniques for Capturing Digital Images of Nature and Wildlife
- Nature Photography Photo Workshop
- National Geographic Simply Beautiful Photographs
- Digital Wildlife Photography
- David Busch's Close-Up and Macro Photography Compact Field Guide
- Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
Digital photography of wildlife may be exciting and adventurous, but it is also a type of photography with its own list of techniques that are important to know and use. It’s worth repeating from Part 1 of this PhotographyTalk.com article that the most overlooked technique is to develop an attitude of perseverance because wildlife appears when it appears. Even when you have a bird or animal in your sights, you may also have to wait for the light to change or for your subject to move slightly in reference to the foreground and/or background before you can capture the best photo possible. Part 2 includes some additional tips that should help you be a better wildlife photographer.
Be Aware of the Background.
It’s so easy to be distracted by your primary goal in wildlife photography, which is to frame and capture an exciting image of an animal, and not check the background of the image before you shoot. One of the benefits of shooting eye to eye, or at ground level, is that the background will usually become a pleasing blur; however, this isn’t automatic. You must consciously look for blobs of light or color that would divert attention from your subject, and then move or recompose the photo to de-emphasize any background clutter.
Show the Ecosystem.
In most cases, you want to try to fill your frame with as much of an animal as possible. This may be limited, however, by the focal length of your lens and how close you are able to position yourself without spooking the critter. Even if you’ve lugged that professional-grade lens (400mm to 600mm) or super-zoom lens into the field, consider loosening your framing slightly (or even greatly), so you can show some of the environment in which the animal lives. Not only could you create a more interesting photo than a tight portrait, but also clues in the habitat can reveal how the animal lives and survives. Then, combine this tip with two others from this PhotographyTalk.com article for outstanding results. The first is to position your camera, so it is at eye level with your subject. The second is to make sure you have a non-distracting background.
Working According to the Sunlight’s Schedule.
It’s been mentioned often in various PhotographyTalk.com articles, but the best photographic light of the day is during the early morning and late evening hours, dawn and dusk. These also happen to be the two daily time periods when wildlife is most active. Wild animals avoid the hottest part of the day just as humans do. The predators of the animal kingdom know this too, so if you want to capture photos of predation, then you have no choice to be awake and in the field early, or wait until the setting sun. The schedule of a successful wildlife photographer is the same as the schedule of the sun.
Photographers in the know also avoid the brightest part of the day, but for photographic reasons. Sunlight can be very hard and cause deep shadows and/or bloomed highlights. Excellent wildlife photography often requires an accurate reproduction of detailed coloring and textures in fur, skin or feathers, and the bright sunlight makes that difficult. The only time that photographing wildlife in the middle of the day makes any sense is when there is a substantial overcast. Clouds acts as a natural diffuser, softening shadows and highlights. Even precipitation (rain or snow) can add a very creative element to wildlife photography, in terms of light, and rain dripping from an animal or snow clinging to a pelt.