- 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
- The Bird Photography Field Guide
- National Audubon Society Guide to Nature Photography
- Art of Bird Photography: The Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques
- Creative Bird Photography: Essential Tips and Techniques
Like any type of digital photography, taking mind-blowing wildlife pictures requires some knowledge, practice and appreciation for how much patience and determination you must have. You can learn tips about choosing a wild destination and preparing for your adventure in the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—Tips to Go Totally Wild. This article will focus on the process of capturing those once-in-a-lifetime images of wild animals and what you should know about the behavior of wild animals. With that knowledge, you’ll be able to put yourself in the right place and at the right time to shoot mind-blowing wildlife pictures.
One of the reasons wild animals are considered wild is that they will defend themselves and their young, instinctually, if you are too close. Some species of animals are naturally aggressive and won’t even wait until you are too close; they may investigate, warn or even attack before you are aware of their presence. This applies to small animals too. Be alert and never consider a photographic opportunity more important than your safety. It’s better to miss the photo and return home uninjured, so you can try again another day.
Part of your preparation for your wildlife photography trip is to know what kinds of animals you may see to photograph and learn as much as you can about their behavior. First and foremost, this is for your safety. When you understand how and why various animals act and react, you’ll know when you give them plenty of space and when you can move closer for the wildlife pictures of your dreams. For example, knowing the life cycle of wild animals could allow you to capture digital photos of a birth, or the young.
Improve your understanding of wild animals by reading and talking with park rangers, zoo staff and the guide for the eco-tour you’ve booked. Visiting your local zoo can be very helpful. Although the animals are not in their natural habitats, you can learn about the animals’ positions when they are resting and how they interact with others. Add to your reading list the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—Learn How to Shoot Animals at the Zoo. That’s a much safer place to develop your digital photography skills. You can then take full advantage of an expensive trip into the wilderness and become more confident you’ll take mind-blowing wildlife pictures.
In the Wild
It’s easy to dwell on the excitement of wildlife photography, but what experienced wildlife photographers know is that the excitement is momentary, and sometimes non-existent. In fact, wildlife photography can be downright boring and tedious. Sure, you can position yourself to shoot pictures all day of a pride of lions or monkeys on the branches of jungle trees, but there may be only one or two truly interesting pictures to take after hours of waiting. Plus, your presence in the environment will cause many animals to behave unnaturally. As soon as they are aware of you being there, they’ll do nothing but watch you, to make sure you’re not a threat.
Because your goal is to capture the animal’s personality and natural behavior (as if you weren’t there), you must be prepared to be very patient, still and quiet, and constantly observe your subjects, and then be ready to shoot the picture you want at a moment’s notice. Pre-framing, pre-focusing and pre-setting of exposure are essential. That lion may only yawn once in three hours; that monkey may jump from one branch to another in a second, and then sit still all day.
Having the right camera equipment on your wildlife photography trip can help you take the pictures you might otherwise miss. Consider a camera with a silent shutter release. That’s one less distraction that may cause animals to act unnaturally or flee. You can also use a vibration lens, so you can focus and shoot quickly and still take sharp images. In some cases, you can use a tripod, although the action must occur within the space you’ve framed, which reduces your opportunities for mind-blowing wildlife pictures.
Ultimately, you’ll discover what the pros have discovered: That you must take hundreds, even thousands, of pictures during a shooting day to record the one or two digital photos that are outstanding. Use the burst, or continuous shooting, mode on your camera if, for example, your subject group of animals have become very active. Somewhere among that series of continuous images could be your greatest wildlife photograph.