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Shoot at Eye Level
This is one of the easiest ways to dramatically increase the interestingness of your wildlife images. Instead of shooting from your eye level, shoot at the eye level of the animal you're photographing. This makes for a much more dynamic image. Shooting from the normal standing-up position can be very boring because 1) this is the view that everybody normally sees from and 2) this often means you're looking down at the animal. Try doing a Google search for wildlife photos and I'm sure you'll find the most interesting ones are those that are at eye level (or below) with the subject.
Many wildlife photos fail to capture interest because the subject is too far away or too small in the frame. Wildlife photos usually capture animals that most people don't get to see up close in person during their lifetime, so when they look at a photo of one of these animals, they want to see them close, they want to see details. Whether this means getting closer physically or with a longer lens, a tight crop can often provide an amazing shot.
Incorporate the Environment
On the other end of the spectrum, pulling back and looking at the detail in your surroundings can add a lot to an image too. Some photographers focus too much on the subject and don't think about the background or their surroundings. Capturing the whole tree that a monkey is climbing in or including the setting sun behind a heard of zebras can really add to the dynamism of your photos.
Avoid Camera Shake
Unless it's an intentional and controlled action meant to add an artistic effect, taking blurry photos is bad. If you're shooting a fast subject, or in a dim setting, or with a long lens, blurry images can easily become a problem. A tripod is your best bet here. If you're shooting with a long lens, you should have a tripod anyway to help stabilize the weight. Of course, keeping a high shutter speed will give you the best chance for success, but this may not be possible with the lighting or movement of your subject. In these cases, don't be afraid to open up your aperture and increase your ISO to capture more light.
Give Your Subjects Lead Room
Lead room is the space in a photograph in front of where a subject is facing. It is an important compositional tool that can be used to improve the look of your images. Typically, when a subject is looking towards a certain direction, you want to leave more space in that direction. This makes the subject look as if they're looking into the photograph. When there is little or no lead room, the photo usually looks unbalanced. So, for example, if you photograph a wolf looking to the left, it would be better to place the wolf on the right side of the frame and leave the left half of the frame open for the wolf to “look into.”
This is perhaps the biggest secret to wildlife photography. No one does a day hike through a forest and captures stunning wildlife images. You have to be patient with your subjects. It may take a long time to find the animals you're looking for (or for them to find you). Do some research on the subjects you'd like to shoot and learn their habits and lifestyle. Photographers have waited days, months, and even years to capture photographs of certain wildlife.
Written by Spencer Seastrom
Image credit: kwiktor / 123RF Stock Photo