Advanced digital cameras are becoming less and less expensive each year as technology improves, and more people than ever before are taking up amateur photography as a hobby. And while there are a multitude of potential subjects out there for one to photograph, many people find that taking pictures of wildlife is what interests them.
To excel at taking photos of wildlife, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t make an animal do something, so you’ll just have to wait for it to happen. In other words, be patient! The minute you try to influence an animal’s actions is when you’ll most likely scare it away, or worse, cause it to view you as its next meal. Some days you may not get any decent shots, so it can be hit or miss.
One detail to pay attention to is shutter speed. After all, you can’t really expect an animal to stay in one place like a posing human would, even if you happen to catch it staying still for a moment. A normal shutter speed should be around 1/400 for an animal that is relatively still, but if you want to shoot the animal while it’s in motion, a faster shutter speed is a necessity to prevent blurry photos. Typical shutter speeds for flying or running subjects should range from between 1/1500 to 1/3000 of a second. This factor not only compensates for the subject’s movement; it can also help with a shaky camera, as you won’t always have your tripod with you or be able to set it up when shooting an animal that is particularly off the beaten path. One thing to keep in mind though is whether you have enough light to pull off a quick shutter speed. Shots at dawn or dusk will probably not provide enough sunlight, so the key is to find a good balance during these periods of time.
If you are interested in taking action shots, you should learn to anticipate certain actions the animal might make. This generally comes with experience; a good wildlife photographer might be able to spot subtle warning signs that can telegraph when an animal will do certain things, such as take off running, take flight, or charge another animal. In this instance, a good idea is to put the camera on burst mode and take a bunch of shots in succession if you think action is imminent. Many great action shots have been taken using this method.
Another good idea is to take into account the size of the animal. Larger animals don’t require the photographer to be as close to the action, but taking shots of smaller wildlife generally involves a closer angle. In addition, taking photographs of smaller animals from a lower camera position is often a good idea to make them appear larger.
While the reasons people take up wildlife photography are many, the rewards to this hobby can be just as numerous. There are certain techniques that one can use to increase the likelihood of taking good shots, and while some can be taught, some of these can only be learned through experience. The main thing to remember is that patience is the key to great wildlife shots.