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The Five shutter speeds you need for Wildlife Photography

In the video below you will watch Director of Pangolin Photo Safaris, Guts Swanepoel, explain the only five key shutter speeds you need to know to improve your wildlife photography.

Enjoy and we hope to see you on safari soon!

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When it comes to camera settings, Guts shares his five key shutter speeds you need to know, to improve your wildlife photography.

‘These are my 5 go-to shutter speeds, that I always used for wildlife photography.’

1. Let’s start at the slowest one. The slowest one is a tenth of a second (1/10 sec). I use this setting to pan slow-moving animals. A tenth of a second works the best for me.

2. The next one we’re going to talk about is 1/60, or 1/80 of a second. Some people prefer 1/60. Some people prefer 1/80. Personally, I like 1/60…and that works for birds in flight panning. When you want to get a proper bird in flight panning shot, you want a lot of movement in the wings, and obviously, you want to keep the head as still as possible.

3. The third one I’m going to talk about, is your personal shutter speed that you should use on your camera, or your absolute minimum shutter speed for a fast, sharp image. That’s a personal rule…please don’t quote me on this, but you go to your lens and you look at your maximum millimetres. Your maximum zoom. This specific lens is a 100-400mm lens, so I am going to work with 400mm. I multiply the maximum zoom with that, and you’ve got nice crisp images!

4. The fourth one is that golden setting of 1/2500. For me, that’s an absolute go-to if you have enough light, and you can shoot anything with that. From birds in flight, to animals running, to absolutely anything…and, it is a very fast shutter speed, in the sense of no movement from your side, the boat, the vehicle you’re on. It’s a brilliant go-to setting!

5. The last one I use is 1/4000 or faster. I use this setting for your little birds like malachite kingfishers and pied kingfishers in flight. That’s to freeze the wings, and absolutely crucial when you shoot water images. With water splashing, you need to be on, or over, 1/4000 to freeze the water when it splashes.

A quick recap…

1/10 for panning your big mammals.
1/60 of a second for your bird in flight panning.
Double your focal length in speed for a crisp clear image.
1/2500 if you have enough light for that go-to setting and fast birds or to freeze water.

Additional note from Guts

Please, guys, be aware that this is only for your shutter speed settings. You have to compensate with your f-stop and your ISO to accommodate the specific shutter settings.

Remember when you shoot the panning shot, you cannot shoot that on a low f-stop. You have to push your f-stop quite high to say f/22 or even a f/32. If you do it like a 1/10 – those of you that shoot on manual – make sure you’re on Auto ISO. You still have to bring your f-stop down for the low shutter speeds. Obviously, the opposite is true if you have a fast, fast shutter speed. You need to bring your f-stop as low down as possible…and also your ISO as high as you’re comfortable with.

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