Top 10 Tips to improve your Wildlife and Nature Photography
In the video below you will watch Pangolin Photo Host Charl Stols shares his top 10 tips on how to improve your Wildlife and Nature Photography.
Enjoy and we hope to see you on safari soon!
Tip #1 Know your gear
Get comfortable with your camera before you go out in the field. Know where the buttons are.
Get familiar with the buttons, so when you look through your camera – and a situation appears – that you know at least know what button to press, so that you don’t look at your camera and wonder what must I do now?
So be comfortable. Maybe you want to move your focus point that you know where I can move my focus point. I don’t need to take the picture all the time in the middle. Know where you can change your shutter speed, or your aperture. Where you have to change your ISO. If you’re not comfortable with full manual yet, maybe understand how one of the auto exposure modes works. If you are more comfortable on aperture priority, know when to use what aperture, or how low your aperture can go according to the lens you have. Maybe also understand or try to work out on your camera or lens, what is the minimum shutter speed you can go, and still have a reasonably sharp image.
You also have ISO on your camera, so see how high, or how far you can push your camera, in certain situations. You might come in a situation where you have very little light, and then you know how high you can push your ISO, and still have a reasonable image.
Tip #2 Know your location and animal behaviour
I think it’s very important to do some research. Where is the location that you are in? Make sure the time of year? When it’s a dry season, or when it’s the wet season? Different times of the year also you have different animals. You have different birds. Birds migrate. So, I think it’s very important to do some research.
If you’re, for example, a bird photographer…make sure that the bird that you’re interested in, is in that location at that time of year. Birds are nesting certain time of year. If you’re interested in this bird, try and be there by the time they’re nesting. Be there by the time where they may be hatching. You can get really cool bird behaviour. Maybe they bring food for the chicks, so it could be really cool to photograph.
Tip #3 Light is important
I think light is so important. So, how to work with light? Go out very early out in the mornings. Get up early. Be out there before the sun even comes up, and the same in afternoon…just before the sun goes down. Be out there it’s a really beautiful light. In photography terms, we call it the ‘golden hour’. So, be out there! This will already make a big difference in your photography.
If you maybe have an overcast day, you can shoot longer during the day. The light will be also nicely diffused.
Tip #4 Shooting close…and wide
We tend sometimes to zoom in the whole time on our subjects. We’re getting a nice portrait. Just close-ups and maybe detail. But, don’t forget to also to shoot wide. Zoom maybe out a little bit. If you have a wide angle, use it. Get the trees in the background. The mountains. Where the animals walking in the environment…and that will just give you a different type of photo.
Tip #5 Work on your angle
Don’t be afraid to go down as low as you can. Go down on your knees, or even lie down flat on your stomach. This will help you to create that nice out-of-focus background, and make your image or your animal, pop a little bit more from your background.
Being on eye level with your subject, will create a more personal feel to your image. So, go down as much as you can.
Tip #6 Focus on the eyes
Eyes are often the first thing that we notice when we’re looking at the animal.
So, look closely to the eye, and focus on the eye. When you have the eyes sharp, the overall image will feel sharp. Even if you work with a shallow depth-of-field.
Tip #7 Take advantage of digital photography
Don’t be shy to take as many images as you need to. Have your camera on continuous shooting and shoot burst shooting. it could be the difference between getting the shot or missing the shot. So, don’t be shy, and shoot as many as you can.
In the back of your digital camera, you have an LCD screen, where you can view your images. Have a look at them. See if something is maybe incorrect…it’s too dark? It’s too bright? …and where you can easily, and quickly adjust, before you keep on shooting.
Tip #8 Patience
Be prepared to wait. Have patience. Patience is the name of the game in wildlife photography. There’s nothing more rewarding when you sit at the sighting…. waiting for a long time, and an animal gets up and walking towards your camera. Or, a bird flying off a branch with the wings nicely open towards you, and you capture the beautiful wingspan.
So, don’t be afraid to sit by a sighting and wait. This might take time.
Tip #9 Composition
The center is boring! Don’t always put your subject in the middle of your frame. Use the rule of thirds. Move your subject to the left of your frame if it looks to the right. Move your focus point to the right when your subject looks to the left. Move your horizon to the bottom or to the top. Don’t always put your subject in the middle.
Follow this step and this will create a more interesting image for you.
Tip #10 Aim for simple backgrounds
Sometimes the most dramatic wildlife photos are sometimes with simple backgrounds. Photos with a busy background on the other hand, will result in your subject getting lost in the frame.
The goal is to highlight your subject – to make them stand out – from a blank or empty background behind the animal. Sometimes you just need to move, or shift your position left, or right, to create a more favorable scene.