In this video wildlife and nature photographer Steve Perry (from backcountrygallery) shares 10 useful tips for wildlife and bird photography.
10 Tips for Wildlife Photography
This video focuses more on the composition and artistic aspects of shooting wildlife (you can see a video covering the technical aspects with other tips below).
- Catch the Catchlight – Try and spot a catchlight in your animal’s eye before you take the shot. If you can try and wait until it moves to an angle where there is a catchlight. Also important – the darker the eye the more important the catchlight is.
- Consider your height – your height compared to the level of your subject is part of the story you are telling with your picture. Normally you would like to shoot from what is perceived as eye-level for an “intimate” shot but if you shoot from below you are making the animal look bigger and possibly more intimidating. Shouting from above creates the opposite effect.
A nice trick if you can’t get low to the ground or don’t want to – go back and use a longer lens – this way even a slight drop in height will give you the desired effect.
- Work the Light – while in many situations you want a front light on your subject, a backlight or sidelight can work well towards the start or end of the day. This time can make the backlight more manageable and result in really unique images. Try and keep that ISO as low as you can as you might need to push the image in post.
- Put a good background behind your subject – a good background should complement your subject (in terms of colors and in some situations even shapes) and don’t distract from your subject (go for clean backgrounds that are not too busy).
- Avoid white spots in your background – this continues the previous point – try to avoid accidental bright spots in your background – those draw the eye of the viewer away from your subject (although from our experience at least in some cases these can be fixed in post quite easily).
- Avoid including parts of another animal in your shot – while having more than one animal in a shot on purpose might be a good idea, having a part of another animal in your frame can also take away from the shot so be mindful and try and wait for the right moment.
- You don’t need to shoot the entire animal – this one is a really important tip. Usually, we try to capture the entire animal in our shot. However, you can also try and capture just a part of it, like the face or the eye. If the composition works you can still get a great shot like that.
- Go really close or really wide – this goes hand in hand with the last tip. If you find yourself really close to a subject you can try and go backward and reframe or shoot a close up of just part of the animal if your lens allows this or switch to a wide lens and capture a more environmental shot.
- Get ahead of the animal – this one isn’t easy and it requires experience, persistence, and a bit of luck. If you can figure out where the animal is moving next you can try and position yourself in its path (be careful of course if it is a dangerous animal) and shoot when it gets closer.
- Keep your eye on the prize – wildlife shooting is all about capturing the moment. The more your eye is on the viewfinder the more chances you have to capture that elusive expression, the first moment in the air, or that rare jump. It is not easy but at the end of the day, this is what brings in the winning images.
Bonus video: another 10 tips for Wildlife Photography