How To Better Your Wildlife Photography

Understanding your subject + thinking outside the box can get you results

Photography is a journey, you are always improving, understanding, learning and capturing different images as you progress your photographic journey. After all, isn’t that part of the fun?

Whether you photograph local wildlife, or love to travel, understanding the principles of photography is great, but you can’t be scared to experiment and use your own intuition to capture superb photographs. So here we take a look at some great tips for wildlife photography and how you can improve technically to showcase your natural talent as a photographer.

Let’s see your photos…..

1. Place your subject uniquely, don’t centre the subject in the image

A common trait (not mistake) is to place your subject in the middle of the frame, this works well for portrait photography, but when it comes to wildlife, it’s a great tactic to get out of this mindset. For example, photographing an animal looking to their left or right, then placing the animal to the side of the frame helps convey the direction (and what) the animal is walking (or looking towards).

Allowing the subject to dictate the image, it can be too easy to fill the image with the subject © Paul Tully

2. Shoot at eye level

This technique is often used by professional photographers, as it helps portray the animal at their level, in their world. It’s another common trait to photograph subjects from our human level, this often means we are looking down at the subject for most animals and having a background of just ground, dirt, grass etc. For example, when photographing a big cat, getting low in your game drive vehicle helps this eye level “connection” with the animal and helps change the background to something more appealing such as the sky or other scenic landmarks. Shooting at eye level creates a far more attractive photograph.

Lowering the angle to achieve depth and contrasts © Paul Tully

3. Focus on the eyes

The primary reason to photograph with your focus set on the subject’s eyes, is a basic principle of photography. There isn’t much point in having an animal’s fur or ears in focus when their eyes are out of focus. An important technical aspect to point out here, is to avoid setting too narrow an aperture/depth of field, that results in the eyes being in focus but the nose being out of focus – understanding depth of field is critical – whether you want the full subject + background in focus (for example you may wish to photograph a pride of lions and have each of the lions in focus), or you want to narrow down your focus, blur the background and leave just the animal’s face/body in focus (for example in bird photography, placing the bird in focus but blurring the leaves behind).

Focussing on the eyes, blurring the background to emphasise the subject © Paul Tully

4. Show the space

It’s fantastic to remember where you and your subject are and showcasing the environment is a great way to highlight your subject’s habitat. Placing your subject smaller in the image and allowing the space/habitat/environment to fill the photograph. This not only showcases your subject’s habitat, but it can help highlight nature, climate and many other elements. Don’t be scared to display nothing.

Nature is beautiful, don’t be afraid to show it with your subject in it © Paul Tully

5. Be part of nature

One of the more crucial elements to photographing wildlife, is understanding the subject and environment. It’s why sunrise and sunset photographers praise the golden hour of light, before and after the pinpoint moment when the sun rises and sets. When on one of our safaris, guides play a crucial role in this, knowing when animals hunt, sleep, play, give birth and more, are excellent ways to better your chances of capturing that unique photographic moment. Another part of this is patience, getting out in nature, setting your camera/tripod and simply waiting for the moment. Professional photographers will spend hours, days and weeks waiting for that perfect moment and perfect shot, so don’t be down on yourself if that moment doesn’t come along for you, have patience and enjoy the outdoors – you never know when your subject will jump into the viewfinder.

A critical conservation element is protecting habitat and this is especially true for lions © Paul Tully
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#PhotographyTips How To Better Your Wildlife Photography … via @bettersafaris #wildlifephotography #animalphotography #naturephotography

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