Nowadays, photography enthusiasts, amateur photographers, and professionals alike have greater freedom to explore a range of subjects and artistic styles, such as wildlife photography. One of the more challenging photography genres, with wildlife photography involving capturing animals in their natural habitat, patience, technique, and talent are at the core of this complex genre. With such unique framing and composition, it’s no wonder this photography style has produced the likes of wildlife photography legends Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe, and Nick Brandt.
For enthusiasts and amateur photographers, taking online courses on wildlife photography is a good place to start before venturing out to capture those perfect shots. Here’s a selection of expert-backed tips to elevate your wildlife shots, whether you’re a beginner out in the field for the first time or a professional interested in taking your wildlife photography to the next level.
When it comes to photography, having the correct gear is essential. National Geographic veteran Bob Caputo swears by telephoto lenses, calling them “a must for wildlife photography.” Deciding on the length of your lenses depends on your subject’s size and how close you can get. While shorter telephoto lenses may work for larger or more tolerant animals, smaller or airborne subjects like birds require lenses up to 600mm or more in length.
It’s a love-hate relationship between photographers and telephoto lenses. On the one hand, super-telephoto lenses allow better fields of view of your subject, on the other, they can weigh well over 10 lbs and be a struggle to lug around in the wild.
Regardless of what length you go with, keep in mind that the longer your lens, the more sensitive they are; even the slightest movement can result in a blurry shot. One solution can be to use the fastest shutter speed that your ideal field of depth permits to get the sharpest shots.
One of the cardinal rules of wildlife photography is to bask in the golden hour – the warm glow of the early morning or late afternoon that gives photographers the best light for shooting brilliant images.
San Francisco-based photojournalist Catherine Karnow suggests scouting locations ahead of time and planning where you want to be situated when that golden hour hits. Light changes fast, so it’s important to be at the right place at the right time to get the best possible shot.
Getting the exposure right is crucial for wildlife photographers who often shoot rapidly moving subjects under unpredictable conditions, which means you might not get a second chance if you miss your shot. British wildlife photographer and entrepreneur Will Burrard-Lucas advises shooting in RAW to ensure that you capture and maintain as much image data, allowing for adjustments and non-destructive editing of your images later on.
Mastering exposure and learning the significance of histograms in photography are part and parcel of getting a wildlife photography certification online. Understanding histograms help in achieving the right exposure for wildlife photos, especially when shooting in challenging light conditions.
Framing and composition are at the heart of great photography. When it comes to shooting wild animals, Australian wildlife photographer Dale Morris prefers to get down and dirty – in every sense.
Low-angle photography can produce dramatic results by bringing the viewer into the scene and inviting them into the frame of mind and perspective of your subject. Morris recommends using macro lenses for low-angle shots because they lend a sense of depth and atmosphere to subjects photographed at eye-level or lower.
Subject & Environment
Spending more time with an animal offers you the opportunity to get to know their personalities and habits much better.
This is an extremely valuable skill to add to your wildlife photography arsenal since much of the genre is about capturing fleeting scenes, quirky behaviors, and interesting poses of animals. Photographers have a better chance of capturing these ‘money shots’ the more familiar they are with their subjects, allowing them to anticipate what the animals are about to do next.
As much as you want to showcase the personalities of your subjects, their habitats also have a lot to say. Wildlife photography is just as much about the animals’ environment and how they live as it is about their physical appearance. Pulling back and using wide-angle lenses to let the viewers discern where and how your subjects live can deliver just as much as your tight shots.
Once a specialism of photojournalists, conservationists, and specialists, greater accessibility to professional editing tools and equipment has evened out the playing field for hobbyists and amateur photographers to explore wildlife photography.
With one of the greatest biodiversities on the planet, Australia boasts enviable wildlife scenes and picturesque landscapes. Beginners and aspiring wildlife photographers may want to look into taking online photography courses in Australia as a stepping stone into wildlife photography.
Ready to foray into the wilderness? Don’t forget to pack our expert-backed tips, along with your gear and those telephoto lenses.