Wildlife photography is anything but a walk in the park. It requires a certain skill that needs to be practiced again and again to get it just right, a good eye capable of quickly evaluating a scene to get that perfect angle, and a healthy dose of patience.
Not all wildlife images are going to catch your eye. This could be because the photographer is trigger happy and clicking away without much thought, hoping to capture something amazing. Or it could be because the photographer is missing a few of the basic skills necessary to bring the image to life.
Luckily, with the digital cameras of today, you have ample opportunity to play around and take as many blurring, uninspiring photos as you like. This is the only way you are really going to learn, and since you won’t be wasting film, you can click away until you have the basics down and your style sorted.
Whether it is the cheapest point and shoot, or the priciest DSLR camera, if you don’t know your gear, your photos won’t be what you expect. Read up on your camera, watch all the YouTube guides, and do your research so you know which buttons do what. This way, you will have full control over things like composition, exposure and aperture, which will help you create art.
But first know the rules. Photography is meant to be a form of art and if you are caught up in the rules and what is “meant” to be done, your particular style will be stunted and you will do whatever everyone else is doing. There are already enough other photographers out there, but there is only one of you, so make your own rules.
This is important because you’ll want to know where to place them in your image so that you can highlight them in the best possible way. With wildlife photography, your subject is not going to behave as you expect and they are not going to stay still for long. By knowing your subject, you can stay ahead of them and guess their behaviour, allowing you to take that picture before they move on. This is why going on a photo safari is probably the best thing you could do for your wildlife photos.
Wildlife photography is undoubtedly going to rely quite heavily on natural lighting. You’ll want to make full use of the golden hour, which is the hour or so after sunrise and before sunset. This light is the most majestic. During the morning, the light is bright and soft while in the late afternoon it can be more dramatic. Midday lighting (from around 11:00 to 16:00) is quite harsh and can end up blowing up your pictures with a white light that ends up blocking the details. With wildlife photography, it pays to get up early. And getting up early has another advantage in that animals are often best seen during this time of day.
If you are travelling on your own, or as a part of a photography safari, it is important that the experience isn’t rushed. The scene you are photographing can change in an instant, and what was initially quite a boring set up can suddenly come alive. It’s important that you take your time, pack enough snacks and drinks, and see what happens next.