When it comes down to it – wildlife photography is about being willing to wait. You aren’t likely to just walk up a get that fantastic shot you were hoping for. Start by doing your research – find our where the animals hang out, what time of year they are most likely to be there, and what time of day they are most active.
And once you’re there – be prepared to hang out for a while. Find a place to watch and wait – and take lots of photographs. If I’m photographing birds or other fast-moving creatures, I like to use a fast shutter speed and set my camera to take the maximum six shots per second in case one of these beauties decides to take off for me. But don’t just point the camera and fire off five-hundred photos. You’ll have to wade through all those shots later. Be ready to shoot – but don’t overdo it.
Pay attention to the light while you are shooting. Bright light means you can use a faster shutter speed – but if the light is harsh, you’ll end up with blown highlights are very dark shadows. I love shooting wildlife in the shade or on slightly overcast days. Clouds make great diffusers – and the the soft, even lighting is easy to work with. Soft, directional lighting – think early morning or late evening – is also really beautiful. My goal is to show the textures in the fur, the catch-light in the eyes, and an interesting pose.
I also like to use predictive auto focusing (that’s “AI Servo” for Canon users). In AI Servo mode, the camera automatically adjusts the focus to follow any object that is moving in a predictable pattern. It’s a great help for birds in flight, animals on the move… or children playing soccer. As far as I’m concerned, photographing my kids is no different from shooting wildlife. 😉
For animal portraits, I like to use a narrow depth of field to help blur out the background – but make sure you keep that eye nice a sharp, no matter what! Watch for interesting poses, pleasing angles, and action shots. And just have fun with it! Animals are so much fun to shoot… you never know what they’re going to do!