December - January Issue Issue Archive

Wildlife Photography

By Lucas Iturriza

Wildlife photography is not an easy exploit because you are dealing with unpredictable, untamed creatures that can’t be paid to stand still to strike a pose. This is exactly what makes taking that perfect shot so magical.
  1. Patience is a virtue. Dedicate time to observe the behavior of the animal you want to photograph. Try to be as discrete as possible to avoid spooking it.

  2. A telephoto lens or zoom is a must – ideally with a focal length of 300mm or more. Point and shoot cameras come with either digital zoom – which is bad and lacks definition – or optic zoom of ideally X12 or more.

  3. Focus your photo on the animal’s eyes as you would in a human portrait to catch its gaze, ideally at the height of its head.
  4. Flash is out of the question as it is often prohibited, or it will scare away your target. If you have no other choice, you better plan well, as you will have just once chance.

  5. Choosing ISO, aperture and speed: Decide what kind of photo effect you want. If you want to freeze a moving animal, set your shutter speed between 1/125 and 1/1000 minimum, depending on its speed. With a point and shoot you can select “sports” mode. If you want movement in the picture, you would choose an exposure between 1/4 and 1/10. You can create a panning effect if you take a picture in slow motion while following the animal’s movement with your lens. If you set the aperture wide open between f2 and f2.8, only the animal will come out clear with a blurry background, which is ideal for animals in captivity to hide background elements. If you prefer a crisp and clear background, close the aperture to somewhere between f11 and f22.

  6. The best lighting is at dusk or dawn. For daytime photography, cloudy days are best to avoid hard shadows, as if you had a giant soft box in the sky.

  7. A Macro lens is key for insects, frogs and other small animals that stay decently still. Nikon’s 105mm f/2.8 lens or 60mm f/4-5.6 lens are the best, whereas the 70-300 Sigma-macro f/4-5.6 is a cheaper yet dignified runner up.

  8. Take as many photos as you can. Always bring extra memory cards and batteries to avoid missing the right moment.

  9. If your camera has RAW format, use it instead of JPEG. With RAW formatting, you can do touch-ups never before imagined on Photoshop like fixing the exposure and temperature of a photo.

  10. If you use a reflex (Digital SLR) or any camera that does not have an LCD screen, you should always have someone with you with a view of your surroundings. Why? Imagine shutting everything out to take a picture of a bunny. You may miss the award-winning photo of a falcon swooping down to snatch your bunny up for dinner. If you are photographing alone, always keep both eyes open.
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