Field Tips for Wildlife Photography

Traditionally identified as an unconventional profession, photography has found novel glory and fame with the advent of web 2.0 and social media. They serve as a global platform to learn, explore and get your skills polished & certified. Online photography courses by experts have the ability to elevate amataur skills born out of a hobby into professional finesse. 

Whether you want to find your footing in the realm of wildlife photography or want to find tips & tricks to polish your existing skills, these expert tips are sure to add a lot of value to your craft.

Tiger/ Ranthambore
Tiger From Ranthambore National Park

Experiment with the ISO 

The native ISO of professional cameras can range from 100 to 6400. And, in some it can go as low as 25. Do not be afraid to play around with the different ISO settings under different lighting conditions for breathtaking results. A good rule of thumb for wildlife photography is to set your ISO around 400 to 800. This range allows for the perfect shutter speed to capture swiftly sprinting animals in the wild. Be wary of the fact that higher ISO tends to introduce more noise into your shot, giving it a more pixelated appearance. This noise can be removed in post-production.

Reddy Shelduck
Ruddy Shelduck shot at ISO 400

Depth of Field

Balancing your depth of field between f2.8 and f4 can render noise free photographs. Some of the most striking wildlife portrait shots have been captured with the depth of field ranging from f2.8 to f5.6. This range gives a shallower depth of field creating the coveted blurry background. The shorter the camera-subject distance, the shallower the depth of field. 

Manipulating your angles to create more distance between the subject and the background can also create a beautifully blurred effect. For example, clicking your subject from a lower angle close to the ground extends the background behind the subject. While clicking them from a top angle the ground becomes the background, thereby, reducing the distance. Resultantly, it fails to bring in the blurred out effect.  

Spotted Deer
Spotted Deer shot using 400mm at f 2.8

Increasing the focal length of your lens can is also a tried and tested method of creating a blurry background with a shallow depth of field. On the other hand, to shoot in landscape, go for a deeper DOF ranging from f8-16.0.

Adjusting the light settings

While shooting with the high key technique, make sure the midtones and shadows are not dominant in the scene. Depending upon how much of your image you’re trying to capture in the high-key mode, control the overexposure accordingly. Keep the ISO of your camera at 100 or below. 

High-key photography, although a technique best used in controlled environments, creates stunning photographs in the wildlife. An overcast day is perfect for trying out high-key photography in the wild. With maximum pixels concentrated in the shadow area, opt for an appropriate spot or partial metering mode. Choose your subject carefully for this technique. Animals with darker tones and patterns make for great subjects. 

High key image of Indian Peafowl
High Key Image of Indian Peafowl

Camouflaging during wildlife photography

A lot of times, in order to get closer to your subject, your profession will need you to blend in with the environment that you’re shooting. Invest in camouflaging gears like:

A lot of times, in order to get closer to your subject, your profession will need you to blend in with the environment that you’re shooting. Invest in camouflaging gears like:

  • Bag Hide
  • Lens Coat
  • Travel Hoods
  • Fingerglass Gloves
  • Camera Body Skins
  • Tripod Leg Protectors
  • Camera Rest Bean-bag
  • Camo Patterned tent
  • Classic Khaki Photographer’s Vest

A photo blind also allows you to camouflage and photograph wildlife in its natural habitat. Locate your blinds in places like holes, dens and food sources.

Lenses to opt for:

While choosing lenses for wildlife photography, go for the ones with a focal length of 300 mm or above. In case you’re shooting with a DSLR, lenses with a focal length ranging from 70-300 mm would also serve you the purpose. Mirror-less camera lenses provide advantages of autofocusing with moving subjects. With no need for lens calibrations, these lenses have a silent shooting mode while maintaining fast frame rates. With an in-body stabilization (IBIS) feature, mirror less camera lenses track the camera’s lateral motion and shift the sensor according to the motion.

Composition

You’ll not want to scare your subject away by going too close, isn’t it? Choose a lens which has a higher degree of magnification, so you can shoot from a distance without disturbing the animals. Lenses also help you to isolate the landscape details, alongside providing image stabilization.

For capturing a shot that has an impact, use the rule of thirds. Focus on the elements that you want to keep in the composition and the ones you want to be left out. Avoid tight photography composition to refrain from making the subject appear suffocated.

Composition/ Indian Peafowl
Indian Peafowl

To enhance your knowledge about everything, from wildlife photography gears to techniques that help you capture best shots, enrol for courses at Sudhir Shivaram Photography. 

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