Wildlife photography is a popular photographic subject, but it's not one of the easiest photography types to master. Subjects are fast, shy and can be tricky to capture, plus precision and patience are a must which means it's not something we can all get right. With this in mind, we've put together a list of 5 common mistakes along with advice on how to avoid them.
1. Your Subject Is Too Small In The Frame
Wild animals are easily spooked which means getting close to them is usually out of the question. As a result, you may find that your wildlife shots tend to have more of what's surrounding your subject in shot, with your subject looking tiny and lost in its environment. There are times when shooting an environmental portrait of your animal will work but most of the time you'll want to capture frame-filling shots that show sharp eyes. For this you need a telephoto lens (200mm +) as you'll be able to zoom in but still keep a decent distance. If you don't want to rely on super-long lenses, spend an extra half-hour getting closer to the subject instead. Consider investing in a hide or camouflage gear as this will allow you to work closer to your subject without scaring them off.
2. You Didn't Do Your Research
Understanding your subject and knowing where you need to be and at what time are essential if you want to capture a top wildlife shot. Where does your subject call home? What do they eat? When are they most active and for your own safety, it's worth knowing how they'll react if they feel you're a threat.
3. You Didn't Wait Long Enough
Wildlife shots aren't something you can just capture successfully in a couple of off-the-cuff shots because as we've said, animals / birds are easily spooked and it can take some species a while to get used to your presence. Be quiet, sit still and be as inconspicuous as possible. Even if you're using a hide it will still take a while for your subject to feel comfortable so patience is very much the key. If you're photographing birds in your garden consider setting the hide up the day before you want to use it so your garden visitors get used to it.
4. Your Subject Isn't Sharp
Keep longer lenses supported on a monopod or tripod to prevent camera shake spoiling your shots and make sure you're using a fast enough shutter speed to freeze movement. Even small garden birds will move quicker than you think, especially when they're sat still but their heads are continuously twitching. You may also find that depth of field is restricted when using wider apertures so do make sure enough of your subject is sharp. Increasing the ISO will mean you can use a smaller aperture but do be aware of noise. Do zoom in when previewing your shots to check the sharpness of your subject, too.
5. Composition Isn't Great
As you do when photographing a person, always think about your composition before taking your shot. Wait for their heads to turn towards the camera or at least until their face is visible. If they are looking towards the edge of the frame, make sure there's actually space to look into, especially if they're moving. Again, it's important to be patient and be prepared to take more bad photos than good ones as wildlife are unpredictable so you will capture shots that are spoilt by flapping wings, head turns and other movements. Check that you've not clipped a tail or wing with the edge of the frame and try to avoid centered compositions where possible as they tend to look uninteresting.
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