Words by Emma Kay
Unfortunately, wildlife can be very illusive when you want to photograph it. Here are some top tips for getting that great wildlife shot.
You can be out in the open for a long time waiting for your subject to emerge. Some of the more illusive wildlife will only come out at twilight or dawn, like rabbits. This means that it can get quite cold, especially in the winter months, so make sure that you wrap up warm. If you are serious about getting into photographing wildlife, consider investing in a hide. These will help to conceal you more in your location, and provide some shelter from harsh weather conditions such as wind and rain.
Take the right gear
To capture frame-filling photos of illusive deer and other native animals that can be shy, you will need a long zoom. You'll also need a tripod to help keep images blur-free and to stop your arms getting tired when using longer lenses.
As you can see from the shot of the robin, a longer zoom lens will pull your subject towards you, filling the frame in the process which will stop the animal looking tiny in the middle of your shot. A longer lens will also make it easier to blur the background, drawing all attention to your subject.
Photo courtesy of Peter Bargh
What if I use a compact?
Alot of wildlife is timid and scares easily, so you will probably need to be quite a way away from your subject to avoid spooking it. Compact cameras can vary in their zoom length, but many now have decent zooms, which means you can create more frame-filling shots. Of course, a compact is not really going to give you the zoom you need to really get intimate shots of your shyer or smaller animals out in the wild. Instead, you might have more luck at a zoo or safari park if you want to try your hand at wildlife photography before investing in a camera better equipped for the job.
Shutter speeds and blur
Wild animals, particularly birds who quickly turn their heads into different positions, have a tendency of moving just as you take a shot, resulting in blur.
This is not always a bad thing if you are trying to convey movement, but when it is unwanted, blur can ruin photos. To combat this, you need to use a higher shutter speed.
DSLR users and most advanced compact users can switch to shutter speed priority to choose a higher shutter speed to stop any unwanted blur. If you find your image still blurs, increase the shutter speed some more until you get the required result. Some of the smaller model compacts might not have a specific shutter speed setting, so your best bet is to put the camera in sports mode, or kids and pets mode, or something similar, aimed at catching fast moving objects.
The main focal point of your photo will be the animal you are photographing so ensure it's sharp before you hit the shutter button. Throwing the background out of focus can look great, however this can cause parts of your subject, particularly when working with small subjects such as birds, to also go out of focus. If this happens, try using a slightly smaller aperture as getting the subject sharp is what's most important.