Getting Into Wildlife Photography

If you're interested in getting into wildlife photography, it's important to understand that it's not just about taking pictures.

With practice you will transform from a mere observer into a storyteller, connecting those who view your photos to the natural world.

You'll have the unique opportunity to capture the strength, fragility, power, and elegance of animals, birds and their surroundings. By immersing yourself in their world you will gain an appreciation for how all livings things are interconnected.

Join me on the journey of a wildlife photographer, from the initial fascination with animals to the triumph of capturing their essence through the lens. When I come to the end of my days my epitaph might read:

Here lies a wildlife photographer who captured the essence of wild creatures, immortalizing their spirit through my lens, and forever preserving their stories for generations to come.

Choosing The Right Gear

When getting into wildlife photography, choose the best camera equipment within your budget.

Which Lenses Will You Need?

Choosing good quality interchangeable lenses for your camera is vital in capturing high-quality images. They can greatly impact the overall sharpness, clarity, and depth of your photos. So, it's important to invest in good "glass" that suits your needs and preferences.

Sharpen Your Shots in Post Processing

If you become passionate about photography and plan to pursue it as a long-term hobby or even a profession, it may be worth considering upgrading your gear.

However, instead of starting from scratch and buying a completely new system, a smarter approach would be to choose a new camera body that is compatible with the lenses you already own.

By opting for a camera that takes the same lenses, you can save a significant amount of money.

Two starlings on a branchA long lens allowed me to keep back and not interrupt the action here

Plus, you'll be able to continue using the lenses you're familiar with and that have already proven to deliver great results. This way, you can focus on improving your photography skills without worrying about compatibility issues or the added expense of buying new lenses.

A diverse collection of lenses provides you with the flexibility to capture a range of subjects and perspectives in your wildlife photos.

Super Telephotos Lenses for Bringing Things Closer

Super-telephoto lenses, such as 150-600mm or 100-400mm, are ideal for beginners. They allow you to get up close and personal with your subjects while retaining a safe distance.

Macro Lenses for Capturing the Smallest Subjects

Macro lenses are a gateway to the miniature worlds of insects, such as dragonflies or  butterflies, along with other tiny subjects. These specialised lenses allow you to get extremely close to your subjects, revealing details invisible to the naked eye. 

Wide Angle Lenses have Their Place Too

Consider incorporating wide-angle lenses into your arsenal. These lenses can help you capture intimate moments between animals, showcasing their habitat, and emphasizing their scale.

Experiment with different lenses to find the perfect combination for your unique wildlife photography style.

The Best Camera for Getting Into Wildlife Photography

Investing in a good camera is a wise decision if you're planning on getting into wildlife photography. These cameras come with a range of features that can greatly enhance your photos.

Let's take a closer look at some of these features and how they can contribute to producing striking images.

  • Wildlife photography often involves capturing fast-moving subjects, and having a camera with outstanding autofocus will help you keep your subjects in sharp focus. 
  • Additionally, high-ISO capabilities are crucial for wildlife photography, especially in low-light situations. A camera that can handle high ISO settings will give you sharp photos without significant noise or grain.
  • When considering a camera, note whether it has a high burst mode. Burst mode refers to the camera's ability to capture multiple photos in rapid succession. This can be particularly useful when photographing fast-moving subjects or capturing a series of action shots.
  • It's also important to consider the buffer capacity of the camera. The buffer is the temporary storage space where the camera stores the images before writing them to the memory card. A larger buffer allows the camera to capture more photos in quick succession without slowing down. This is especially important if you plan on shooting in burst mode for extended periods.
  • Another consideration is weather resistance. When photographing wildlife, you may find yourself in various outdoor conditions, including rain, snow, or extreme temperatures.

A camera with weather sealing will provide protection against moisture and dust, ensuring that you can continue shooting even in challenging environments.

Wildlife photography often involves working with challenging contrasts. By mastering histograms, you can learn how to make a dark photo brighter by balancing the shadows and highlights. 

red-fox-showing-tongueUsing burst mode allowed me to catch the foxes tongue just poking out

Keeping Your Camera Steady

Having a stable camera is crucial to capturing perfect shots.

While it is not absolutely necessary to have a tripod or monopod, they can enhance your photography experience and improve the quality of your images.

By adding ground level supports to your gear, you'll have more flexibility in your shooting angles and be able to capture those stunning, up-close-and-personal shots that truly stand out.

Let's explore the benefits of each kind of support to help you decide which option is best for you.


A tripod is a three-legged stand that provides maximum stability for your camera.

Here's why you might use one for wildlife photography:

  • It eliminates camera shake caused by hand-holding, resulting in crisper and clearer shots.
  • It allows you to use longer shutter speeds without worrying about blurring the image.
  • It helps you compose your shots more precisely.
  • It prevents your arm from aching when waiting for your subject to appear


A monopod is a single-legged stand that offers a bit more flexibility compared to a tripod.

Here are the benefits of this option:

  • Portability: Monopods are lighter and easier to carry than tripods.
  • Mobility: Monopods provide stability while allowing you to pan and track your subjects more easily.
  • Versatility: Monopods can also double as a walking stick or support for your camera bag.

Ground Level Supports for Low-Angle Photography

Ground level supports like beanbags or low-profile tripods can be your best friends when attempting low-angle photography

  • They provide a stable base for your camera, reducing shake and allowing for sharper images.
  • They're versatile and you can placed them on various surfaces, including uneven terrain.
  • They're relatively lightweight and portable, making them a great option for photographers on the move.

Ultimately, the decision to use a tripod, monopod or beanbag for wildlife photography depends on your shooting style, the wildlife you're capturing, and your personal preferences.

Consider factors such as weight, portability, and the shooting conditions you typically encounter.

How to Change Camera Settings

To get the best out of your camera, you will need to learn how to change your settings

This section covers:

  • The significance of aperture and shutter priority modes
  • Achieving the right balance between aperture and depth of field
  • Maintaining fast shutter speeds
  • Managing ISO levels
  • The effective use of continuous autofocus

Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority Modes

Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes offer semi-automatic control, allowing you to focus on specific aspects of exposure while the camera takes care of the rest. There is also Manual mode but if you are just getting into wildlife photography it is good to get the camera to help you out.

Aperture priority mode lets you set the aperture while the camera adjusts the shutter speed, perfect for controlling depth of field and making your subject stand out.

On the other hand, Shutter priority mode enables you to set the shutter speed manually, crucial for capturing fast-moving subjects or controlling motion blur.

Balancing aperture and depth of field

The aperture is like the pupil of your lenses eye. It controls how much light gets in.

The smaller the f-number (like F2.8) means a larger opening and more light coming in. A larger f-number (like F16) means a smaller opening and less light coming in.

So, how can you use this to your advantage?

Well, the aperture not only controls light but also depth of field. A photo with a shallow depth of field will have one thing in focus and the rest blurred.

A photo with a large depth of field will have everything in focus, from front to back. 

Choosing what is most important for your photo is a balancing act. Do you need lots of light to reach the camera sensor, or do you want everything in focus? 

Is a fast shutter speed Necessary?

frozen water droplets as the robin bathesA shutter speed of 1/1600th of a second was enough to freeze the water droplets

When it comes to wildlife photography, finding the right balance between aperture and shutter speed is crucial. This balance will help you capture sharp, well-exposed images.

Fast shutter speeds freeze motion and ensure sharp and clear photos, even with the most unpredictable wildlife.

The shutter speed denotes how long the camera’s sensor is exposed to the light.

A good starting point is to set your shutter speed to at least 1/500th of a second. However, if you're capturing fast-moving animals, you might need an even faster shutter speed, such as 1/1000th of a second or higher. Flying birds may require 1/2000th of a second at least.

Remember, finding the right balance between aperture and shutter speed is a matter of experimentation and experience.

Don't be afraid to try different settings and review your results to see what works best for your specific situation. Over time, you'll develop a sense of what settings suit different wildlife photography scenarios.

Managing ISO levels

When it comes to managing ISO levels while taking wildlife photos, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. ISO, which stands for International Organization for Standardization, refers to the sensitivity of your camera's image sensor to light.

By adjusting the ISO setting, you can control how your camera responds to different lighting conditions.

A mid-range ISO between 400 and 800 serves as a suitable starting point for most situations.

In low-light conditions, increasing the ISO will allow you to maintain a fast shutter speed while still capturing enough light. 

While increasing ISO can help compensate for low light, it can also introduce noise and reduce image quality. Experiment with different settings to find the optimal combination that allows you to capture sharp and well-exposed wildlife photos.

Good or Bad Lighting?

Ah, the age-old question about light. Many wildlife photographers indeed claim that there is no such thing as bad light when it comes to capturing wildlife.

But is this statement really true? Let's explore this concept together.

It's important to understand that light plays a crucial role in any form of photography.  The quality and direction of light can greatly impact the mood, atmosphere, and overall aesthetic of your images.

So, in a sense, there is some truth to the claim that there is no bad light.

However, it's essential to note that not all lighting conditions are created equal, and some situations may pose challenges that require a bit of finesse to overcome.

The ideal lighting conditions often involve soft, diffused light. This type of light helps minimize harsh shadows and highlights, resulting in more even exposure and better color rendition.

Early morning and late afternoon, also known as the golden hours, are often favored by photographers due to the warm and gentle light they provide. These magical times of day create long shadows and a peaceful atmosphere.

That being said, wildlife photography rarely allows us the luxury of choosing our lighting conditions. Animals don't always cooperate with our schedules, and sometimes we find ourselves shooting in less-than-ideal lighting situations. This is where the skill and creativity of a photographer come into play.

Backlighting for instance, where the light source is positioned behind the subject, can create dramatic and moody images in wildlife photography. The light creates a glowing outline of the subject, adding depth and a dreamy, ethereal look to your images.

Make the Most of Fog and Mist

Misty mornings can provide a serene and magical atmosphere. To fully capture the beauty of these weather conditions, there are a few key elements to consider.

A camera with a wide-angle lens can help you capture the expansive nature of the fog or mist. A tripod can be invaluable in keeping your shots steady, especially in low light conditions. Don't forget to bring a lens cloth to wipe away any condensation that may accumulate on your lens.

Composition is important when shooting in fog or mist. Look for elements that can add depth and interest to your photographs. Trees or buildings can create a sense of scale and provide a focal point.

Don't be afraid to play with exposure settings to achieve the desired effect. The fog or mist can act as a natural diffuser, softening the light and creating a sense of mystery. Experiment with slightly longer exposures to capture the subtle movements of the mist and the way it interacts with the surrounding environment.

Time to get started!

Getting into wildlife photography is an incredibly fulfilling pursuit that allows us to forge a profound connection with the natural world.

By immersing ourselves in the habitats and lives of animals, we gain a deeper understanding of the intricate web of life that surrounds us.

But it’s not just about capturing a single moment in time.

It is about conveying the beauty and significance of these creatures to future generations. By honing your skills, enjoying the wonders of nature, and telling captivating visual stories, you can contribute to the preservation and appreciation of wildlife for years to come.

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