Top Tips for Photographing Wildlife


You need to have a reason to be a wildlife photographer, a passion that drives you to get better and better. You don’t have to be a pro to take great wildlife photos. In fact, there are many great photographers out there who are not pros. With that outlook you will always have many wonderful wildlife experiences to take with you to the grave or share with your family and friends.

There is no tomorrow so just be aware that what you see today and what happens tomorrow are two different things, you make the choice.

If something caught your eye and inspired you ‘today’, then it probably was worth taking the time to photograph

Photography is not a chore, you don’t have to get every shot, just don’t regret it later if you pass by a chance.

The name of the game in wildlife photography—whether you’re trying to capture a herd of wild horses in Idaho or squirrels in your backyard—is patience. Wild animals are going to do what they’re going to do. Unfortunately, you can’t ask them to look this way, do something cute, or stand where the light is better. You have to be there, and ready, when they decide to look cute or do something interesting. Be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait—it takes a long time to get good wildlife shots, even longer to make great ones.

But this is not wasted time. The longer you spend with an animal or a group of animals, the better you get to know them and their habits. You get to see the personalities of different individuals, and you’ll get to the point where you can anticipate what they might do at a particular time of day or in a certain situation. Knowing which cubs are more playful or in which spot a male likes to lie up will help you get your images.

Telephoto lenses are a must for wildlife photography—how long depends on how close you can get and on the size of your subject. Birds, small and flighty, need really long lenses. So do animals that are shy.

Long lenses need support. When hiking or otherwise traveling on foot, a tripod is the norm.

Another thing to remember when photographing wildlife is the old “push/pull.” Animals have personalities, and you want to show that. But you don’t want to be working really tight with long lenses all the time. You need to show their environment too—habitat says a lot. Back off and use wide-angle lenses to give viewers a sense of where the animals live.

There are places on this earth where animals behave differently and don’t see humans as a threat and there are places where animals are much hunted (shot at) on a regular basis and behave totally different. So depending on where you go to photograph and what type of animal you photograph you may need to hide yourself and your approach to the animal to get within that critical shooting distance (usually closer than you think) where photographs reveal all their detail and sharpness. Sometimes you will need to consider camouflage as a tool to hide you and your camera or to use the environment to the same effect. It’s really up to you when to decide such tactics are needed and again it depends on the animal and the situation and / or location.

Consider A hunting blind like a small camouflage tent with small opening for gun or camera (a hunter’s blind) or a bush or tree to hide behind while photographing.

When you’re out photographing wildlife, don’t just pay attention to what are called the charismatic megafauna—the big animals that get most of our attention. Of course we all want good photos of the big guys, but there are many other forms of life around. Some of them are really beautiful, and all of them are interesting. Whenever you’re out there, whether hiking or sitting in your car waiting for something to happen, look around. You’ll be amazed at what you might discover. Photograph that too!

Golden Hours is the first hour of light in the morning and the last hour of light at the end of the day. There are many reasons why the golden hour is a great time to shoot photos, but the three reasons I want to mention are the tone of the light, the soft diffused light produced and the height of the sun relative to the subject.

Check the weather. Photographing moose / elk / deer or other large antlered animals is most of the time better done on an overcast day. However, shooting birds or having the sky image with that overcast could end in horrible results