Wildlife photography is one of the most demanding subjects to photograph. The subjects are elusive, and the techniques require precision. But it’s not impossible.
In her latest post our head of testing, Angela Nicholson, takes a look at some of the most common mistakes that photographers make when shooting wildlife photography and gives some advice on how to overcome them.
Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 01 Subject too small in the frame
One of the main problems with photographing wildlife is that the vast majority of species don’t like to be close to humans.
This means that we need to employ some cunning and very long telephoto lenses to make the subject a reasonable size in the image.
Professional wildlife photographers spend a lot of money on their kit, selecting top-end cameras with high continuous shooting rates and impressive pixel counts.
These are matched with high-quality long telephoto lenses with focal lengths of around 300-500mm that enable them to frame a subject tightly from a distance.
Even with this kit, however, the most important assets that a pro wildlife photographer has are an understanding of the subject and the time and patience to wait for the right shot.
Timing is far more important than the ability to fire off a series of shots in super-quick succession.
Camouflage and hides are a great way of getting close to a subject, but you need to know where to set it up. Research your subject to find out where you need to be and at what time.
Discover its habits, where it lives, what it eats, when it has young and whether it has protected status.
You need to know enough about your subject to be able to photograph it without it being aware of your presence.
Wildlife photography made easy: simple techniques for pro-quality pictures
Free bird photography cheat sheet
Wildlife photography in any environment: free photography cheat sheet
Zoo photography: a fool-proof method for capturing animals through glass
Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 02 Subject not in focus
Automatic AF point selection systems often look for the nearest object towards the centre of the frame, so if you let your camera choose the AF point itself your subject may not be in focus.
This is especially true if your intended target is surrounded by vegetation, it’s easy for your camera to lock onto the wrong part of the scene.
Consequently, it’s essential that you select the AF point yourself.
Your camera’s manual will explain exactly what to do, but the option you’re looking for is usually called something like Single-point AF or Flexible-spot AF.
Then select the AF point that overlies the subject’s head and half-press the shutter release to focus the lens.
If the subject is moving (they usually are), select Continuous AF mode so that the lens is refocused between shots.
Some autofocus tracking systems do a good job of selecting alternative AF points as the subject moves around the frame, so it’s worth spending sometime reading your camera’s manual to discover the various options and how to select them.
As a general rule, however, try to keep the active AF point over the subject as it moves.
10 common camera mistakes every photographer makes
How to use a camera: exposure modes made simple
99 common photography problems (and how to solve them)
15 common photography questions from beginners (and how to solve them)