Blog

Wild for Wildlife: 5 Beginner Tips for Photographing Animals

by admin

 

 

First, let me just open with this video:

 

This is everything wrong with how to photograph wild animals. Seriously, I might as well not ever write the article since I could just put a big sign over this video that says “DON’T DO THIS.” But since that would be taking the easy way out, here are a few tips on how to take photos of wild animals while minimizing your chances of having an arm chewed off:

 

 

1) INVEST IN DECENT GEAR

Camera with zoom lens isolated on white

First off, if you’re trying to grab decent photos with your phone or a point-and-shoot, don’t get your hopes up. Look into decent DSLRs (Canon and Nikon entry level or mid-range cameras are a good bet, so look at reviews online and go test out a few at your local camera shop) and invest in a telephoto lens. Since you’ll spend most of your time shooting from far away, aim for a 300mm (or at the very least, a 70-200mm telephoto). Since these lenses can show a lot of shake and can be a little finicky if you’re not used to them, make sure to…

 

 

2) PRACTICE WITH ANIMALS THAT WON’T MAUL YOU

iStock_000027753030XSmall

If you’ve never taken a photo of an animal before but want to impress your Facebook friends with your half-decent shots of bears ripping through the cooler of the camp next to yours (“And that’s when they got into the cereal! Oh, how we laughed and laughed”) try taking a few shots of your cat, dog, budgie, ferret, or illegal pet marsupial before you go charging into the bush with your gear. Unlike your intoxicated friends, wild animals are not going to listen when you ask them to pose for a shot, although – much like your drunk friends – they will not hesitate to charge at you if you invade their personal space (if your friends and the animal in question are also jerks, they may or may not barf on you. This is why you never give owls tequila, ok?). Also, turn off your flash. Seriously, suddenly going all strobe-happy on a skittish deer is a great way to send it racing off back to the forest. If you’re driving along and you spot a bear crossing the road and you think, “Wow, what an amazing shot!” then be sure to…

 

 

3) STAY IN YOUR DAMN CAR (AND STAY ALERT)

African elephant (Loxodonta africana)

I always feel like a wild raving loony when saying this to people, but WILD ANIMALS ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS AND THEY TEND TO BE QUITE TERRITORIAL OH MY GOD GET BACK IN THE STUPID CAR (and I say this as someone who was once attacked by beavers while at my job as an animal care technician. BEAVERS. They are angrier than you’d care to think). I’m not saying that every single deer is secretly a blood-thirsty murder machine bent on impaling unsuspecting families, but if something goes wrong – the mother comes back as you try to get cute shots of the widdle cubs, the ram decides you are trying to make a move on its lady, the birds decide they are suddenly in a Hitchcock film and you are Tippi Hedren – you’re going to want that quick escape. The NatGeo guys who shoot amazing pictures of lions spend weeks trailing them and letting the animals get used to their presence. You are just on the side of the road for 10 minutes and believe me, they don’t trust you and you shouldn’t trust them, which leads me to my next point…

 

 

4) DON’T TRUST THEM AND DON’T FEED THEM

Animals in big parks tend to get used to people and will be bolder when approached by careless tourists. This isn’t a good thing.  Tossing a ram your sandwich may seem awesome at first, but all it does is reinforce behavior that 1) makes them expect food and 2) makes them super pushy about it.  While deer and other grazers will probably rush off at the first sight of people, other animals might approach and again, while this may be great for a quick photo op, this isn’t normal behavior and should be treated with caution. Stay in your car, don’t give them your stupid hoagie, and if something seems off just get out of there. But if you’re tramping around the bush and want to get a nice shot of some rabbits or whatever as they poke their heads out of their rabbit lair, then just be aware that…

 

 

5) PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

Leopard

If you’ve ever seen those Planet Earth documentaries and thought, “Wow, how awesome would it be to be those guys out shooting all that amazing footage of wild animals?” then you should probably be aware of the fact that those guys spend days and days and days and days and days just sitting there, waiting for that damn cheetah to run by. You can’t control the environment you’re in if you’re shooting in nature, you just got to sit back and wait for the magic (or mauling, depending on your luck) to happen. So waterproof your bag, pack a snack, and get ready for a long day of lying belly-down in a pile of leaves while waiting for a deer to run by. I’m sure it will be worth it (well, unless you meet the aforementioned MURDER DEER. If you leave your name in the comments, I’ll be sure to avenge you).

You Might Also Like…