Best camera settings for wildlife photography

The Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography

Camera Recommendations: DSLR VS Mirrorless Digital Camera

Let’s get this out of the way first. There are so many options it’s difficult to navigate the market. Should I use a DSLR, or would a mirrorless be better. Full-frame VS Crop or 4/3. Nikon, Canon, Sony. What is the best camera for wildlife photography. Would the best camera for sports photography also work for birds? If not what would be the best cameras for bird photography? For now, I’m not going to answer this. So much depends on your budget. What feels good in your hands. Can you walk around carrying 50 lbs all day? I could 20 years ago, but not today.

Camera Settings For Wildlife Photography

What are the best camera setting for wildlife photography? In an ideal world, an elephant would stand still and pose, a rainstorm would hold off just long enough for you to get the perfect shot. But it isn’t an ideal world; therefore, we need to adjust and adapt camera settings to the ever-changing conditions. Understanding the best camera settings for wildlife photography teaches you to react to different situations and take spectacular photographs.

There is no such thing as the perfect setting; it all depends on the photographer, the camera, and the subject. There are some tricks and tips to have you best prepared for any eventuality. Adjust settings before you get anywhere near the animals; they won’t wait around while you find the best exposure settings and shutter speed settings.

Why are Wildlife Photography Camera Settings Different?

Many variables are out of our control when photographing anything outdoors. Trying to snatch spontaneous high-quality shots can seem impossible. When it comes down to beautiful beasts, their movement and the lighting conditions are just two issues we have to overcome. The best wildlife images are well-exposed, have sharp subjects, and nothing too fussy going on in the background. These objectives are achievable on any DSLR camera by controlling the depth of field, exposure, and point of focus.

The subject should be well-framed and any movement momentarily frozen in time.

Best Camera Settings for Wildlife Photography and Birds

Let’s assume your camera is at default settings, and you understand what the light conditions are.

White Balance

The first mode to set; controls the colour temperature of your photographs. While you can use auto white balance, we feel that manually setting it works best for wildlife and bird photography. In most instances, daylight setting produces the best tones, both cool and warm ones from dawn ’til dusk.


ISO relates to your camera’s sensor’s sensitivity to light. Increase the number as light fades, from ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and so on, until tens of thousands. The best images happen when the ISO number is low, so as a setting for wildlife photography, we recommend ISO 100 for scenery and ISO 400 for animals.

Auto ISO settings are good but can produce an inferior image unless you set strict parameters.

Shutter priority – In shutter priority mode, you can control the camera’s aperture and ISO automatically. If your subject is moving or in flight such as in bird photography , go with a faster shutter speed to freeze their movement. Conversely, if they’re stationary and not doing much of anything – like an animal sleeping- opt for slower speeds so that more light enters through the lens into the sensor to get better exposure

  • Aperture priority – Aperture Priority is one of the most popular modes on your camera, both amateurs and professional use aperture priority. What is aperture priority? Well, it lets you control the aperture and leaves the shutter speed up to the camera. It’s perfect for photographers who want more control over their pictures, but don’t need to complete manual control of every aspect of photography. It’s also great for beginners because it gives them a little more freedom than manual mode without being overwhelming. You’ll be able to capture images with beautiful depth-of-field effects or use faster shutter speeds in low-light situations without worrying about blurry shots or underexposed photos. And if you’re looking for something new, this mode will give you access to many creative possibilities, like shooting long exposures at night or capturing high-speed action sequences.

Manual –Manual metering mode settings is a great way to get creative with your photography. It’s the perfect tool for those who want total control over their shots. You need to set both aperture and shutter speed, which means you have complete control over the depth of field and how long the camera will be exposed to light. It takes some time getting used to, but it’s worth it in the end!

With manual mode, you will need to experiment with different settings until you find what works best for your style of photography. And if that doesn’t work out? No worries – just switch back to the aperture or shutter priority.

  • Program mode – the automatic camera settings chooses both shutter speed and aperture based on light levels and lens using inbuilt technology. Quick and easy to use, just keep an eye on the histogram. Sometimes this is the best option on game reserves where animals move between ever-changing light and shade levels.

Shutter speeds

When it comes to wildlife photography, there are a few things you need to take into account when making your decision about which camera to buy. One of the most important factors is how many frames per second (fps) the camera can shoot. This will determine how likely you are to capture that perfect shot. Most of the best cameras on the market today shoot 10 or more fps, so if you’re looking for optimum performance, this is something to keep in mind. However, if you’re not as worried about missed opportunities and are willing to take your time with each shot, then a camera that shoots fewer fps may be a better option for you.

Camera Drive Modes

Choose between self-timer, single shot, or continuous. We prefer the latter, a burst of 10/15/20 images from one click. It allows the photographer to choose the best photo or see a series of motion images. Often time animals will blink and if you’re going for that portrait, head shot, closed eyes can ruin an otherwise exceptional photo.

Manual Focus vs AutoFocus Modes

With autofocus, the camera determines the sharpest focus using sensors devoted to measuring it. In autofocus mode, the photographer doesn’t have to do anything. Manual focus is great because the photographer has complete control over where the focal point is. Manual focus is often best used in low-light or night photography where autofocus may not work as well.

But when you’re shooting something that requires a lot of detail or has moving subjects like wildlife, animals running, jumping or in motion, you’ll have to decide autofocus or manual focus. If your subject is close and not moving manual focus, maybe what you want. Both are great options depending on what type of photography you’re doing!

Manual Focus vs Autofocus – which one should you use? It depends on what you’re shooting! If your subject is moving or if there are a lot of distractions in your photo, then an auto-focus may be more effective than manual, it has the ability to quickly refocus without input from you. However, if your subject isn’t moving or there aren’t many distractions in your photo, then manual focus may work better as it allows for greater control over what’s in focus within your frame and some say it can produce sharper images overall since you needn’t worry about whether the camera has found its focal point. They just know where it has been set it beforehand, so they can take their time composing shots while still getting significant results!

Full Frame Vs Crop Sensor Camera

There’s a debate between full-frame and crop sensor cameras regarding which is better, but the truth is that there are advantages to both.
Full frame is normally at higher cost, and weight which can be an issue. With crop sensor camera cost and it weight are less, ‘sometime’. A full frame lens can often fit a FF.
Full frame RAW files are normally a bigger file and noise is easier to control. Again exceptions to every rule.
With a Crop Sensor the lens will give you more reach. IE a 600mm on a FF is 600MM but on a 1.5 crop it’s equivalent to 960mm. HOWEVER, the light required an depth of fields are going to be different.
I carry both a Sony FF and a 4/3 Olympus with a 300mm lens. Why? I can carry the Olympus all day with no problems.

Low Light Capabilities

Wildlife photography requires a lot of patience and often happens in low-light situations. This is because many animals are more active at night or early morning. As the light drops and animals start to emerge, your camera will perform less well. You’ll find yourself needing to increase the ISO speed to make the sensor more sensitive to light and brighten your exposure.

Tripod Monopods for Wildlife

Tripods are more stable and allow for longer exposures, and longer lens. Wind or sudden movements will be reduced when using a tripod. I can step away from the camera to take care of anything I need while still being able to monitor my equipment. Something that would not work with just one leg support.
Monopod has the advantages of small size and lighter weight. Making them ideal if there is little space available or if you are in a hurry to move. If you are in a safari vehicle, it is possible to use a monopod without bothering your friends.

Final Thoughts

You’re about to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa and it’s wildlife parks. You want to make sure you get the best wildlife photos possible. So what are the best wildlife photography settings? We recommend Auto ISO and Aperture priority as a good place to start, for both DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Be prepared, dial in the best settings for wildlife photography, choose the best composition, and click away. It’s not just about getting that perfect shot; it’s also about capturing memories of your experience with friends or family members who are travelling with you. Make sure they’re in your photos too! They’ll love looking back at these pictures years from now when they think back on their time abroad with you. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by! Get out there and take some amazing photographs of Africa’s most iconic animals, and it’s amazing landscapes.

Frequency Asked Questions

What Mode Do Wildlife Photographers Use?

Answer: Most wildlife photography settings by professional photographers use Aperture Priority Mode. Aperture Priority gives you more control over depth of field (which will help show off the subject). Shutter speed of 1/250th or higher will help minimize blur and allow you to capture images in less than ideal nighttime lighting conditions. Finally, use a telephoto lens with Image Stabilization This will minimize camera shake when shooting by hand without a tripod during low light scenes. Having set all that you can use your camera manual mode with Auto ISO for wildlife photography to get spectacular results as well.

What shutter speed should I use for wildlife?

Answer: The typical rule of thumb is 1/500th or faster for wildlife photography. With a fast enough shutter speed, the animal’s movement is stopped by the time the exposure begins, but you’ll still need to focus accurately beforehand.

A good rule of thumb is to go with a shutter speed that allows you to get the photo you want. Fast shutter speeds allow for faster-moving objects and freezing movement. Slower shutter speeds can better capture light when there may be insufficient daylight or artificial lighting sources. The key is finding a speed at which the subject doesn’t appear blurry, so use your camera’s shutter priority mode to experiment with different settings before settling on something too quick or too slow.

What is the best focal length for camera wildlife photography?

Answer: This is a tough question. Clearly, just about any focal length can be used for wildlife photography. However, there may be particular advantages to using long lenses (e.g., 600mm), or medium lenses (e.g., 200mm).

The best focal length for wildlife photography is determined by the size of your subject. Animals that are large or readily identifiable, such as bears and giraffes, usually require 400mm-600mm telephoto Lens. Smaller animals like birds should be photographed with the telephoto at 200mm because they’re too small to fill the frame of your picture at greater distances from you (although there are specific exceptions).

A good rule of thumb is when framing an animal’s face in your viewfinder, try to make sure it takes up 50% to 60% of the frame