If you’ve ever wondered what makes a great wildlife photo, then you’ve come to the right place.
It is easy to pose a group of adults in a studio with the optimum lighting set up and the camera poised to perfection. Not quite so easy with a leaping gazelle or a pride of lion cubs playing in the grasses. You could try asking the animals to move into better light or ask them to stare straight down the lens, but I don’t fancy your chances of success!
In my opinion, a great wildlife photo is the perfect combination of subject, composition, knowledge of your camera and its best settings, a whole heap of patience, and a generous sprinkling of good luck.
What Are the Qualities of a Great Wildlife Photograph?
The best photos enable the viewer to see a real connection between the photographer and the wild animal; they convey real emotion. When the picture features more than one creature, the relationship between the animals at that particular second in time shines through. It can be a shared look between a parent and its young, birds of different species roosting on a shared tree, or the moment that a predator sets eyes on its prey.
With creative use of lighting, contrast, and tone, a photographer can turn a good shot into a great wildlife photo. Try to set a mood, whether joyous, somber, moody, or full of anticipation – viewers engage with meaningful photography and read the story that one image has to tell.
How Do You Shoot Wildlife Photos?
Know your stuff
Never go out blind in the hope of stumbling across good subjects to shoot; find out exactly where and when you’re most likely to get great wildlife photos. Instead, spend a short while researching the species that inhabit your chosen area, Google their typical behaviors, and enlighten yourself on their hunting and resting patterns.
A little know-how goes a long way when you recognize the signs of a bird preparing for take-off or a big cat bracing itself in readiness to pounce on its prey.
The best wildlife photograph can be as much about the surroundings as it is about the animal.
Good pictures fill the frame with all things interesting. That can be a close-up of the animal’s face, or it can take center stage with its habitat in the background.
Whichever you choose, ensure the backdrop doesn’t detract from the creature. It should highlight it, tell another part of its story and show it off in all of its magnificence.
Get to know acceptable depths of field, the distance between the closest and furthest objects in a picture that remains in focus. A large depth of field results in huge landscapes appearing crisp and sharp, small depths only focus on the nearest subject, leaving the outer frame of the image out of focus and blurred.
Eye contact lets the viewer see into the soul of the wild beast, so get down low, have the height of the lens level with their eyes.
When you have chosen your subject or the habitat that attracts the most wildlife traffic, prepare to wait; and then wait some more.
This time allows you to learn more about wild animals, their traits, and their personalities. The longer you watch them in their natural state, the greater your chance of pre-empting a great wildlife photo.
You might spend time figuring what makes a great wildlife photo and settle on bright sunshine for the best possible lighting. Often that works well, with the angle of the sun changing the outcome of each photograph.
But, don’t be fooled; even amateur photographers understand the natural wonder that the Golden Hour at sunrise and sunset offer.
Some of the best wild animal images rely on shade and silhouette for the most dramatic effect.
Wildlife shots in snowy or rainy situations are a fantastic photo opportunity; diverse climates add new dimensions to pictures.
The best camera and lens that you can afford goes a long way to making a great wildlife photo. As wild animals are at their most active during dawn and dusk, you must learn how to set your camera for low light conditions. Cameras with a high ISO value have a sensor that is more sensitive to light.
It can be difficult to keep the shutter speeds high enough to eliminate blurring, especially when you may be shooting into or from beneath shade.
Get to know your camera, learn all of its settings, and which are best for your requirements.
Invest in a couple of good lenses, a telephoto one fr zooming on those larger beasts that it isn’t safe to get too close. A good wide-angle lens enables the user to stay at a safe distance and capture large groups of animals or solitary ones in their natural habitat.
Conclusion – What Makes a Great Wildlife Photo
Multiple factors combine to make a great wildlife photo, not least of all luck.
It doesn’t matter how professional you or your camera equipment are or how patient you have been, sometimes the wild animal just won’t come out to play.
Never give up; keep photographing, keep practicing, take multiple shots – long bursts of them, there will undoubtedly be a brilliant one amongst them.
Follow our tips, use the weather and natural lighting to your advantage, and soon you will turn those good pictures into great wildlife photos.