Photography Cheat Sheet: Wildlife Photography Tips for the Novice

If you’re just getting into wildlife photography, we’re sure you’ll need to bring this handy photography cheat sheet with you when you practice.

Wildlife photography is definitely one of the most challenging yet exciting genres to get into, but we can’t blame you if it has become your newfound passion. It will definitely require a lot from you gear-wise, planning-wise, and technique-wise. But today’s handy photography cheat sheet will equip you with some cool tips and tricks to get you started.

In their cheat sheet below, Digital Camera World first reminds us that there’s no one-size-fits-all method to get picture-perfect snaps of birds, bugs, and beasts over land and under the sea. It will take you some time to develop your own techniques and approaches, especially if you decide to specialize in a particular location or subject. But with these quick tips, you’ll have an idea how to take stunning snaps for different kinds of animals and scenarios.

The first set of tips are dedicated to seasonal wildlife, especially when you don’t have a zoom or telephoto lens to help you get “closer” to your subjects. You can simply use the Rule of Thirds to compose your subject off-center, making sure that they don’t compete against the background for attention. You’ll have to wait for just the right moment to press the shutter, especially if you’re going for the silhouettes, which should show a clearly defined outline. Position yourself towards the light to capture dramatic details like making the breath and fur or feather glow against the light. Lastly, your white balance should be set to Cloudy to maximize the warm colors when shooting during sunrise or sunset.

Next, we have insects and bugs, which are best photographed at dawn. This is because your tiny subjects won’t be active because of the cool air. As a bonus, the dew will add a dreamy sparkle to your shots. A clean and darker background is best to emphasize the backlighting, and the cheat sheet suggests using your own colored card if you have one. Don’t forget to use a lens hood to prevent reduced contrast due to flares. Shoot between the apertures of f8 and f11 and attach your camera to a tripod or monopod to ensure sharp results.

You don’t need to go to some exotic location to practice wildlife photography. Your local park will do, especially if it has a duck pond, which is perfect for practicing bird photography. Use a telephoto lens and get low on the bank to shoot at eye-level with the ducks. If you want to experiment a bit, you can shoot with slower shutter speeds to achieve artistic blur. Pan along with the movement to blur the background, or keep the camera still and leave enough room in the frame so you can capture the bird as it flaps its wings. You may also shoot near colorful foliage to add some colors on the water. Beware of dark backgrounds as they may cause your camera to over-expose the feathers. If this happens, dial down your exposure.

Lastly, shooting underwater wildlife is best with a wide-angle or macro lens and flash to reveal the hidden colors and detail of the scene and subjects. It could be challenging to compose underwater, but the cheat sheet suggests thinking in threes, for a start, as the example shows — two eels and one background — to create a balanced shot. When shooting with flash, take extra care when the background is close so you don’t end up with an unattractive shadow outline. Make one last check of the four corners of the frame before pressing the shutter to make sure the background is unbroken and there are no distractions,

Need more nifty tips and tricks like this? Don’t forget to check out our  collection of photography cheat sheets so far!