Whether you’re planning to take a safari or you just enjoy photographing animals that you encounter on your travels, it can be overwhelming to capture the photographs that you want to take. We’ve pulled together a list of tips for photographing animals to help you to take pictures that you’ll be proud to show off.
Use a telephoto lens
The most important piece of kit for wildlife photography is your lens. To photograph animals from a distance, you will need to invest in a telephoto lens. Something around 300mm is perfect for safaris, although you’ll need at least 400mm to capture birds or animals that are far away. These lenses are much larger and heavier than what you normally see, so you may need to check extra luggage and bring a smaller lens for when you’re walking around.
As well as those close-up detail shots that show the personalities of the animals you’re photographing, you will also want to zoom out and shoot the animals in their natural habitat. This way you can show their scale and their surroundings to add more of a story to your images. For these kinds of shots, you’ll want a wide-angle or a zoom lens such as the popular 24-70mm.
Look for the light
The most important factor in all photography is good lighting, as taking a photograph is effectively painting with light. If you shoot in daylight (we love the golden hour around sunrise and sunset for a beautiful warm light) then you can shoot on a faster shutter speed. You also enjoy sharper images where you can freeze-frame motion. Also try to play around with the light, using the sunset to silhouette wildlife.
Get down low
Play around with the angles when taking photographs, working out the best position to shoot each individual animal. The general rule is to be at their eye level or below. For small animals, crouch down and use your camera’s flip screen to be able to lower your camera all the way to the ground. If you’re trying to capture an animal’s reflection in water, you’ll find this more effective at a lower position.
Play around with composition
Most of the time you’ll want to make the animal the focus of your shot, but if the landscape is equally impressive you may want to play around and bring the animal to the edge of the frame. Allow the animal to stand out in the shot by positioning it against a contrasting background – you can move around and shoot from a different angle to do this.
Keep your distance
Never get too close to an animal, especially if it is wild and dangerous. If you are on safari, always stay with your guide and pay attention to their instructions, using a telephoto lens to get closer to your subject. Even if the animal you are photographing seems tame, don’t disturb it. If you feed or pet a wild animal, you could start to domesticate them and make it harder for them to survive in the wild. Keep your distance, be quiet and patient and wait for the perfect shot to materialise.
Emma Lavelle is a UK based writer and photographer and has her own blog Field and Nest.