Ten Tips for Taking Better Wildlife Photos

One of the most difficult types of photography is wildlife photography. To obtain a genuinely unique picture, so many factors must align, and often the photographer has little control over those factors. Even if it doesn’t always work out, it’s always satisfying when it does. Here are a few quick ideas to help you become better at photographing animals.

By Grant Ordelheide, all photos.

Study the best times and locations.
Understanding when and where animals will be is the first step you can take to assist position yourself for success. Although there are strategies to increase your chances of seeing fascinating behavior, this is not an exact science. Perform study on certain species and locations. Some animals hibernate throughout winter or become less active in the sweltering heat. During mating season, certain animals are easier to see. You may schedule your visit for when a certain site or species is most active by being aware of its habits.

The best time to take pictures of bull moose is in the fall when they are actively searching for females to mate with and males to fight.
Recognize animal behavior
Although it is impossible to entirely foresee an animal’s next move, being aware of its behavior patterns and body language may help you position yourself for a great shot. Keep a close eye on your subject and observe how they move, hunt, and interact with others. By anticipating the animal’s movements and making the shot, you may remain one step ahead with the use of this knowledge.

I carefully observed the bear’s body language right before he went off for a fish while I sat and watched it search for salmon. I eventually figured out when he would start running, which allowed me to get ahead of him and capture this photograph.
the gaze
Making eye contact is essential while photographing animals. Rarely do people seek for images of an animal’s behind. Being able to clearly see the eyes and face offers your viewer’s gaze a somewhere to go as they serve as the focus point. Eye contact may also help an animal display personality and connect with the audience.

It helps to portray a feeling of closeness and the personality of the animal to be able to stare right into the eyes of a lion.
Background
The backdrop is one of the most crucial aspects of wildlife photography. While concentrating on the subject, it is simple to miss the backdrop, yet it may make all the difference in a photograph. Nothing in the backdrop should compete with the subject, whether it is sharply in focus or entirely out of focus. The backdrop shouldn’t have any distracting components and should make sense with the theme. The second step I take after discovering animals is to seek for a plain backdrop and attempt to position myself such that it is behind the animal.

I was able to create a clear and uncomplicated backdrop that suited the foreground animals by placing myself downstream of these bears.
Light
Light is the most important component to a great shot, as it is in all genres of photography. If you shoot in the morning and evening, the light will be more conducive to photography when you do come across animals. The majority of animals are more active early and late in the day in addition to having greater lighting.

An enormous bull elephant in the twilight. If his face were cast in severe shadows from midday sun, the composition would not be as effective.
Critical Moment
To ensure you don’t miss the key moment, use your camera’s burst or continuous shooting modes. Continue shooting while keeping a careful eye on the animal’s traits, posture, surroundings, etc. as the action unfolds. Frequently, just one image in a series of twenty captures the ideal moment. Because you can never predict when the crucial time will arrive and go, always be prepared and avoid being sidetracked by your phone or a buddy.

I was able to catch this short moment when the fish burst above the water with the bear pursuing it by capturing the full chase scene.
Weather
When the weather goes terrible, stay outside. Rain and snow’s atmospheric effects may truly give a wildlife photograph a unique touch. To keep your equipment dry, use an umbrella, a rain cover, or shoot from a moving vehicle.

In order to complement the pronghorn and convey a more comprehensive tale, the raindrops falling in this picture offer another aspect.
Movement Blur
The majority of the time, wildlife photographers attempt to freeze the action by using the quickest shutter speed available. To depict activity and motion in a unique manner, experiment with various shutter speeds and panning movements.

I was able to pan my camera along with the moving African wild dog by utilizing a slower shutter speed, which allowed me to get a picture that captures the animal’s movement.
Context Don’t forget to capture bigger scenes as well. By displaying the animal’s habitat and surroundings, provide context for it. These kinds of photos generally rank among my favorite travel photos since they assist to communicate a more thorough tale.

A greater portion of the tree gives the spectator a better understanding of the leopard’s surroundings and how she interacts with them.
Respect
Photographers of wildlife should try to capture the creatures as unobtrusively and organically as they can. You shouldn’t approach an animal too closely or put it in an uncomfortable position. The effects of stressing out an animal to “get the shot” might endure a lifetime and affect how the animal interacts with people. Better and more realistic photographs will also result from a calm and comfortable animal. Be patient, don’t stress the animals, and enjoy yourself outside!

Maintain a safe distance from animals to prevent stress. Here, I used a long telephoto lens to enable me to maintain the proper distance.