Wild animals very quickly became one of my favorite subjects once I started doing DSLR photography, mostly due to the challenge they present. It is often tricky to take a good photo of a wild animal because of their tendency to run (or fly) away once they spot a person nearby. Back in my hometown, there is a wetland habitat just off of the public bike path. It features a creek with a gravel path circling around it, and I have been going for walks there regularly for over ten years. Many different wild creatures live and pass through this area, such as deer, various birds, fish, and many more. I now take my camera with me each time I go, and I have managed to capture some great photos of the animals there. In this post, I will show some of my favorite wildlife photos (and camera settings) and share some tips for taking photos of wildlife. These tips are going to be more DSLR-centric, but feel free to attempt on your smartphone or other device.
Have your camera settings ready
I usually leave my settings the way they were when I last took a photo on my camera. However, lighting can change drastically from one day to the next- for example, a cloudy day after a sunny day. Wild animals often pop up out of nowhere at the wetland habitat, so I end up fumbling to grab my camera and quickly snap a photo. But before I can take the photo, I need to make sure it will actually turn out, which takes up extra time that could be used to take the photo. This is why I would recommend changing your camera settings (if needed) to work for the amount of natural lighting available before you head out to find wildlife to photograph.
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Use a long lens if you have one
A long lens is a great tool to get a good photo of a wild animal without getting too close. Many wild animals will move away from you if you get close to them, but a long lens lessens the chances of them doing so. What I usually do is zoom in with my lens and then slowly move forward, getting closer to the animal without making too much noise or movement. This goes without saying, but be careful when approaching wild animals. Don’t get close if the animal looks like it will come at you, or if it has a baby it is trying to protect.
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Be prepared for anything
Wild animals are unpredictable, and, like I said earlier, pop up out of nowhere. The photo below was taken after several attempts that didn’t work out at all. I saw the animal in this photo swimming around in the creek a few times on my walks, but by the time I would turn on my camera and aim, it had already ducked back underwater and swam away. One evening, I was finally able to snap a photo in time, and it was great to get this animal on camera after all those failed attempts.
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Don’t forget about the smaller creatures
While it is fun to photograph deer and other larger creatures, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the smaller wildlife. Monarch butterflies are commonly seen at the wetland habitat during the summer, along with frogs, smaller turtles, and insects. Get as close as you can, but be cautious- the smaller creatures are often scared away more easily than the larger ones. This is also when a long lens comes in handy: you can get closer to the subject without scaring it away, and the background will often be blurred nicely.
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The weather is (slowly) beginning to warm up- soon there will be lots of wildlife to photograph! Hopefully these tips will help you take some great photos of the various wild animals around you.