Wildlife Photography – Rules – That’s It

Wildlife Photography – Nine Basic Rules

In last few days I have posted my nine rules of wildlife photography.
Click here to view them all!

I am convinced that if you observe these rules you can take some great animal pictures. They work in the wild, in zoos and with your pets.

If you have any animal photography related question please post it as a comment to this blog message. I will try to answer all inquiries with a special Wildlife Photography Q&A blog message.

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 9 – Eliminate fences

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 9 – Eliminate fences

When you deal with a fence between you and your subject get as close to the fence as possible without touching it (legal moves only, please :-). Extend your zoom to the largest tele setting and open the aperture full. The ideal situation is for your subject to be in the middle between the front fence and back

No Fence?
Yellow-billed Hornbill at Nashville Zoo at Grassmere, Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 8 – Avoid flash – use a flash-light!

Wildlife Photography – Rule Number 8 – Avoid flash – use a flash-light!

I do not like flash pictures. They are mostly flat and have no depth. In wildlife photography you have seldom the time for good flash setup (with multiple flashes). I’d rather use higher ISO and try my luck without a flash. A standard, handheld flash-light can help producing a glint in the eye of an animal and lighten up a dark corner.

Leopard Girl!
Small female Leopard at Londolozi Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 7 – Get down there!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 7 – Get down there!

If you want tension in your pictures you need to get on eye level of your subject or even below. I find myself often laying flat on the floor when shooting in zoos. Many exhibits are below the observer. Good for observing, bad for photography!

Eye Level!
Corn Snake or Red Rat Snake (Pantherophis guttatus) from a private collection. Nashville, Tennessee, USA

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 6 – Higher ISO – a friend?

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 6 – Higher ISO – a friend?

With animals you need short exposure times. I very rarely use a tripod, sometimes a monopod. Most of the time I shoot without any support with fairly long lenses (300-500mm) – animals move – so we need to as well!

Short exposure times are crucial.  With full aperture set, I am not afraid of using higher ISO (800-1600 or even above). Especially in decent light conditions the results with modern digital SLRs are not bad. Better to have an image with a little more noise than a picture out of focus.

Hunting Mode
Lioness hunting at dusk. This picture was taken with a setting of ISO 3200 at Phinda Private Game Reserve, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 5 – Learn how to over- and under-expose with your camera!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 5 – Learn how to over- and under-expose with your camera!

Your camera is smart, but not smart enough. Once you have your standard settings only concentrate on one adjustment while you are shooting. If the object you are interested in is much darker than the surrounding you have to over-expose. If the object is much lighter,  you will need to under-expose. This takes training; so get out there, make some exposure mistakes and learn from them.

Focus!
An African Elephant bull waking in a straight line towards a waterhole.
This picture was taken at Etosha National Park, Namibia.

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 4 – Keep the eyes in focus!

Wildlife Photography – Basic Rule Number 4 – Keep the eyes in focus!

Make sure the eyes of the animals are sharp and in focus.  With using “center point focus” you are in control of the focus, not your camera. Make sure the eyes are in the center of your picture (and therefore in focus). Leave a bit of extra room around your major object. You can crop the image on the computer. An animal is not a cathedral – the time for composition is mostly measured in seconds, not minutes or hours.

Round Eye!
Uroplatus fimbriatus (Leaf Tailed Gecko) – native to Madagascar.
Picture taken at a private breeder facility in Nashville, Tennessee, USA  (Uroplatus Specialties).