Wildlife photography is a fantastic way to discover nature – using your eyes and a camera to really explore and enjoy the natural world. You can have great fun creating stunning wild images whatever camera you have (SLR, pocket compact camera or mobile phone) and wherever you live. Often the most exciting discoveries are right on our doorsteps – the highlight of my career was photographing a sleeping kingfisher just a few metres from house (they are unique images as far as I know)!
Whether you enjoy the artistic side of nature photography, or maybe wish to record the different wildlife and behaviour you see (probably a mixture of both) here are my top tips to help you take great wildlife shots.
• Local sites such as your garden, nearby park, beach or nature reserve offer some of the best opportunities for wildlife photography. By regularly exploring these local wild spaces you can build a detailed photographic study and create unique images. Visit sites at different times of the day and year to determine when wildlife activity is at its peak and where is the best spot to photograph.
• Do as much research as you can about the wildlife & habitats you hope to see – books, internet and wildlife charities are great sources. Quiz experts and local reserve staff for wildlife knowledge and advice, they are normally very happy to help.
• Get-up early, or go out late to get the best lighting conditions – especially in summer. If photographing bugs or flowers in middle of the day, use a reflector or piece of white card to bounce sunlight on to the shady side of your subject.
• Slow down and take time to think about your composition. Look for, bold colours, striking patterns or exciting action to create stunning photos. When photographing animals make sure you focus on the eyes. Experiment with composition by moving your subject off-centre and using scene features as natural frames
• Change your viewpoint. Get down low to your subjects eye-level for a better perspective and to portray nature in its own habitat. Don’t forget to look straight up or down to discover beautiful natural patterns in plants and trees. Photographing from below can make things look bigger or more impressive.
• Compact cameras are fantastic for photographing mini-beasts or flowers – don’t use the zoom, but carefully move your camera in close. The macro (flower symbol) setting on pocket cameras enables you to focus on something just a few cm away, creating striking frame-filling images.
• Learn how your camera works and don’t be afraid to experiment with different settings, such as exposure and focussing.
• Above all else get out and photograph, the best photographs are created by spending time outside and not in a camera shop. And be patient with wildlife, you may have to wait or make several visits for that special image.
Iain Green is a professional wildlife photographer and founder of www.WildWonder.co.uk, a social enterprise engaging young people, schools and adults with nature through discovery and creativity.