70 Ways To Take Better Photos (Part 6) - Wildlife, How to achieve excellent wildlife images

8/20/2012 2:50:24 PM


Get to know the pro

Name: Elliott Neep


Photographic specialism: Wildlife

Description: Pro wildlife photographer Elliott Neep shares a few nuggets of useful advice

Pro wildlife photographer Elliott Neep shares a few nuggets of useful advice

Favourite location to Photograph? East Africa and polar regions

Best time of day to school? Morning light

Preferred kit? Nikon D3s, 600mm lens and super-wide-angle lens.

Mini bio: Elliott is an award-winning professional wildlife photographer who supplies stock images to Getty Images and FLPA. Throughout the year, Elliott also work as a photographic tour leader for Oryx WPE (Rockjumper) and as a staff photographer for Silversea Expeditions.

How to achieve excellent wildlife images

Get a decent tripod

Good camera a support is an essential element for getting sharp photographs in low light! Get yourself sorted with a good-quality, sturdy tripod and separate tripod head. Avoid using the flimsy, wildlife-alerting silver ‘hobby’ tripods.

Adjust your aperture

With super-telephoto lenses, your depth of field is significantly compressed. There’s little difference between ‘single stops’ (f4 to f5.6) when you’re up-close. To make a noticeable change, move in bigger steps. Don’t get caught up on the technicalities of ‘sweet spots’ and f-numbers.

Pan with movement

Panned motion-blurs require a steady hand or a tripod for a smooth lateral movement. Pan in the direction of the subject with a shutter speed of around 1/10-1/30sec. An excellent motion blur requires a recognisable subject with a sharp head or face and this technique works best in low light or overcast conditions.

Get in close

It’s easy to get carried away with telephoto lenses. Try using a wide-angle lens to get up close to your subject, it will enable you to capture the habitat and tell more of a story, creating an engaging image.

Up your ISO

Description: A lion gets a slap around the ear from a lioness after he discilplined their two-month-old cub in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

It’s better to have a sharp shot with some noise, than a clean shot with a blurred subject. The latest DSLR cameras com with superb noise-reduction technology, so when you’re shooting in low light, use it and up the ISO!

Consider composition

For a more dynamic composition, avoid placing the subject centre-frame. Compose with the subject to the side or in one of the corners, looking into the space on the other side. Read up on the rule of thirds – it works for a reason.

Stay in focus

Shoot on continuous autofocus when taking wildlife portraits. Unlike photographing people, wildlife subjects are constantly alert, on the move and looking around. If your subject happens to look away to the side and you are focus-locked, the shot will be out of focus

Focus points

Use Single AF mode when photographing a static still-life object, or when you need to compose a more contextual shot with your main subject outside of your focus points.

Get low

Remember you can move to the side and adjust height even with a tripod. A metre or two to the side can make a huge difference to the background when using a telephoto. Getting down low will also help diffuse the foreground and background.

Focus on the eyes

People connect with an image through the eyes of the subject, so time your shots for great eye contact and get down to the subject’s eye level. Above all else, make sure those eyes are sharp.

Embrace the elements

Description: Embrace the elements

Don’t be afraid of the elements. Rain, wind, and snow have the power to transform the everyday into the remarkable. Besides, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Be observant

Avoid the machine-gunning approach to wildlife photography. Be selective and observant of your surroundings and the behaviour of the subject. Pick your moments with critical timing, waiting for that look, intimacy, interaction, drama, or brilliant light.

Compose to crop

Cropping can drastically change the composition of an image. Many wildlife and landscape images benefit from a 2:1 or 2.5:1 panoramic crop. I frequently compose for the cropped image, before I shoot it.

Capture details

Floral photographs are best compiled as a study. Start with a telephoto to capture the whole plant portrait: get close up with the wide angle to show the subject in its environment. Capture the intricate details with a macro lens, or telephoto lens with extension tubes.

Keep practicing

If your only photo experience is twice a year on holiday, how are you supposed to improve? Get down to the local park or pond and photograph wildlife as often as you can.

Patience is key

Being a good wildlife photographer is as much about knowing what not to shoot and what to leave out of the frame, than anything else. Learn to recognise the potential in a scene and what elements make for a great wildlife image.

Putting it into practice

1.    Settings

Adjust your camera settings prior to shooting so that you’re ready to capture any fast-moving subjects.

Select a fast shutter speed in your shutter priority mode; the camera will then determine the correct aperture setting for the exposure.

2.    Setup

Now set your AF mode to continuous so you never lose focus and get down to your subject’s eye level. Ensure the camera has focused correctly on the animal’s eyes before shooting.

3.    The results

Being patient will result in fantastically sharp portrait shots of your subject. However, always remember to respect the animal’s habitat if you’re getting in close to shoot. As a rule, safety comes before the shot.

Description: Wildlife

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