Expert techniques make for exciting, dynamic photographs
Wildlife photography is a doorway into a world of exotic animals and outdoor adventure, but it takes some effort to get there. When you learn the technical skills of photography—not only the capabilities of your equipment but also the photographic elements of composition and lighting—you’ll be on the way to capturing the best wildlife shots that you can. And while you may not be embarking on a life of jet-setting photography just yet, here are some guidelines and pointers that will help you on your way.
1 Study composition techniques. When photographing wildlife, the subject’s space, eye level and image orientation are very important. Most photographers take pictures while standing because it’s a natural position. However, most wildlife subjects are smaller or shorter than humans, so you look down on your subject. This angle makes it difficult for the viewer to relate to the animal. Get down at eye level with your subject to create strong images that put the viewer in direct eye contact with the animal.
Watch the space around an animal, as well. If the animal is positioned closely to the side of the frame and is staring off the edge, then the picture may have an unbalanced feel. Allow "looking space"—enough room for the creature to breathe in an image.
Animals will come in all shapes and sizes, so let their structure dictate horizontal or vertical composition. When birds, for instance, have long feathers for a tail, a horizontal shot may cut the tail off, giving the image an unnatural "clipped" perception. A vertical shot that includes the entire animal would be more appropriate.
2 Check your backgrounds. Animals slither, perch, sit or stand right where it’s most inconvenient—with that stick in front of them or where a washed out sky or bright leaves will destroy an otherwise great image. Check your background when you set up, and make sure it’s clean, simple and allows the viewer to focus on the animal.
Sometimes you need to move to get the animal against a more attractive background. If your background is lousy, no matter what your subject, the image will be lousy. Don’t rely on Photoshop; move and make it right to begin with.