Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife Photography Tips gives you insights on how to get the perfect picture of your favourite wild animals…

We love to see them, but we love to bring them home too! In pictures, of course…


Wildlife photographer capturing wild animals

"Take nothing but pictures
Kill nothing but time
Leave nothing but footprints"

John Kay

Wildlife Photography Tips: 1 – Be patient

A wild animal is not here to perform for you.

Give it time. Learn its behaviour – the time of the day when it completes certain interesting tasks, where it goes at specific times of the days, when it’s more relax and likely to let you hang around.

Sometimes to get your perfect picture you will have to come several days in a raw.

If you are not that keen or don’t have that much time, even just stay for half an hour observing a wild animal will pay off. The animal may well get accustomed to you and start behaving in a more natural way, which will give you more interesting photo opportunities.

If you are in company of more than one animal, then there’s even more reasons to stick around: animal interactions are some of the most powerful wildlife pictures.

Wildlife Photography Tips: 2 – Get close

The closer you are to your subject, the nicer the picture. After all, you are doing wildlife photography: you want to see the animal!

As a human, you are widely recognised as a top predator.

For any wildlife, you mean danger or at least trouble: they won’t take the chance.

Obviously, there are some exceptions, like highly accustomed safari animals: for them, as long as you stay in the car, you are part of the normal landscape. Use that to your advantage and get as close as possible with the car.

So except for a few particular cases, your goal is to look as little as possible like a human while approaching wildlife:

  • change your body shape: crouch – the standing humans is such an easily recognisable shape!
  • get camouflaged: wear colours that blend with your background, hide your skin,
  • use the landscape to hide: rocks and trees are great helpers,
  • hide your smell too: if possible, get the wind coming from the animal towards you, so your smell won’t get detected.

When you approach a wild animal, try to be nonthreatening:

  • crouching helps: it reduces your size,
  • never walk in straight line toward your subject: only predators do that. Zig-zag.
  • avoid eyes contact,
  • go slow, stop as soon as you see the animal is worried about you – for instance, if it stops what it was doing and look toward you, move ears to listen better etc.
  • be silent (only predators can afford to be loud. So if you are loud, you must be a dangerous animal!)

Obviously, there are limits to getting closer, so two things you can do:

   1. take pictures all along.

Start from the place you are when you spot your subject. Each time you successfully get closer, take more pictures. This technique will avoid disappointment if the animal flees before you are close enough to take your perfect shot: at least you will have something.

   2. buy yourself a big lens!! Get closer through your equipment, not physically.

Wildlife Photography Tips: 3 – Shoot lots

Especially in this day and age of digital, there is no reason not to shoot lots of pictures. (Except the hours it takes to sort through them, admittedly.)

First if you shoot lots it increases the probability you get an interesting ½ second moment – whether it’s a special position while two animals are fighting, or a bird flipping an insect in the air before gulping it, etc. these moments are really quick and easy to miss.

By taking lots of pictures, you can also start investigating different options: close ups to broad angles, animal in different locations in the frame (composition), focus on particular details (eyes, paws…)

Wildlife Photography Tips: 4 – Be passionate

Being passionate about wildlife – which I know you are – will make your pictures come alive.

Because you feel and empathise with your subject, because you enjoy the privilege of spending time with wildlife, your shot will be above these of many others. 

Wildlife Photography Tips: 5 – Be ready

Sometimes you will observe an animal for a very long period of time and then suddenly, something really cool and interesting happens. You want to be ready for it!

It probably will only last a few seconds – a bird will catch an insect or a fish, a koala will jump from one branch to the next, a couple of cheetahs will get annoyed at each other and quickly set the record straight…

When something happens, you have to be ready to shoot the perfect picture: obviously, have the lens cover removed and the right settings on.

But also you will have to have practiced many hours to know what settings you want to get the picture right. Blurry pictures are so annoying!

Wildlife Photography Tips: 6 – Use the Golden Hours

The best hours of a day, with the richest light, are early morning and before sunset.

These are also the time where lots of animals are out and about – a bit of a change of shift between nocturnal and diurnal (daytime) animals. In hot places, the middle hours of the day might also be too hot for animals to be active and thus they might hide in dense cover areas to get some relief.

On overcast day, the light is dimmed and you can take pictures all day: the cover of clouds acts as a giant “softbox”, diffusing the light equally. And as a bonus, it’s cool enough for animals to be out, too.

So clouds are your friends!

Wildlife Photography Tips: 7 – Tell a story

The most interesting and compelling pictures tell you a story. That’s true for wildlife photography.

Try to get the animal doing something, or place the animal in its landscape (broad angle) to show its natural habitat.

Others Wildlife Photography Tips

Make eye contact (between your camera and the animal)

Pictures where the animal directly looks into your camera tend to make a stronger impact. The animal then seemed to connect with whoever is watching your picture.

Don’t be arrogant

Don’t wait for only “special” animals – the large, charismatic ones – all animals are awesome subjects for pictures.

Small creatures especially are great: they are often easy to approach (they don’t get scared and run away) and found near you (your garden if you have one – especially if you work on your garden to be a wildlife friendly backyard).

Small creatures also have amazing displays: for example, spiders have splendid colours and the most impressive faces with lots of eyes.

Caterpillars never cease to impress me either.

Be the animal

Try to get to the level of the animal – be with him, at his level – and your shot will become much more alive.

Seize every moment

Sometimes you might not be on a special wildlife photography trip, but keep your eyes and your ears open. Follow a bird song or the sound of water being splashed, look around when you’re queuing etc.

You never know what might surprise you!

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Learn more tips from professional wildlife photographers by subscribing to their free newsletters.

Some great tips are available from Steve Parish "Nature Connect" or Photo Naturalist for example.

Whether it’s in your own garden (especially if you make the effort to have a wildlife friendly garden!)

or on a remote and extraordinary wildlife safari, there are many opportunities to capture beautiful wildlife.

Use these wildlife photography tips to get the best shot out of every situation you create to encounter wild animals.