Wildlife photography is a challenging hobby to get into because it takes a lot of commitment. To excel in animal photography, you not only have to develop your photo-taking skills, but you also have to learn about the animals that you shoot just the same as wildlife photographer Thomas D. Mangelsen. If you’ve ever wondered how Mangelsen’s photography looks so magnificent, then these tips will help you understand how it’s all done.
Choose a good camera
There are many types of cameras out there, but only a few are versatile enough for shooting wildlife photos outdoors. A regular camera constantly exposed to harsh elements won’t last very long, so you need a camera that’s weather-sealed like the Sony a7R IV Alpha
from Beachcamera.com. Also, with interchangeable lenses, your camera will allow you to take photos of insects from a close distance to large animals from really far away. The Sony a7R fits all of these criteria.
Use the right settings
The first thing you need to adjust is the ISO on your Sony a7R
from Beachcamera.com. Typically, it’s best to use a low ISO (100, 200, etc.) to minimize the noise in your photos. For low light situations, however, you can choose a higher ISO as long as it doesn’t affect the image quality. ISO 800 is usually enough to let you shoot in poor lighting without noise becoming too obvious.
Next, you need to set your shutter speed. If you’re shooting animals that move a lot, choose a fast shutter speed to avoid any motion blur. For slow moving animals such as grazing deer, 1/1000 sec. should be enough. For fast-moving animals such as birds, however, you’ll need 1/2000 sec. or higher.
Perhaps the most challenging part in shooting wildlife photos is knowing the proper focus settings to use for different scenarios. When photographing animals in motion, the best option is continuous autofocus. It actively tracks moving objects, so they remain sharp while you’re shooting. However, certain obstacles like snowflakes, leaves, or even other animals can easily confuse the autofocus especially when there’s a great distance between you and your subject. To avoid this, switch to manual focus so that you can adjust the lens exactly where you want it.
Learn about the animals you’re shooting
As wildlife photographer Mangelsen says, "Most people today don't take the time to understand animal behavior." What makes shooting wildlife photos complicated is you can’t tell animals where to go and what to do. The decisions you make rely heavily on what your subjects are doing. If you don’t know how to read their behavior, you’re going to end up missing a lot of good shots. The best way to increase your chances of capturing great shots is by studying your subjects. Before you go out, familiarize yourself with the animals you want to photograph. That’s one of the things that makes Mangelsen photography so phenomenal.
Apply rules of composition
Like anything else in photography, follow the rule of thirds. A photo also generally looks better when you provide ample space where your subject’s head is pointed. For instance, if an owl is looking to the right, you need to frame your shot more towards the same direction to give the animal enough wiggle room. Otherwise, your wildlife photo might look claustrophobic. Additionally, in many cases, the environment is just as beautiful as the animals you photograph, so always incorporate it in your wildlife photos as seen in Mangelsen photography. Take your viewers on a journey through your animal photography and show them where your favorite creatures live and what it’s like to be there.
Don’t be afraid to shoot in bad weather
If you want to take unforgettable wildlife photos, then you have to be prepared to shoot in rough conditions. Strive to shoot animal photography that offer viewers a glimpse of what it’s like to live in unforgiving environments. In wildlife photography, sometimes it’s the lousy weather that creates the most dramatic shots. Shooting in dense fog, for instance, can give a place a mysterious aura, while taking photos in the snow provides a whitewashed background that creates stark contrasts and helps isolate your subject.
When you get into animal photography, just remember that it takes years to master, but you’ll never stop learning from it. This hobby doesn’t just make you a better photographer, it will also help you develop a real passion for nature.