When I first took an interest in nature and wildlife photography, I had no idea how to capture beautiful images with a digital camera. Buying my first DSLR camera was hard enough, let alone using one. Which camera should I invest in, what lens should I buy, and how do I use the camera when I get it?
Starting out can be intimidating so I read everything I could get my hands on about photography. I had so many questions and I am still learning everyday. If you are interested in a great challenge and enjoy learning new things, then photography is for you. I want to share a few tips that I have learned through the years so it may help you when you start your photography journey.
START IN AUTO MODE
When you first start shooting with your new camera start out in auto mode. Most articles and photographers will tell you to shoot in manual mode. Although I do agree with this, start out in auto mode, get the feel of your camera, and read your manual before you switch to manual mode. After you get use to you using your camera, then switch to manual mode. DITCH AUTO-START SHOOTING IN MANUAL MODE is a great free course to take and learn your basics of manual mode.
You will find that manual mode will give you the best results. In auto mode your camera may get it right sometimes, but you get the feel and you learn how your camera works. Manual mode gives you more control over lighting, shutter speed and aperture.
GET EYE LEVEL WITH YOUR SUBJECT
Trying to capture an image of a wild animal is a challenge. If you are lucky enough to see the animal, let alone get an opportunity for a great shot, it is considered an achievement for anyone. When the opportunity presents itself, make sure you are on the same eye level with the animal if at all possible. This will make your photo really come alive.
Jaco Marx is a talented wildlife and nature photographer from South Africa. I really admire his work and found an article he wrote about eye level photography. Read some of his tips what he has to say about eye level photography and see some of his great work. He has a great online photo gallery at 500px and a great website Marxphoto.
When I took this photo of the Red Breasted Woodpecker I was up high in a stand in the trees with the bird
The Canada Goose was taken laying on the ground.
Sometimes the opportunity to get at eye level does not present it’s self as the photo of the White-tailed deer above and the Bald Eagle above. The deer was walking up a hill and I was high in a tree stand.
This majestic Bald Eagle was taken from way below. This made the Eagle look even more majestic. They both just happened to work out perfectly.
PAY ATTENTION TO LIGHT AROUND YOU
Photography is all about light. Learning how your camera uses light and how to control it may be the most important aspect to photography. There are three factors that will make a difference in your outdoor photography.
One is time of day, the other is the weather and last but not least is direction. The time of day that you shoot is important because of the sun. There are two golden hours in photography. These are the hours around sunrise and sunset. The hours that give your subject a warm natural glow.
Weather has a big effect when shooting nature and wildlife. On a sunny day you have the extreme bright light of the sun and on an overcast day you have a difuser between you and the sun. The clouds can be your best friend. Even the behavior of wildlife is affected by weather which makes your chances of getting the shot you dreamed of become reality or stay just a dream.
Direction makes a big difference in how your photos can turn out too dark or over exposed. DO YOUR RESEARCH BEFORE YOU EVER GO TO THE FIELD. Knowing your location and surroundings is always a big plus. This will let you maximize your ability to find wildlife .Know before hand where you will set up your camera and which direction you will be shooting. The direction of sunlight plays a big part in getting a beautiful photo. When I shot this White-tailed deer it was an overcast cloudy day.
SHOOT IN THE RAW NOT JPEG
RAW is an uncompressed format that gives you the ability to process your own photos by fine tuning and sharpening. Learning to shoot in manual mode comes back into play when you can control your camera settings. By shooting RAW you are able to adjust and control the way your photos look. When shooting where the lightening isn’t perfect RAW format is a must. I recommend using ADOBE LIGHTROOM AND PHOTOSHOP to give you the ability to control exposure, highlights, contrast, colors, etc. These programs give you full control and are a must when shooting in the RAW. You will be amazed at what your photos will look like by using these programs.
LEARN BASIC COMPOSITION
Basic composition is the way you frame a shot or position a subject to be more pleasing to the eye. Poor photo composition can break a photo. Learn everything you can about composition. This does not have to be complicated to learn. What works in one photo may not work as well in another. Use your instincts and judgement.
Lines can be found everywhere in the world around us. Examples of lines can be a fence, a limb, or a road. Use these lines to draw the eye to your subject. You don’t want someone to have to hunt for the subject in the picture. The limb in the photo above draws your eyes to the little Bluebird.
The tall stalks of grass lets your eye travel upward or downward to the Black Eyed Susan.
Use the rule of thirds. Whatever you are shooting, cut your scene into thirds. Try to imagine your subject centered over one of the lines. To put it simple, never center your subject. Move your subject over to one side of the frame and you should see that it is more appealing. A good example is the photo above of the Red-shouldered Hawk.
Take a look at what is going on in the background. If your background is too busy it can take away from your subject. Use a longer focal length to throw the background out of focus as the photo above shows of the the female Mallard duck.
This little Bluebird stands out more while he is setting on the fence with the background blurred out.
Maybe these tips will help you to understand nature and wildlife photography just a little bit better. I recommend Digital Photography School. This site is full of tips and tricks for most anything you might need or come up against.
So get out there and enjoy taking those shots and remember to put the camera down every now and then and enjoy what God has created around you.