Wildlife Photography Tips

Wildlife photography techniques from Canon Tutor, Brian Worley

Morning horse

© 'Morning horse' taken on a Canon EOS 30D by Photophilde

One of the keys to great wildlife photography is understanding animals' behaviour and using the right equipment for the situations you're shooting in and to achieve the results you want.

You can get great results using all kinds of Canon cameras, and if you're using a DSLR you have a greater choice of lenses which opens up more possibilities

To find inspiration, check out the work of Canon Ambassadors and Explorers who specialise in wildlife. Several of them have won The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition or been highly commended for their entries. Names to look out for include Charlie Hamilton-James, Brent Stirton and Michael "Nick" Nichols.

Brent Stirton and Michael "Nick" Nichols.

Capturing nature using your EOS

An EOS DSLR offers great versatility when it comes to photographing everything from earthworms to elephants. Here are some useful tips on kit and technique to help you achieve outstanding images.

Try a telephoto or zoom lens

Using telephoto or telezoom lenses allows you to photograph animals from a safe working distance - particularly important if you're looking for actions shots of lions, grizzly bears or crocodiles.

If you already have an EOS DSLR, a telephoto zoom lens is a useful second lens to buy. And if you're just getting started, some Canon cameras are available with twin-zoom lens kits, including a standard zoom and a telephoto zoom lens.

For steady shots, use a fast shutter speed

The use of telephoto or telezoom lenses means you'll need to use faster shutter speeds (at least 1/50) to deliver sharp images with crisp detail. Some animals move very quickly so you'll need to keep up!

Using the Sport mode found on entry level and mid-range EOS cameras will help to capture sharp images - whether you're photographing cheetahs or sloths. And lastly, don't forget to switch on the Image Stabilizer on your telephoto lenses to ensure you get sharp results every time.

Advanced techniques: Macro photography

The beauty of a macro lens is that it allows you to create photos that show something larger than we would normally see it on screen or print. So you can show tiny insects as spectacular bug-eyed monsters, or show intricate details which would normally go unnoticed by the human eye.

Macro photography of live subjects can be a challenge so you'll need the right equipment and lots of patience to capture truly outstanding images.

Controlling your depth of field

Controlling the depth of field is really important for macro wildlife photography. In standard photography, the use of the Aperture Priority shooting mode (AV on your camera dial) is common. For Macro lenses the opposite is often true. Due to close working distances the aperture is closed down to f/16, f/22 or more to maximise the depth of field, and ensure the whole photo is in focus.

Use the Image Stabilizer for telephoto and macro photography, especially when working with the camera hand-held. However if your camera is on a tripod then it is often better to switch off the Image Stabiliser.

Grand Teton National Park

© 'Grand Teton National Park' taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II by James Chang

Getting things in focus

It's fair to say that animals can be highly unpredictable. So it's a good idea to learn how to change the active focus point on your camera and how to switch between one-shot and AI Servo focus modes. That way you won't miss a moment when you're out in the field. It can be useful to experiment by using manual focus for slow moving or static subjects like a wallowing hippo or an ambling elephant.

Check out our other tutorials for more useful hints and tips.

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Coming Next: Seeing the world without a viewfinder

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