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Five ways to make your wildlife photos better

Updated on July 27, 2013

Always take your camera

The best advise for a beginning photographer is always take your camera with you. Some of my best wildlife photos have been taken when I wasn’t expecting to see a critter. Even in our biggest cities there are limitless opportunities to photograph wild animals.

I shot this cougar at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake CIty. There was a woman in a wheel chair that made this big cat very nervous. Maybe he was afraid she'd roll over his tail. You never know when a wonderful oportunity will present itself.
I shot this cougar at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake CIty. There was a woman in a wheel chair that made this big cat very nervous. Maybe he was afraid she'd roll over his tail. You never know when a wonderful oportunity will present itself.

The money you spend on a camera doesn’t always determine the quality of your picture. Even the most basic cameras can yield prize winning photographs. Learn how to use the options available on your camera and play around with it to see what different results you can get.

I usually have my camera set on the automatic and burst settings. That way I can take advantage of an opportunity that may only last seconds. If my subject is cooperative I will have time to play around with focus, lighting and aperture options.

The world of digital photography is a huge blessing for wildlife photographers. Without the high cost of photo processing anyone can take LOTS of pictures.

It’s not always the extreme close up that makes the best picture. Here are four valuable suggestions that will help you capture images that will take your breath away.

# 1 The time of most change offers the most opportunities

The changing of the seasons, tides, and sunrise/sunset are prime examples of situations that offer great photo opportunities. When you're snapping the shutter anticipate action by your subject and try to capture it. A duck taking off from the water, a deer jumping a fence, a fight between two rival bison, these are all examples of times of change or increased action that make a good photo great. Take LOTS of pictures.

This spooked bighorn ram heading for cover offered an opportunity to take advantage of a changing situtation.
This spooked bighorn ram heading for cover offered an opportunity to take advantage of a changing situtation.

# 2 Look for the best that your situation has to offer

Ask yourself what is it about the place you are that is the most interesting? Try to capture it. If you want to show the pristine whiteness of a mountain goat, try to have something dark behind it.

If you can't get a clear shot of your subject frame and focus on it's eye. If the animal is backlit or in the shadows look for a way to silhouette it in front something of contrasting color. If the animals won't hold still swing your camera with them and use a fast shutter speed to keep the subject in focus, but blur the background. There are lots of things you can do to make the most of any opportunity, but sometimes it just won't work. You'll never know if you don't try.

Take LOTS of pictures.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a clear picture of  this buck, but by emphasizing the best the opportunity had to offer, got this intriguing shot.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a clear picture of this buck, but by emphasizing the best the opportunity had to offer, got this intriguing shot.

# 3 Take something small and make it big

The smaller critters are usually easier to get close to than the bigger ones. Try to fill your frame. Now get even closer and get a picture of just an eye or an ear. Another favorite shows a lizard head just peeking over the top of a sun drenched rock.

One of the beauties of this rule is that you can get shots of smaller animals in urban settings that look like they were taken in the most remote of wilderness areas.

Take LOTS of pictures.

I followed this humming bird around for most of an hour, taking LOTS of pictures before I caught it in the frame, in focus and up close. Still, I didn't have any idea I'd captured this award winning shot until I got home and downloaded it to the comp
I followed this humming bird around for most of an hour, taking LOTS of pictures before I caught it in the frame, in focus and up close. Still, I didn't have any idea I'd captured this award winning shot until I got home and downloaded it to the comp

# 4 Take something big and make it small

A close up of a majestic bull elk is impressive, but the same bull standing on a ridge with a snow capped mountain in the background might be a better picture, one that evokes emotions and awe. I once got a nice shot of a medium sized mule deer buck just before sunset the ridge he was standing on was in the shadow, but the endless wild bluffs of the lower Henry Mountains were still in the bright sunlight behind him. I cranked the magnification down as far as it would go and captured a photo that accurately depicts the rugged and wide open character of the Henrys. This was a much better shot than I would have had with a close up of the deer in bad light.

Take LOTS of pictures.

This was as close as I could get to a nice mulie buck. By making the most of the situation and making something big small I was able to get this panorama shot.
This was as close as I could get to a nice mulie buck. By making the most of the situation and making something big small I was able to get this panorama shot.

# 5 You're not going to get good pictures if you don't get out and hunt

Spend time in the outdoors early and late in the day. These times not only offer the best opportunities to see wildlife, but are often refered to as “The golden hours” by professional photographers.

The warmth of the sun as it nears the western horizon can make for some of the best photo opportunities you’ll ever find.

Now that you have lots of pictures, download them to your computer and delete all the ones that are obviously unusable. Save the rest to a file and you’re on your way to building your own wildlife photo library.

It only takes once to make a memory

Spending time pursuing wildlife not only can yield some great photos, but priceless memories to last a lifetime. Each time you see one of your photos you'll remember the outing and those you enjoyed it with.
Spending time pursuing wildlife not only can yield some great photos, but priceless memories to last a lifetime. Each time you see one of your photos you'll remember the outing and those you enjoyed it with.

Oh, I almost forgot, take LOTS of pictures.

I took about 20 frames of this mule deer trio as they milled around in a thick patch of dry sunflowers before they lined up for this award winning shot.

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    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I enjoyed this hub and I love your advice of taking LOTs of pictures. As a novice photographer, I've noticed that I've been out and about, taking over 100 pictures, only to come home and find that maybe 20 of them are to my liking. So yes, perfect advice and yes, take LOTS of pictures!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 4 years ago from Pune, India

      Great Hub. The tips are very useful for newcomers in wildlife photography.