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How to Become a Better Nature Photographer

Updated on May 15, 2016
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

CC0 Public Domain
CC0 Public Domain | Source
African elephant  (Elephantidae) at Miami Metro Zoo
African elephant (Elephantidae) at Miami Metro Zoo | Source

Being a nature photographer is probably one of the most exciting and rewarding photographic genres. You get to see nature in ways that many will not even dream off. You get to travel and see many magnificent species that call our planet home just like we do.

To become a nature photographer takes dedication, patience and above all you must love what you are doing.

There will plenty of times that you will be in one location, usually by yourself,waiting for the perfect shot, the perfect subject and an opportunity to get the angles and perspective just right not to mention hoping that when your subjects shows up the light is just right plus don't forget that the weather must be on your side too.

You will probably spend copious amounts of time hiking, getting dirty, wet, cold or hot but if you really love what you do , when you get your shot, everything will have proven to be worth it. | Source

Be unpredictable and take some risks with your approach but not your safety. IF others go out to capture images of a nice vista at one time or another, then plan ahead and be there when no on else is. This means that you need to research your subject and learn everything about it as well as everything about the location , times, weather and other things to make your shots unique and not just looking like the rest. | Source

The hardest thing will be being different. Nature photography is very popular and there are many pros out there who do nothing but take great shots.

If you want to compete with them you need to figure out how your images will be different. Perhaps specializing in a creative perspective or angle. Using a creative approach, using only one type of lens and so on.

You need to make your images your own and what that means is that your images have to somehow be different from what you see in nature oriented photo mags. Becoming a specialist in a few or maybe one subject matter will help but add your own personal touch to your work and you will soon be recognized for it.

Aphids (Aphididae) in my flower garden on a milkweed (Asclepias)
Aphids (Aphididae) in my flower garden on a milkweed (Asclepias) | Source
Blue-bellied Roller (Coracias cyanogaster) in a nature park ,Colombia
Blue-bellied Roller (Coracias cyanogaster) in a nature park ,Colombia | Source

Respect nature and everything in it. There is nothing more damaging to a photographer's reputation that to be known for great shots but also known as someone who destroys or manipulates things for the sake of a picture.

Professional photographers will go so far as to indicate whether an image of a subject was take in the wild or in a nature preserve, zoo or similar location.

It's OK to move a tree limb out of the way but not to chop it down. It's OK to clear some leaves from the top of a nest or den but not to manicure the site.

It's OK to entice with some snacks but not to place the animal at risk by doing so or worst, to use a live prey for the sake of enticing a predator.

You need to maintain an ethical approach towards nature all the time or risk losing the respect of the entire industry and the public.

Plan and compose your shots with care. Doing so without thinking about the composition will often result in unimpressive images.

You really should try your best to convey a feeling to the viewer. You want them to feel like you did when you took the shot.

Take everything into account; the subject itself, the surrounding area, the weather, and the time of day.

Keep in mind that you get a feeling when you are there because your eyes see a much wider and complete vision of everything while your viewer will only see so far as the lens can capture.

Try to show the character as well as the behavior of the subject and if possible include its eyes. We like to make eye contact and it's the first thing we usually connect with when looking at a photo whether it is of an animal or a person.

Honey Bee (Bombus angustus) & common housefly (Musca domestica) in my flower garden firebush shrub (Hamelia patens)
Honey Bee (Bombus angustus) & common housefly (Musca domestica) in my flower garden firebush shrub (Hamelia patens) | Source

Is nature photography something you would enjoy doing?

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Orchids in the wild, Guatemala
Orchids in the wild, Guatemala | Source
Flowerpot parasol mushroom (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii) in my yard
Flowerpot parasol mushroom (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii) in my yard | Source

Be mindful of propositions and scale. A viewer sees only a limited part of the entire scene and can sometimes find it difficult to judge the subject's proportions. Including elements in the scene that serve to show size helps your viewer establish a visual scale of size and proportions and this is especially true for landscape shots.

An image of a giant sequoia tree will lack interest if you do not show the viewer their magnitude. That's why so many pros usually include portions of the surrounding area, a person or even a car next to them. | Source

Like I mentioned before, plan, plan and plan some more. Going into a shoot unprepared can be to your detriment. Research the subject, the weather the location, the animal's behaviors and you will be better prepared when the action starts and your shots will show this.

Many pros careful study an area for some time before they even take their camera. This serves to let them know the best times and the best movement patterns, inducing favorite watering holes, favorite grazing areas and favorite food sources. Plus in some instances it allows the wildlife to get used to their presence and become a little less skittish.

One more thing, try to properly name each of your species or each location. This helps make your images more appealing to publications. Use the scientific name for flora and fauna and the most recognizable name for landscapes including the region.

Be very patient and persevere. Nature photography probably requires more downtime than any other photographic genre. So much time is spent scouting a location and waiting for the right shot that you can get lonely and maybe even bored. But the rewards can be huge.

You must love nature and photography as one. Not giving up will not only reward you with great pictures but will also let you develop a much greater appreciation for nature in general. | Source

© 2016 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 23 months ago from Miami, Florida

      emge: thanks

    • emge profile image

      Madan 23 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      Interesting post and good suggestions