A Beginner's Guide to Wildlife Photography

Have you been thinking about giving wildlife photography a try? Taking photos of wild animals in their natural habitat can be hugely fulfilling, whether this means stalking birds and squirrels in your local park or travelling to far flung locations for safari photography. 

If you’re just getting started, your local area is a great place to start. Even if you don’t live in the countryside, you can often spot a variety of wildlife if you know where to look, from foxes and otters to kingfishers and other species of birds. 

Conservation is an important aspect of nature and wildlife photography, because photographs have the power to inspire people to not only enjoy, but also protect their local nature and wildlife. In order to photograph wildlife ethically and responsibly, we must always put the animals’ well being first. This means allowing animals to go about their business without attempting to interact with them, and not destroying or altering their habitat for the sake of capturing a photo. 

Doing a bit of research on the species you want to photograph is also essential, as it provides you with an insight into an animal’s normal behavioural patterns. This will help you to be in the right place at the right time and also spot any potential signs of stress in your subject species. 

Taking photos of wild animals requires a good deal of patience as well as a working knowledge of your equipment. Need some help getting started? We’ve got you covered with advice and inspiration from award winning wildlife photographers working throughout the UK and beyond. 

Best Cameras for Wildlife Photography

What is the best camera for wildlife photography? With so many options on the market, from DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. However, when it comes to taking photos of wild animals, there are a few things you should look for in a camera. 

A camera for wildlife photography should be able to shoot a good number of frames per second, handle low light, and be able to maintain focus on a moving subject. All of these factors will affect your chances of capturing the right moments. Since you’ll be using it outdoors as well as travelling to and from various locations, it should also be fairly hardy, and you may want to choose a camera which is weather sealed. 

Keep in mind that along with a camera, you’ll also need to invest in a telephoto or zoom lens, although the exact type of lens you’ll need will depend on what you intend to photograph. 

Since the price of the camera is likely to play a significant role in your decision, especially when you’re first starting out, we’ve lined up a few examples of relatively affordable cameras that are well-suited to wildlife photography.

1.Nikon D5300

The Nikon D5300’s affordability as well as its ability to capture detail and produce sharp images even in low light makes it a great choice for anyone who is just getting started with wildlife and nature photography. It’s also relatively lightweight and allows for the transfer of images to another device via bluetooth. The main downside of this camera is that it’s not weatherproof, so you’ll have to keep it away from rain and snow, or purchase a raincover for wet weather. 

2.Canon EOS 7D Mark II

If you’re looking to take your nature and wildlife photography to the next level, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II could be an excellent option. Without being prohibitively expensive, it offers an exceptional autofocus system for tracking movement, a rapid frame rate of 10 fps, and great high ISO capability, which makes it possible to capture sharp action photos even in low light. The camera doesn’t have Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity, but it’s weather-sealed and hardy enough for most outdoor shooting, although you should still use a raincover for heavier rain. 

3.FujiFilm X-H1

Although the FujiFilm X-H1 is a little on the large side for a mirrorless digital camera, its sophisticated technology more than makes up for this. The camera has In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) and its autofocus system is excellent even in low light situations. It can also shoot up to 14 fps, making it perfect for taking photos of fast-moving wild animals like birds. With a thick magnesium alloy body, the camera is hardy and can function well even in colder temperatures. 

4. Lumix DC-G9 

The Lumix G9 boasts excellent image quality and has a fast and reliable autofocus system and continuous shooting mode to facilitate the tracking of moving subjects. It’s also weather-sealed and hardy yet lightweight and easy to travel with. Another benefit of this camera is its relatively noiseless electronic shutter, which allows you to capture close-up images of wild animals without startling them. 

5. Sony A9 

Although it’s definitely on the pricier side, nature and wildlife photographers looking to go professional will appreciate the Sony A9’s exceptional image quality, advanced burst mode, and In Body Image Stabilization. It’s widely seen as one of the best full frame mirrorless cameras for wildlife photographers due to its superior autofocus system, great low light performance and high-speed continuous shooting at up to 20 fps. Its small size also makes it easy to pack and carry on longer trips, although this can make it tricky to balance with bigger lenses. 

Top tips for bird photography 

Bird photography is a popular niche within wildlife photography, because regardless of where in the world you live, you can always find a variety of bird species to photograph. 

As with any type of photography, the more you know about your subject, or in this case, the bird species you wish to photograph, the easier it will become to create strong photographs. Want to give bird photography a try? Keep these top tips in mind. 

1. Do some research before heading out 

If you want to capture birds on camera, the first thing you need to do is learn as much as possible about your subjects and the area you intend to photograph them in. 

For instance, what types of birds are you likely to find in your local area? What do they like to feed on? At what times of day do they tend to be most active? Are there certain seasons or months during which they will be more active? Knowing all these details will greatly increase your chances of coming home with beautiful bird photos. 

2. Position yourself correctly 

Another thing that’s important when photographing birds is your positioning. Photographing a bird at eye level will generally make for a much more interesting photograph than one that was shot from above or below. So you may need to find something sturdy to stand on or climb. 

The direction of the light is also important. As a general rule, you should try to position yourself with your back towards the sun, unless you intend to shoot silhouettes. Certain times of day, such as early in the morning or evening, are also better for photography, as the light will be softer. It’s also a good idea to wear neutral-coloured clothing or camouflage in order to blend into your surroundings and avoid spooking your subjects.

3. Use your histogram 

Checking your camera’s screen isn’t the most reliable way to ensure an image has been correctly exposed. In order to avoid over or underexposed images, it’s worth taking the time to understand how to read the histogram. The histogram gives you information about the tonal range in an image; the left side represents the shadows and the right side represents the highlights. So if the graph is skewed to the right or the left, you’ll know that your image is either over or underexposed, and can adjust your settings accordingly. 

4. Focus on the eyes

When we look at a photo, whether of a person or animal, we are naturally drawn to the subject’s eyes. So the best way to ensure that your photos appear as sharp as possible is to focus on the eyes. If the eye is not well-focused, it will detract from the rest of the image.