Photographing Wildlife

Safaris are somewhat passe. These days, folks are more likely to shoot an animal with a camera than a gun. Sometimes, though, that's easer said than done; animals rarely pose for the camera. In this Here's How, we'll talk about how to best capture photos of wildlife, whether in a zoo or while trekking through the bush on your next holiday.

Zoom, Zoom

Traditional wildlife photographers--you know, like the ones that shoot for magazines like "National Geographic"--have a lens as long as the party sub sandwich that your office ordered for the last holiday party. There's a good reason for that: It's insanely difficult to get close to most kinds of wild animals, and even if you could get really close, you probably wouldn't want to. So the alternative is to stay far away, but pull in the action with a powerful zoom.

Consider this photo, for example. Looks great, right? But take a look at the original--I had to crop the image extensively to fill the frame with the little critter.

This is where digital SLRs like the Nikon D50 or the Canon Digital Rebel have a real advantage. Because you can swap lenses, you can invest in a 200mm, 300mm, or even a 500mm lens and snap it into place when you head to Taronga Zoo.

If you don't have an SLR, then you're stuck with whatever zoom level is available on your point-and-shoot. That can be okay; just remember to turn off your camera's digital zoom mode, because it isn't particularly useful. Digital zoom magnifies the pixels in the middle of the frame to simulate more zoom. In other words, it does the same thing you could accomplish with an image editor just by cropping the picture.

Shutter Speed Is Key

The longer your focal length, the more susceptible your photos will be to camera shake and blurry images. In addition, wild animals move quickly and unpredictably, further necessitating a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. That makes wildlife photography the perfect storm for blurry photos--if the long lens doesn't blur your shot, that lion darting around at the last moment almost certainly will.

As a result, my advice for wildlife photos is simple: shoot at the absolute fastest shutter speed you can muster, all the time. Take no chances. I tend to set my camera to aperture priority mode and set the aperture to the highest setting available, which forces the camera to use the fastest shutter speed.

Here's an attempt I made at catching a raccoon in action before I had a chance to set the shutter speed high enough; and here's another shot, just a few minutes later, when I was better prepared.

For tips, read .

Crank up the ISO

ISO, which measures the camera's sensitivity to light, is an essential ally when shooting wildlife to eke out a little more shutter speed, and thereby freeze the action. Most people tend to increase ISO only at night, but I've found it essential to increase the ISO even in the middle of the day when stalking wild animals. Last year, for example, I was photographing wolves on an overcast winter afternoon. At 3 p.m., I had to push my camera all the way to ISO 3200 just to get exposures around 1/60 second. Yes, higher ISOs will introduce more digital noise into your photos. But it can be worth it, this shot attests.

For more on using this setting, read .

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dave Johnson

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?