Want your Wildlife Photography to be Award Winning?
Have you ever downloaded your wildlife photography pictures onto your laptop after an outing and felt disappointed with your results? Ever felt that you have missed great opportunities to take an award winning shot?
I certainly have. And it is NOT such a great feeling. However, over time I have learned the lessons to be learned and my photography is now at a level where it pleases me and makes me decent money. In this section of Africa Nature Photography I give you all the advice and tips needed to avoid future wildlife photography disappointments. Spend some time on these pages and you will see results!
If you are planning to go on safari, this is especially important. You do not want the pictures of your once in a lifetime trip to be a mess. Those memories will then be lost forever.
Action! You need to take action to improve anything in your life. If you need to have a certain level of understanding to pass an exam, you will take action by studying. You guessed it… To improve your wildlife photography you also need to take action.
It is for this reason that I suggest you construct a good Action Plan to improve your wildlife pictures. A good period for incorporating this Action Plan is one year. One year because I think this gives you sufficient time to get everything in order. You need to consider the following main headings when constructing your Action Plan:
I briefly discuss these in the paragraphs below and give links to a more detailed pages where necessary. On these detailed pages I discuss the main points to consider when constructing your Action Plan.
What is wildlife photography? What is your subject when taking wildlife pictures. Wildlife of course. Does this include captive animals?
I answer these questions on the Subjects page. I also detail how this first point can best be incorporated into your Action Plan.
The next thing that you need to decide in constructing your Action Plan is the destinations you will be visiting. Get into nature! If you want improve your wildlife photography, this is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you. The natural habitats of wildlife is where it all happens!
Visit my Destinations page for the best advice on incorporating this into your Action Plan.
Picture this – you are on safari and on the lookout for game. Your guide spots a leopard in a nearby tree. You feel the blood rushing through your veins. When you see it and bring your camera up to your eye, your heart wants out. Out of your chest with excitement. You start firing…
Okay stop. Rewind. Have you even thought about getting your camera settings correct? Did you compose the subject in a pleasing manner? Was your zoom lens at the best focal length? There are lots of things that can go wrong and spoil such a once-in-a-lifetime wildlife photography opportunity. And who says you will get another opportunity.
Wildlife Photography Technique is so important for you to become a better wildlife photographer that I devoted a whole sub-section to this. I discuss my extremely useful “ISACA” acronym there, and how this will ensure that when you are shooting that leopard you will actually get the shot!
Please visit my Nature Photography Equipment section for a thorough discussion on the equipment required for quality nature photography. There are some specific points you should consider for wildlife photography, though, and I quickly touch on these below.
Compact digital cameras are getting so advanced that you can even use one of these intially, but do not expect brilliant results. The sensors are so small that digital noise is an almost constant companion, and the lenses do not even come close to professional quality SLR lenses. Sony also had some colour problems when I last checked.
The best camera system to use for wildlife photography is undoubtedly the 35mm SLR system. This is mainly due to size and cost considerations. If financially possible I suggest you obtain the new digital version of this system. The larger format systems are useful for landscape photography, but not flexible enough for an on the move wildlife photographer.
One very important feature that is a must for wildlife photography is fast continuous autofocus. This helps you track a moving subject while staying in focus all the time.
The best affordable digital SLR camera body on the market currently is the Canon EOS 20D. This is the body I use most oftent nowadays.
I do consider price when making a claim like that. I know everyone would love using the EOS 1Ds, but it is simply not possible for most of us…
Getting the correct equipment for the job is important, as the quality of your photographs depends heavily on the quality of your equipment. If you feel you are lacking in this department, you should incorporate a way to acquire better equipment into your Action Plan.
For wildlife photography, I think you will come a long way with a good digital SLR camera body and a pro quality zoom lens with a reach of around 400 to 500mm. A 600mm lens with a digital camera’s crop factor is getting a tad too long, so wait for a full frame digital sensor camera like the Canon EOS 5D before getting the best lens on the market! When I started out I mainly used the Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens.
More recently I made the switch to the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM combined with the shorter and faster Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM. The 500mm is really big and expensive, but worth every last cent in terms of image quality.
Richard du Toit is probably the most celebrated wildlife photographer operating in Southern Africa. I can really recommend his book Essential wildlife photography. It is very informative, yet to the point, and will give you a good idea of the level professional photographers operate on. However, it would have been really nice if he gave his readers more advice on how to start a career in wildlife photography. The book is also specifically aimed at South Africans. It is still a definite must read for any serious wildlife photographer.
I will be writing articles on other aspects of wildlife photography that I deem is necessary to help you improve your wildlife pictures, and also as I experience certain hardships myself and feel the need to share my solution. Please watch this space…
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