Wildlife Photography Routine

How To Get Ready For A Wildlife Photography Session

Wildlife Photography is another type photography and it is probably one of the most exciting type for hobbyists and pros. In previous articles I discussed tips on how to get ready for Landscape Photography, Portrait Photography, and Lifestyle Photography before. In this article I am going to cover preparation steps for Wildlife Photography and how to get ready.

What is Wildlife Photography

Wikipedia explains Wildlife Photography as:

Wildlife photography is a genre of photography concerned with documenting various forms of wildlife in their natural habitat.

As well as requiring photography skills, wildlife photographers may need field craft skills. For example, some animals are difficult to approach and thus a knowledge of the animal’s behavior is needed in order to be able to predict its actions. Photographing some species may require stalking skills or the use of a hide/blind for concealment.

While wildlife photographs can be taken using basic equipment, successful photography of some types of wildlife requires specialist equipment, such as macro lenses for insects, long focal length lenses for birds and underwater cameras for marine life. However, a great wildlife photograph can also be the result of being in the right place at the right time[1] and often involves a good understanding of animal behavior in order to anticipate interesting situations to capture in photography.

Wildlife Photography

Light direction, selection of the lens and the correct shutter speed made this photo
Light direction, selection of the lens and the correct shutter speed made this photo


In wildlife photography you don’t have any control over the ambient light and it can change so rapidly and as a Photographer, you must always be prepared for the changes in light. That being said, using a fast lens (a lens with lower f-stop) can be very useful.

Lens Selection

Wildlife Photography requires special lenses, such as long telephotos, macro lenses, etc. As I mentioned above using a fast lens provides more light passing through the lens, therefore you won’t miss a shot due to dim light.

Long Telephoto

Wildlife Photography
A fast long telephoto provides enough details from the scene, even in low light conditions.

Camera Settings

Now that we discussed the Light and the choice of the lenses, let’s get into the camera settings.

Shutter Speed

The minimum shutter speed for a successful wildlife photography depends on your subject. If you take photos of a Chita running around, 1/1000s is the minimum shutter speed. On the other hand if you take photos of a turtle, you don’t need that fast shutter speed. As rule of thumb I will suggest to use 1/500s as the starting point. After all remember that you are using a long telephoto, so faster shutter speed avoids camera shake.

What about Camera Shake?

Camera shake, which is the most popular reason for ruining the wildlife photos, can be prevented by using a Monopod or a tripod. Speaking of which, your subject (the wildlife) moves, so you need to use a fast shutter speed anyway.

Shutter Speed

wildlife photography
Using a fast shutter speed ensures that you won't get a blurry photo.

Aperture Setting

The shutter speed the most important part of the exposure setting in wildlife photography therefore I prefer to use Shutter Priority (TV). Usually I set the shutter speed fast enough to freeze the action and let the camera makes the decision about the aperture.

ISO Setting

As rule of thumb we always want to use the minimum possible ISO, but as I mentioned above the light can change so rapidly and we may not have time to change the ISO manually. Almost all new digital cameras have an Auto ISO mode, that the camera increases the ISO to the minimum possible setting to make the exposure. You should set a limit for the Auto ISO, so the camera won’t pass this limit and set the ISO to some ridiculously high ISO (such as ISO 25000!).

Drive Mode

Always the anticipated moments quickly appear and disappear before you know it. That is why I suggest to use Continuous Drive Mode to take several shot starting from before till few shots after the moments are gone. In this case you won’t miss the important shot. You may end up with lots of photos, but you won’t miss that glorious moment.

Auto ISO

Camera Settings: Shutter Priority, so camera set the Aperture and Auto ISO used the minimum ISO for this shot.
Camera Settings: Shutter Priority, so camera set the Aperture and Auto ISO used the minimum ISO for this shot.

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Ted and the Omnilargess Team

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