Top-10 tips to improve your wildlife photography

Capturing nature at its best can be one of the most rewarding outdoor activities. Wildlife photographer Wiehan van Wyk shares 10 tips on how to improve your skills, stay patient and what camera to look out for.

#1 Get a good camera

As obvious as it sounds, choosing a good camera is important. It ensures higher quality photos, especially when you use all the functional features these cameras offer. Going for a good camera does not imply the top of the range or expensive – there are many versatile DSLR’s or Mirror-less camera styles that are versatile enough for capturing wildlife.

Personally, I prefer a camera with interchangeable lenses because I can get up-close or shoot from far away by simply swapping the lens. Make sure the camera is equipped with manual mode. Shooting in the outdoors can be challenging and this feature gives you full control of the settings.

#2 Understand your camera’s settings

Get to know your camera and the various settings it offers. Choosing the right setting depends on the shooting conditions of the environment you are capturing. You can manipulate the surroundings by changing the settings on your camera. For example, on the manual mode you are able to control the:

a) ISO - The camera’s sensitivity to light.

b) Aperture - The opening of the lens' diaphragm through which light passes and gives you the depth of field in your photos.

c) Shutter Speed - The length of time that the digital sensor is exposed to light. This setting allows you to take photos of fast-moving objects/animals.

#3 Wear comfortable, camouflage-style clothing

A wildlife photographer has to wear the right gear to have the best chance of getting that perfect shot. Wearing appropriate clothes with camouflage-style patterns is ideal when you’re out in nature trying to capture that rare moment. It enables you to get closer to the wildlife without them necessarily seeing you or feeling threatened. Choosing the right clothing adds to comfort, especially when spending long hours just patiently sitting around. Make sure you dress weather-appropriate to avoid overheating or catching a cold.

Outdoor Warehouse’s range of camouflage gear is the perfect fit: Camouflage gear

#4 Practice makes perfect

Getting comfortable with your camera simply requires you to take more photos, more often. If you are a beginner, start by photographing the dog, the cat or birds in your neighbourhood. Play around with the various settings on your camera to understand how minor adjustments can vastly improve an image.

#5 Never stop learning

Whether you are a beginner or a professional wildlife photographer, you can never stop learning. There are always new tricks and methods to improve your skills, and ultimately, your photos. Be sure to check out online resources like YouTube, blogs and tutorials to improve your skills.

#6 Be Patient

Be patient with wildlife and with yourself. Sometimes the perfect moment takes only 2 minutes, other times you’ll wait for hours. And this is the beauty of it all. Being in the wild, studying and anticipating a lion’s next move or when a bird will take flight. Learn to enjoy those moments where it’s just you, your camera and nature. Listen to the birds, feel the wind against your skin and just become aware of everything around you while you wait for the perfect shot.

#7 Expect the unexpected

You’re still reading! I guess you really want to know more about wildlife photography. (I guess you also love nature and appreciate wildlife...) And this wonder and mystery of wildlife is the most exciting part – you never know what’s going to happen next! Knowledge of the animals that you are shooting (with the camera!) might help you capture the perfect shot. Animals have personalities and if you understand this, you’re more likely to anticipate their next move.

#8 Respect and safety

Respect the animals and their habitat. We’ve all seen incidents of misconduct where people disrespect nature by making noises, throwing stones or aggravating the animals to get a reaction for their shot. This defeats the purpose of capturing raw beauty and poses a huge risk to the safety of wildlife photographers.

Rather find the unique beauty of a lion sleeping, impalas grazing or hippos lying on the river bed. Wait for the moment; don’t put yourself and the animal in danger trying to create the perfect moment.

#9 There are no rules

I’m not talking safety now, but rather about photography rules. There is no right or wrong in what you capture or at which angle you capture it. The guidelines you’ll find are there to assist you in getting the basics right.

#10 Enjoy yourself

Nature relaxes me. It’s my escape from the busy world we live in. Listening to the natural orchestra, feeling the cool breeze and envisioning the photo a want to take. If you return from a game drive or bushwalk without the perfect shot, take it easy! That is nature and there is always the next time. Just remember not to be caught up trying to capture the perfect moment and in the end, missing one of the greatest experiences of your life. Be mindful of the privilege of spending time in nature and everything it has to offer, doesn’t matter how big or how small.

Wiehan van Wyk

Instagram: ( @VanWyk_Wildlife )

Wiehan van Wyk's Photographs