You’re on the open Savannah. You have your camera in hand and you’ve just spotted a small lion cub playing with its mother. This is what they call a true, once-in-a-lifetime shot.
You whip your camera out, snapping as many photos as you dare before sneaking away, careful not to alert the small pride of felines.
You make it back to your hotel safely, thrilled at the prospect of having such an amazing subject. Then, you take a look at the photographs you’ve taken and feel your heart drop into your stomach.
They’re blurry, pixelated, too dark, too light. In short, they’re unusable.
If this sounds like an absolute nightmare to you, then you’re in the right place. In this article, I’ll give you all the specifics on how to avoid situations just like these in your own wildlife photographs using three different categories: close-ups, quick pictures, and long-distance shots.
Also read: A Beginner’s Guide To Wildlife Photography
Close-up Portrait Pieces
Let’s dive right into it. For close-up pieces on inanimate objects, you want to try to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode and set it to a relatively large aperture (a small f-stop number).
If the subject is moving quickly (such as with insects) you will need to use shutter priority mode instead. This is going to allow you to freeze the motion of the insect without causing motion blur. I recommend 1/250 or faster.
Furthermore, a low ISO (essentially, as low as you can go and still maintain your shutter speed) is ideal, as it keeps your image crisp.
For quick captures, you’ll once again want to choose a high shutter speed. 1/250 is ideal, and if you can go even higher, do it!
Ideally, you would set your camera in Aperture Priority Mode once again and determine your shutter speed by adjusting the aperture. This seems counterintuitive, but it works much better than manually choosing your shutter speed in cases like these.
This is because when you shoot in Shutter Priority Mode, your camera determines your aperture automatically, and this can result in photos that are over or underexposed quite often, especially if the lighting is complex.
For these types of pictures, you’ll also want to use a midrange ISO.
Like the lions we discussed earlier, with some animals, you aren’t going to want to get too close. That’s where these settings will come in handy.
For long-distance photographs, you’ll want to use some sort of zoom lens paired with a quick shutter speed. Similar to quick shots, you’ll want to shoot in Aperture Priority Mode and set your shutter speed that way.
This is because outdoor light is dynamic, and your camera can often select an inappropriate aperture while outdoors.
In addition, increasing your ISO is ideal, as it offsets the dark exposure on your photos caused by a high shutter speed.
Then, of course, with any type of wildlife photography, you’ll want to make sure you’re using these settings while staying safe and respecting the nature around you.