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What animal lover doesn’t want to share their adoration for wildlife with the world? There is nothing that makes us more happy than spotting an animal living freely and happily in their natural habitat. Taking pictures of wildlife and showing others how beautiful these animals can be is a great way to inspire them to care about nature just as much as you do. 

For wildlife enthusiasts, eco-tourism trips like safaris and whale-watching offer the opportunity to witness some of the world’s larger and most majestic animals in their native ecosystems. Photos of elephants or orca whales undoubtedly show us that these animals belong in the wild – not in zoos or marine parks. Given the threatened status of many wild animals, wildlife photography plays an important role in their conservation. Photography has the incredibly ability to elicit emotion in people who might not otherwise be inclined to stand up for animals, so we always jump at the chance to snap photos and share. 

We have seen many people attempt to accomplish this by taking selfies with wild animals. Not only is doing this incredibly dangerous, but it can also cause stress to wild animals. However, if you are serious about up-ing your wildlife photography skills, we have a few tips that can help you develop and hone your talent.

Do’s and Dont's of Wildlife PhotographyMazzali/Flickr

While we love getting up close and personal with animals, zoos and marine parks are not the place to get great animal photos. Though the animals will be closer and easier to photograph, you won’t be able to capture the serene and natural beauty of an animal in the wild. Here are some important things you need to keep in mind when photographing wildlife.

Do’s

There are tons of tips and tricks to help improve your photography skills. These simple tips will help you foster those skills for wildlife photography specifically.

Use a Fast Shutter Speed

You aren’t going to stumble upon an animal who is fast asleep in the wild all that often. For the most part they are going to be moving, and moving quickly. Using a faster shutter speed is going to save you from blurry and out of focus pictures. One photography rule says that your shutter speed should always be the same or higher than your focal length. So if you are using a zoom lens, you’ll have to adjust accordingly. Shooting an animal like a flying bird may require an even faster shutter speed.

Know the Animal

Even if you have practiced and practiced your photography skills and know your camera backwards and forwards, you may still struggle with taking the perfect wildlife photo. To take an amazing photo, you have to know the animal you are shooting. You should be prepared to spend time analyzing and studying the behavior of the wildlife you are witnessing. Read books, and if you can, talk with experts on the species you want to photograph. According to National Geographic, the more time you spend with your animal subject, the more likely your images will be intimate and revealing.

Always remember, however, to respect the animals you are taking pictures of. Though we love them, wild animals can be dangerous. It is important that you are aware of and respect any warning signals that they are displaying. Try to remain as inconspicuous as possible, so you don’t cause the animal any undue stress.

If you truly know and spend time with the animal, you will be able to get a shot that represents their personality. Adjust your focus points to ensure you get the eyes of the animal as clearly as possible. By shooting the eyes, you can get a true sense of the animal’s soul. The clarity of the eyes can elevate your picture from a snapshot to a photograph.

Be Patient

As is always the rule when working with and around animals, patience is key. A wild animal is not going to sit pretty for you and they may never even look directly at you. The key to getting that beautiful, unforgettable image is patience. You may have to spend hours or days with an individual or group of animals to get a perfect shot. If you don’t have that amout of time, don’t worry. Patience will still be an integral part of your photography. Spend as much time as possible with your subject, and enjoy these moments you get to spend with a wild animal. The chances are rare and can be treasured forever.

Do’s and Dont's of Wildlife PhotographySorin Mutu/Flickr

Don’ts

When working near wild animals, it is important to be aware of your surroundings and follow these “don’ts.”

Don’t Leave the Path

If you are photographing animals on an eco-tourism expedition, there will be specified paths that you have to follow. Whether it be foot paths or dirt roads on a safari, these paths are there for a reason. Leaving the trail may bring you into dangerous territory or too close to the animals you should be shooting from a distance. Not to mention, you may get ticks, poison ivy or come into contact with other harmful plants and animals.

Don’t Get Too Close

Speaking of getting to close, when you are working near wild animals it is important to give them space. Don’t get too close! It is common sense, but when you are caught up in getting a beautiful photograph, it can be easy to forget.

Also remember to never feed a wild animal. Food that animals wouldn’t naturally consume may have a detrimental effect on the animals you care about. Even just giving wild birds bread can cause issues for these animals. Feeding animals also causes these independent, wild animals to become reliant on humans for food. This may make them comfortable coming into contact with people who might harm them. As a general rule, avoid interacting with these animals as much as possible. Invest in a good telephoto lens for your camera to take awesome photos without compromising this rule.

Don’t Get Too Caught Up

The appeal of taking pictures of lions and elk is there. These animals are magnificent and pictures of them never cease to amaze. Don’t get too caught up in the “megafauna” though. National Geographic photographers Cary Wolinsky and Bob Caputo advise to stop and take a look around. Wherever you are, you are bound to find a smaller creature that may prove even more interesting to photograph. Everyone wants a beautiful photo of the “big guys,” but there are many other forms of life all around us.

Don’t Stress

And last, but definitely not least, don’t stress. Being out and about, experiencing animals in their natural habitat should be enjoyed. Remember, it is ok to set the camera down every now and then and just enjoy to beauty that surrounds you. The experience comes first, the photograph should come second.

Do’s and Dont's of Wildlife PhotographyBlmiers2/Flickr

Lead Image Source: Martin Heigan/Flickr

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