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Wildlife Photography 101

By Sheena Koontz | Inspiration

The motto for wildlife photography should probably be “all good things come to those who wait”. Patience, persistence, and maybe a little bit of luck are the keys to being a successful wildlife photographer. If you're one of those people that craves instant gratification with every photo, then this is probably isn't the career for you.

Animals are unpredictable. Come to terms with this before you start shooting and your day will go much smoother. While you wait for the perfect opportunity to take your shot, check out BeFunky’s delightful mobile app. You can crop, touch up, and even adjust exposures with this amazing mobile tool!


Getting to know your subject

One of the most important tips I can share for attempting wildlife photography is taking the time to learn about the animal you plan to work with. You can’t ask an animal to turn its head or step out of the light. Getting animals where you want them requires patience and knowledge of their behavior. Since most animals are creatures of habit, they have daily routines just like everyone else.

The best wildlife shots are captured either spontaneous luck or through well-thought patience. The latter happens much more often than the former. If possible, visit the animal often and develop your own routine. Animals will become more comfortable around you and your equipment if you develop a predicable behavior that they do not perceive as a threat. Please don’t use food to lure wild animals as this can lead to safety issues for both animals and humans. The safety of the animal and yourself should always be taken into consideration when shooting.


The right equipment

Having the right equipment on hand can make capturing certain wildlife shots much easier. Depending on the situation, it may even call for a telephoto lens that can zoom in close or a wide angle lens that can capture a wider landscape. Think about where you plan to set up and how long you may need to wait to get the shot. Tripods and a vibration reduction feature are must haves for getting a good clear shot, especially with some of the bigger zoom lenses.

Recommended essentials (you can also check out BeFunky's Pinterest for some great ideas on equipment):

  • DSLR camera
  • Good quality telephoto and wide angle lens with VR
  • Camera Backpack
  • Tripod
  • Shutter Release cable
  • Back up Camera Battery
  • Phone with BeFunky’s mobile app installed

Mastering your gear

Before setting out to photograph wildlife it’s important to know what settings are going to work best for certain shots. Often with this type of photography you will find that you don’t have a lot of time to play around with settings. There may only be one chance to get that special shot and then the moment has passed. It’s important to know what settings are going to get the best results and have your camera ready.


Aperture priority mode works best for shooting animals that are less active. Shutter priority mode gives users the best chance for capturing animals on the move. Continuous (Burst) mode is perfect for capturing a series of images of an animal in action. It’s easy to fill up a memory card in this mode, so consider bringing an additional memory card as back up.

For close ups of animals, you want to focus on the eyes. Select a single auto-focus point and try for the eye closest to the camera. The closer you are to an animal, the higher the shutter speed will need to be to freeze movement. If you want to create a motion blur instead then you can lower the shutter speed and pan the camera with the animal’s movement.


The Golden Hour

Most photographers are familiar with the "golden hours" of photography, but this applies especially for wildlife photography. Animals tend to be more active during the first hour of light in the morning and the last hour of light before the sun completely sets, so if you're planning on taking a trip into the woods try and shoot for early morning or late afternoon. The sun will be in the peak position for some great shots, and the animals will hopefully be doing something worth photographing as well.

If you do find yourself unlucky enough to snap a photo when the light isn't so stellar then never fear! You can simply go into the mobile app and adjust all sorts of things under the Edit panel. From adding in some fill light to adjusting brightness, exposure and sharpening your photo, the BeFunky app is a great way to make quick, gorgeous edits on the go.


rule of thirds

Composing a great wildlife shot is as simple as following the rule of thirds. If you’re not familiar with the rule of thirds just bring up an image on the viewfinder of your camera and picture nine boxes on the image—three across the top, three in the middle, and three on the bottom. There are four points where the lines intersect. These intersecting points are the best places to position your point of interest aka the animal being photographed. You can also check out this snazzy article on composition to help you master the basics.

Even if you don’t get the animal in one of the intersecting points you can always strategically crop the image using the BeFunky app to help make it more visually appealing.

Don’t feel like you need to go on a safari to take up wildlife photography. Take a moment to slow down and explore your local park—you may be surprised by what you find!

Photo Editing, Simplified.

Photo Editing. Simplified