A lion cub clambers over an adult male lion lying in long grass, who raises his head in a mock roar.


6 tips for shooting great wildlife images

Wildlife photography is a hugely popular discipline. However, unpredictable animals that move fast, infrequently and erratically can be one of the most challenging shooting subjects.

With the right knowledge, equipment and plenty of patience, some stunning images can be achieved. Just as with sports photography, preparation, position, equipment and expecting the unexpected can be applied to shooting wildlife.

With these in mind, here are six tips for shooting great wildlife images.

1. Get to know your subject

Having knowledge of the habitat and behaviour of the animal you are photographing is vitally important and will save hours in the field. Knowing the time of year and day a species is active will help with your shoot planning. Great wildlife images are rarely taken without knowledge and planning.

A kneeling man photographs two kangaroos lying on the ground.

2. Practice makes perfect

There’s little point being in the perfect place at the right time and not being able to capture what’s in front of you. Shooting split-second moments takes practice. Consider setting up feeders for birds in your garden and shooting them through the window, or setting up a makeshift hide.

Alternatively, spend time at the zoo with your camera to understand animal behaviour. The more you train your eye and your reaction times to wildlife behaviour, the better you’ll do when shooting in the wild.

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3. Get in close

Most great wildlife images show the action close-in. Physically getting close to wildlife usually results in behavioral changes or worse, scaring them off completely. Using a long lens is essential to produce images that show the action in detail, then cropping your final image to get even closer.

4. Keep focus

Ensuring that your subject is sharp in the right area is important in wildlife pictures. Selecting your AF point is the first step to controlling your focus; the centre point is often the most sensitive and is likely to give you the best results.

Try to keep focus on the most important part of the subject, usually the eyes. Consider AI-Servo mode to keep your camera constantly tracking the subject and use the back button to focus, freeing up the shutter button for shutter operation.

5. Consider the light

You can elevate your pictures by choosing the right lighting conditions to photograph your subjects. Taking into account their behavioral patterns, try to use early morning or late evening sun for warm low light, which produces rich color and deep shadows.

6. Speed matters

Getting your shutter speed right is a key part of capturing wildlife at their best. The logical step when shooting fast-moving action is to raise the shutter speed, and in many instances this is the right thing to do. However, you may want to introduce a little blur with a slower shutter speed, on the tips of a bird’s wing for example, to add a sense of movement.

As you become more proficient with your equipment, you may want to lower the shutter speed to further increase this effect and even introduce a panning technique.

Explore Canon’s range of lenses for wildlife photography and find out how to choose the best lens for the occasion.

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