Tips that helped improve my wildlife photography

Hi everyone! Today it’s time to tell you a little bit more about my favorite thing in the world: Wildlife photography! I get overly excited when I’m in the bush and I basically look like a complete nut job every time. I have learned a lot in the past year and I want to share some tips with you that have helped me take better pictures too.

Me and my camera, wildlife photography

1. Practice with your camera settings

Knowing your camera inside and out is really important. In the bush you never know what you’ll encounter and you need to be able to switch settings quickly. I got my camera a month before my trip to Kenya and Tanzania. It was my first DSLR so I emerged myself in youtube tutorials and got practicing. I still would probably take some photo’s differently looking back, but getting to know my camera definitely helped!

2. Focus on the eyes

If anything the eyes need to new to be sharp! In the beginning I would try to focus on an animal quickly, but at home I realized the body was sharp but the eyes had a soft blur. This is devastating, because the shot become useless. The shot below is a winner for me, because the eyes/face of the fox are in focus, while almost everything else is blurry.

fox in Oostvaardersplassen

3. Rule of thirds

I love symmetry, but putting your subject in the center of the picture is not the best option most of the time. The rule of thirds means you divide the image in 9 even sections and place your subject on one of the intersections. However, you should always go with your gut. I really love this shot below of this deer that is almost completely symmetrical.

deer in Amsterdamse waterleidingduinen

4. Make sure you have enough zoom ability

On my first trip to South Africa I had a Nikon 1 with a 30-110mm lens. I would advice you to get a lens with more zoom abilities. You can still get great pictures with less, just not in every situation. I have tons of great pictures from my time there, but I also missed a lot of opportunities. I know have a 70-300mm lens and I love it. Many people go for more, but I think it’s sufficient in most situations, except for bird photography. If that’s something you want to pursue get at least 600mm. Luckily vultures are big enough to capture even with my 300mm.

vulture in masai mara

5. Don’t forget about the background

Most people on safari tend to zoom in as much as possible on their subject. You can get a great shot, but it will most likely look like many other photos. You might even be able to get a similar shot in a zoo. Using your surroundings can make your shot stand out!

6. Golden hour

Sometime you have to put in a bit of work. As many of my close friends know.. I’m not a morning person. However, for the perfect shot I’ll set my alarm to be up by the break of dawn. If you don’t know what the golden hour is: the first and last hour of light in a day. The light is softer and warmer during this time. Light in the middle of the day is often to harsh. If you want to catch the sunrise allow yourself time to get to the location, find your subject and set up. The sunrise/sunset always adds something special to your photo.

golden hour Masaai mara

6. Be prepared for the unexpected

When I wasn’t using my camera on safari I put it in sports mode. Why? In a split second there can be a cheetah sprinting past you (this actually happened). They are super fast and if you have to fiddle around with the setting you might have already missed the shot. So keep your camera ready for surprises like that!

7. Return to the same spot

Sometimes you are lucky and get that perfect shot on your first try. More often than not conditions are not ideal and you’ll head home with pictures that might be good, but not the perfect shot you were looking for. Persistence is key here. Unfortunately while traveling we don’t always have the opportunity to go back. When I was in Amboseli I really, really, really, wanted a shot of elephants with the Kilimanjaro in the background. Every time we got to a herd a of elephants, the Kilimanjaro would be hidden by the clouds. I still got a shot of a herd of elephants that I love, but it doesn’t have the Kilimanjaro on it. Guess I’ll just have to go back someday;)

elephants in Amboseli

8. Don’t get lost in the moment

So this is probably my biggest mistake. I get super excited and I forget to look at my settings and photos in between shots. I just keep clicking. I’ve been lucky a couple of times, but I also have plenty of blurry shot and blown opportunities. Take a second to adjust your settings!

I hope you found these tips helpful! Last tip: Just go out there and have fun:)