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Copyright Scott Bourne 2008 – All Rights Reserved

Careful readers of this blog know that I am primarily a wildlife photographer. I am working on a revised edition of my book, “88 Secrets to Wildlife Photography” which I co-wrote with Rod Barbee.

Here are some of the tips you’ll find in the old and the new book.

1. Always be ready for an animal encounter. Wherever you live, chances are there are animals nearby you can photograph. Be aware of local species. Do research to find out which kinds of animals frequent your area and when they are nearby.

2. Always carry a 300 to 400mm lens with your camera. You never know when you’ll get a chance to make a wildlife image. And you can’t make that image unless you have a reasonably long lens and camera nearby at all times.

3. Keep your basic gear on your person, not in your bag. Things like flash, batteries and memory cards should be in your pockets, not in your bag. Pawing through your bag in the middle of a wildlife encounter will usually result in a lost opportunity. I wear a vest for this reason and keep my basics in the same place every time I go out, so I can know where to find them.

4. Start by finding a good background. Background, background, background is the most important thing in the image after the subject and the light. The simpler the background the better. If the story is the animal, keep the background simple to focus attention on the real subject.

5. Shoot with a fast shutter speed when trying to get moving animals in focus. I shoot wildlife in shutter priority mode and when using my long lens, the Sigma 300-800 F/5.6, I set 1/750th of a second as my minimum shutter speed.

6. Look for situations that tell a story, convey a concept or communicate a mood.

7. Keep the light at your back, and point your shadow at the subject unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise.

8. When photographing groups of animals, look for separation between subjects. Avoid merges. It takes patience but it’s worth it.

9. Remember that in a photograph, a sleeping animal appears to be a dead animal, and therefore, not interesting.

10. Remember that when photographing action like moving animals, staring at your LCD will cause you to miss opportunities.

These are just some quick tips to get you started. There are more coming. Feel free to share yours below.

This post sponsored by Lensbaby.

Join the conversation! 24 Comments

  1. That’s a great laugh out loud picture – especially over a slow connection like mine. As it loads you see this cute fuzzy back and at the last second a growling little monster face. Great tips too BTW. The only thing I’d add is if we’re talking about a walk-around lenses IS is mandatory in my book. A good system is really worth 4 stops. I was just on Merritt island taking pictures of birds and was shocked at how crisp the images were right down to 1:1 pixels at 300mm and 125/s or less. I’m using the Canon 5DmII and the non-L 70-300 4-5.6 IS lens.

  2. That does NOT look like a happy, smiley badger. Great tips, thanks Scott.

  3. Scott, do you have any approved retailers in the UK whom sells your books?

  4. raccoon like thing looks to be mad :)

  5. I imagine most of the same principles good hunters use to find animals, apply to photographing them? Do you hunker down and wait for them to come to you, or do you go and find them ?

  6. Scott, Amazing tips, thanks a lot! I’m looking forward to your book/e-book!.

  7. The biggest tip is just get out there. You have to go to where the animals live. Learn their behavior. When do they eat, sleep, mate, etc. Learn how to see them. Learn how to approach them without frightening them or disturbing them. When shooting predators, always give them an avenue of escape.

  8. Thanks for the tips, Scott.

    “I shoot wildlife in shutter priority mode and when using my long lens, the Sigma 300-800 F/5.6, I set 1/750th of a second as my minimum shutter speed.”

    What do you do in low light situations where you can not maintain 1/750?

  9. Great tips Scott. Love the badger photo. I love to photograph eagles with my 40D. Thinking of getting a 5D mark II. Is the frame rate too slow for eagle shots?

  10. Definitely pays to be aware of your surroundings and the habits of animals. I once almost sat on a momma Opossum, turned just in time to see her bare teeth. She had turned my would be seat into her home which was an old stump. Probably one of the best tips around; know thy subject.

  11. Please do the ebooks, I’ll be among the first to buy ‘em. Dead trees are so 20th century! Give me a searchable PDF any day! iphone formatted versions would rock !

  12. That’s an awesome shot; for some reason though it makes me laugh looking at the badger’s face.

  13. […] 10 Tips for Photographing Wildlife […]

  14. These are great tips — I’ll definitely take advantage of them as I practice taking more wildlife photos.

  15. […] photographing wildlife remember to stay far enough from the animals, even though they are friendly and not afraid of […]

  16. Hi James currently all of my books are (I believe) out of print. We sold out all the editions and I am working on making the next round available as e-books since printing and postage costs have gone so high and the publisher takes such a big chunk out of traditional book sales. You might try Amazon.

  17. I was able to get 88 SECRETS TO SELLING & PUBLISHING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY through an Amazon reseller, but had to pay a premium. It was totally worth it though.

    I’m looking forward to shooting wildlife for the first time when I move back to Florida shortly.

    I found the tip of using shutter priority mode to be the most enlightening.

    Just wondering, what is the reason to not use manual mode though Scott?

  18. Ben that is a badger and they ALWAYS look mad because they are always always mad something. Either that or it’s a picture of an ex-girlfriend who had a similar disposition :)

  19. Rich it’s easy to find the animals by going to them if you know where they are. With birds I sometimes find a perch they like, then wait for them to come back to it. With the Alaska Coastal Brown Bears their location is well known and once you get close, it’s easy to find them.

  20. Many thanks for your reply, Scott.

  21. Scott, you should put some of your books on audible.

  22. Joe I shoot with the Nikon D3. Low light means nothing to me LOL! I just crank the ISO!

  23. Ouch! Nice answer… actually something along the lines of what I expected. I shoot with a D200 currently and unfortunately low light is a huge issue.

    I was thinking about upgrading to the D300, but I want to get a professional camera this time around. The D3 is too expensive for me right now, so I started looking at the D700.

  24. Jason I’ll discuss that in a blog post tomorrow. Thanks.

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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