Canon Blog 5 Top tips


Starting out in the world of wildlife photography can be a daunting task. You can just venture out with your camera to a local park or lake and see what you can photograph but eventually you will realise that this is not just the answer, and you will want to take your photography to the next level. Choosing that path is the exciting bit whether you want to learn the art of fieldcraft so it makes life easier to get close enough to your chosen subject or that you travel to various parts of the UK where you can guarantee that you see subjects to train your camera on.


Start shooting in your local area


I think one of the best bits of advice I can give to the budding wildlife photographer is start by photographing closer to home. Whether that is in a local woodland or farmland or even in your own garden. I started out by feeding the birds that visit my garden and some thirty years later I still do this so I can keep busy when I am at home. The beauty about working from your garden is you start to know when the birds are at a peak time of visiting your feeding station and you can then maximise the time you spend there. Also, over time you will work out when the best lighting conditions are over the course of the day and then you will just shoot at those best times. Because it is local to you and easy to get in position you can then react quickly when the light is at its optimum best or adverse weather conditions arrive like heavy rain showers or falling snow or cold frosty conditions which can add a great ingredient to your final images. If like me, you set out a long-term plan for such a project you can add many different food sources to what you place out which will attract many different species giving you great depth in your portfolio. Having a place like this will hone your instincts on what is working for you and your photography whether it is that special bit of light or that rare species that pays a visit. If you don't have a garden but are working with a species close to home, if you make a mistake there is always going to be another opportunity around the corner.

Visiting a well-trodden path.

There are so many places dotted around the UK where you can spend a day or long weekend visiting a certain hotspot to improve on your wildlife photography. We are so blessed in the UK to have a variety of habitats and so by visiting some of these places can really increase your portfolio and over time your instincts in what you are looking for in your own photography. We are so lucky to have some very accessible Sea Bird colonies in the UK which can be accessed for day trips. Islands like Skomer in Wales or the Farne Islands in Northumbria are superb places to visit, and you can see a variety of different species in one day. There are also some lesser-known places that you can visit and come away with some great images, place like Gigrin Farm in Wales which was set-up to attract Red Kites by placing out food during the winter months. This is now one of the best places in the world to see and photograph this beautiful raptor and the action shots of the Kites in flight is a fantastic opportunity. There are lots of Deer Parks dotted around the UK as well and during the Autumnal months when the Red Deer Rut gets underway these places can be fantastic for getting images of the iconic Stags as they strut their stuff. I am very lucky as I live very close to one of the best parks in the country which is Bradgate Park in Leicestershire. It really takes some beating to be close to a large Stag on a cold October morning and I have spent many in this tranquil park over the years. Over the past few years there has been a growing industry where you can rent a hide for the day, and you can get images of many different subjects ranging from Kingfishers to badgers. This network of hides is an excellent way of improving your own photography and portfolio.

Choosing the right equipment

I have always shot with Canon equipment and have never thought about switching to anything else as I know the Canon system and it works well for me. It can be a daunting prospect when buying your first camera and which make and model to go for as your choice is vast. Once you have chosen your brand then stick with it because the more you get to know the camera and system, you will find it more instinctive to change settings and functions which in turn will make you a better photographer. Getting the right combination of lenses is also a tough choice as again there are so many to choose from. The best bet for wildlife photography is to ask yourself a question and that is what would I really like to tackle. If it is birds or mammals, then you would definitely need some extra reach so anything of around 400mm or longer will do the trick. Getting a fixed prime lens like a 500mm or 600mm is certainly one of the best choices for wildlife photography as they shoot in very low light and optically the final results are amazing, but there are some minus points to purchasing one of these lenses. The weight of them can be a hard slog carrying them and of course for all this glass you can pay a hefty price for a lens like this. If your budget is tighter and don't want to weigh yourself down, then a lens like a 100-400mm zoom is also a good choice. I have collected many lenses over the years but one lens I always carry in my bag is a Macro Lens. These lenses will not break the bank and if you get into Macro photography then the possibilities are endless with so many species and subjects to tackle.

Developing a style

So, after a period of time and you are now getting familiar with your camera, you are now starting to see some results in your photography where you are getting to grips with exposures and compositions and have learnt the basic rules of photography. Now is the time to take it to that next level and start developing a style. To do this look back at your previous images and pick out a small selection of your favourite images. Then analyse them and ask yourself the question why you like them. It might be that special end of day light that you get in the last golden hour or just an unusual composition that works for you and you like the aspect of that image, or it might be a certain species that you have enjoyed photographing and would like some more opportunities to do so again. The one thing that has to stand out is why you like the image and so next time you find yourself in the field try and shoot it in exactly the same way. It doesn't matter if it is a different subject just try and do the same technique, that way you will find you have started to develop your own unique style.

Choose a long-term project

I have been photographing wildlife now for over thirty years and I have never got bored with working with the same subject. One species that have always enjoyed photographing is Red Deer, especially during the annual rut. It is such an iconic species in the UK and like I said before we are blessed with some great locations in the UK where you can find them. What I do is try and work in a way each year as if it my first time in seeing and photographing them and that way I have a fresh approach each new season. By working with a subject over a long period of time you get to know it habits and start to learn the fieldcraft that is needed in you being able to get close enough to the subject. You make mistakes along the way, but the trick is to remember them and so learn from them. As a rule, I try to have lots of different projects on the go but spread out during the course of the year, so I am constantly busy and moving between subjects. Badgers and Pine Martens have been my latest projects as they are two species that I have wanted to improve on. These are elusive subjects and tricky to do but you could start by targeting and working with a particular bird that feeds at your feeding station and improve on the images from there. Anyway, that is just a few tips to get you started, happy shooting.