A Baker’s Dozen: Tips For Better Wildlife Images, Part 2

In the final part of this two-part series, I continue with a Baker’s Dozen of 13 key points to help you return home with good wildlife images. If you missed part one, be sure to go back and review it before continuing on with part two.  

The Sweeteners

Work the Light

Photographers often use the term “sweet light” to describe the way the sun illuminates the earth at sunrise and sunset. Wildlife is painted with a golden glow of warm color. Be sure to be in the field at these two key times of day. An added bonus is that animals become more active early and late, so there’s a better opportunity to capture behavior and action.

Details, Details

The angle of the head and expression in the eyes are two key details that must not be overlooked. Direct eye contact is powerful. It’s great when wildlife makes a connection with the photographer. When that file is printed, a direct connection is in turn made with the viewer. Look beyond the obvious to find abstracts. Move in close to make images of zebra patterns, the face of a yawning fox, feather patterns on large shore birds and more.

The Background

The background is equally as important as the subject. I say this all the time and have written full Tips of the Week about it. If the background is busy, the viewer’s eye is distracted. It doesn’t allow the animal to stand out. Be patient and wait for the subject to move to a location that has a better background.

Fill Flash

When the contrast is strong, use flash to soften the ratio between deep shadow and bright highlights. Dial in just the right amount of power so shadow areas are filled in by the flash in conjunction with the camera exposure to hold detail in the highlights. For wildlife that’s a bit far, use a MagMod flash extender. It uses a Fresnel lens to project the light farther than it could reach if just the flash was used.

Capture the Flavor

Show behavior, interaction and action. If the animal simply stands and poses for a portrait, make the image but then wait for something special to happen. A yawn or a stretch is more interesting to view in a photo than a static subject. Wait for other wildlife to enter the scene and interact with the subject you’ve been photographing. If it’s a bird, wait for it to fly. Be cognizant of your shutter speed when it’s time to capture action so all parts of the animals are sharp.

Keep Records

If you go on safari with a guide or simply make a local trip with someone who knows the names of all the species, write them down in the chronological order in which they were photographed. This way, you can title and label all your files much more efficiently without having to Google the animal or bother someone with a question you should have been able to answer if you kept good records. To avoid missing images, use your phone to make voice messages of each species. Additionally, to keep track of where you were when a photo was recorded, take every opportunity to make images of road signs. Doing this consistently keeps you up to date on where you were when you made a given photo. 

The Finished Pastry

The Presentation

The trip/safari is over. You download and optimize your best images. Everything is marked, sorted and cataloged. Now what? An obvious way to share is on Facebook, Instagram or any other social media sharing medium. Other ways to show off your work is via greeting cards, calendars, self-made books and more. My favorite way is to make a slideshow set to music and give presentations at camera clubs. If you’re not there yet, make short slideshows and share them with your photo buds. Take the shows to nursing homes, hospitals, schools or other places where people can appreciate your endeavors.

Use the ideas in my Baker’s Dozen, along with your own, to fine-tune your photo endeavors. I hope your future outings to photograph wildlife will have more flavor and taste and can be enjoyed by yourself and others.

To learn more about this subject, join me on one of my photo safaris to Tanzania. Please visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.

Originally Published December 7, 2020

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