SHOOT WILDLIFE LIKE A PRO
Dominic Boulding, regional trainer at Jessops Academy, has been shooting wildlife since he was a kid. He shares his top photography tips for getting that perfect shot
Dominic Boulding – or Dom to those of you who’ve met him on a Jessops course – started his photographic journey at the age of 12, with a point-and-shoot, learning his craft as he went. He gained a degree in Wildlife and Media from the University of Cumbria, and has worked as a professional photographer ever since. He now delivers almost all the courses offered by Jessops Academy. “I’ve shot every kind of photography in my years behind the lens,” says Dom, “and animal photography is a favourite.” Here, Dom offers his advice for stunning wildlife photography…
Before you even pick up your camera, get to know your subject. If you don’t know where it will be or what it does, you’ll waste a good proportion of your day taking your camera gear for a walk! Whether you want to shoot birds or mammals, reptiles or fish, when it comes to finding them, one thing is guaranteed: all creatures need to eat and drink. This means that if you can find your subject’s food source, it won’t take long to track down the animal.
Whether you’re trying to shoot hunter or prey, you need to approach with care. Before it sees you, your subject will smell and/or hear you. Work out the direction of the wind and be down-wind of where your subject will be. Try to wear clothes that don’t rustle, and keep them dark to blend in.
Aiming for a shot of a single creature is easier than trying to get a wider scene.
IT’S NOT ABOUT THE KIT
Everyone asks about kit, but it’s not kit that makes a great photographer. It’s how you use it (with the knowledge you pick up on your journey) that gets you great shots. That said, kit does help. It’s like power steering: it’s handy, but you can still drive without it. The same can be said for photographic equipment.
Start to look at your kit and see what you need, not what you want. For a long time, I wanted a massive 500-600mm lens. I never got that lens but I did use my 300mm, and took loads of shots with it that I was thrilled with.
It may surprise you to know that I don’t use remote triggers. I’ve been experimenting with some lately, but with little success. I prefer a wired trigger, where there’s no wifi magic to go wrong. Infra-red triggers have their place, too – they’re invaluable for shooting creatures that only come out at night, especially when linked to a flash. I don’t shoot at night because I find the flash too intrusive, but it certainly gives some interesting results.
My personal favourite is shooting abstract images of wildlife, because I find it fun to look at subjects differently. I have a variety of lenses in my bag, from 10mm all the way up to around 300mm. I think about the shot I’m going for, then grab the right lens for the day.
CHOOSE YOUR STYLE
Let’s say you want to photograph squirrels. Do you want to show them in context or work on their portraits? This will help you pick the lens you need. Next, think about aperture. Do you want to see everything or just your subject? I shoot in aperture priority, so I don’t need to worry about shutter speed. It’s my ISO I worry about – I keep mine at 800 or above when shooting outside. This means I can shoot with a deeper depth of field if I need it, and use a faster shutter speed to freeze the action.
Photography is all about angles and lines. If I’m shooting wildlife, I’ll position the camera as low as possible. There are very few times when I shoot from above the subject. I find my approach gives the photo more focus and intimacy, so the viewer feels part of the scene.
Along with angles comes light. Photography is all about light (the clue is in the name) and you need to pick the light for the photo you’re after. Early mornings and late evenings are usually best, and you need to be in your location at least two hours before to set yourself up and get the light right. I love an early morning shoot for sure, but a little later will give you more natural-looking colours, if that’s what you’re after.
THE ONLY RULE: THERE ARE NO RULES
Very few images follow any rules these days, so shoot what you love to look at – and then break your own rules. Shoot in a way that makes you think twice when you look at the image, or with a different composition to usual. I spent a whole year at university shooting in portrait because no one else was doing it. Everybody hated me for it because they couldn’t see my work easily on the screen, but doing something different forces people to look closer.
Finally, of course, for photographing wildlife, you need lots of patience. How many times have you tried to get close to animals, only for them to run away? If you keep quiet and stay still, they’ll come to you. Let them do the hard work for a change!
To see more of Dom’s work, take a look at www.instagram.com/dom.jessopsacademy and to show us your own wildlife shots, post them to Instagram, tagged @jessopsmoments.
Want to take your wildlife photography to the next level? Try one of our wildlife photography experiences. Get up close to birds of prey, big cats, reptiles and other wildlife on our courses: https://www.jessops.com/courses/type/photography-experiences-9
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