Taking photographs of animals is a lot like hunting them. In fact, it’s mostly the same exact process—aside from that messy bit involving meat.
For non-hunters, photography is way to experience close animal encounters normally reserved for hunters.
For hunters, photography builds upon and expands the skills needed for successful stalking. There’s a thrill to finding the quarry and getting close enough for a worthwhile shot, but that’s not the hobby’s only benefit.
Turning a pre-season scouting trip into a photo mission makes these trips more enjoyable, which in turn makes them more valuable. Photography can give hunters reason to visit their favorite grounds year-round, enhancing knowledge of the area and of animals’ movements throughout the year.
It’s hard to overstate the similarities between hunting with a camera and hunting with a gun or bow. Stalking animals for photos in the off-season is a great way to keep those skills sharp.
Then there are the photos, of course. Hanging your own wildlife photos on the wall instills a sense of pride and seeing them will always remind you of the trips you took to get them.
While good frames can be expensive, photo printing is not. If you keep photo sizes small and frames on the low end (or make your own), you can decorate an entire home with photography for less than $100.
How to get those photos
Before you hang your photos, though, you’ve got to take them.
Most hunters will already have the skills required to get in position for great shots, but taking quality photographs is another story.
While camera selection, framing, exposure management and the like are outside the scope of this article, here are some general tips and resources to get you started.
1. Don’t be afraid to use “auto”. Even as a professional photographer and videographer, I’ve often turned my camera to the “A” when I just couldn’t get the shot figured out. You won’t learn much leaving the dial there, but doing so can sometimes make the difference between getting a shot or not.
2. Move your feet, not the zoom lens. Famed war photographer Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Quality telephoto lenses can be unbelievably expensive, and digitally zooming degrades quality. Moving closer to animals is free, though not always easy.
3. Use the camera you have. All too often, aspiring photographers get sucked into the black hole of camera and lens shopping before they ever even get started. But novice photographers often don’t need a camera at all. I recommend starting with one of the many advanced photo apps (Camera FV-5 for Android and VSCO for iPhone are my picks). These apps are free and teach users how to adjust things like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and more.
Use the gear you have and practice a lot. If you find you enjoy photographing animals, you’ve found a hobby that will get you outside more and completely change how you look at the natural world.
Have your own wildlife photography tips to share? Email them to us at [email protected].