Learn with Calumet: Wildlife Photography

Since June’s theme for #CalumetGallery photo challenge is wildlife, we’ve prepared a short series of blog posts to give you some tips and ideas worth trying out when you’re shooting wildlife.

#1 Small animals 


If you’re shooting small animals that blend in with their habitat, try locking the focus on a sharply defined element that is at the same distance as your main subject, then reframe the scene. Use high ISO for fast shutter speed to freeze any motion and remember to get down low and fairly close – you might need to lie on the floor to get an impressive image! To get a blurred frame for your shot, position your lens close to grass or leaves in the foreground and set a wide aperture, this way the foreground will be out of focus, drawing the eye to your subject.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/4-8

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 400-3,200                      Lens: 70-300mm


#2 Sea birds


If you’re photographing sea birds in a colony, avoid jumping from one bird to another as you may miss an interesting scene or swing in behaviour. Sea birds tend to follow a regular flight path to the colony; allow some time to study their movements so you can work out where to position your camera to get captivating images. Remember that camera meter may leave white birds looking grey, so dial in some positive exposure compensation to keep true whites.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/4-5.6

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 200-400                    Lens: 100-400mm


#3 Animal silhouettes


Backlit animal silhouettes make for captivating wildlife images. In order to create this kind of an image you need to shoot into the sun – setting or raising. Angle yourself towards the light and focus on the edge of the animal’s fur or feathers. You might need to dial in negative exposure compensation as without it your camera might want to brighten up the areas in shadows. It is also good to use a lens hood to avoid flare.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/4-8

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 200-800                    Lens: 70-300mm


#4 Animals in enclosures


Zoos and animal sanctuaries offer plenty of opportunities to practice your wildlife photography skills. For best results use a wide aperture and position the front of the lens close to the mesh, fence, bars or glass of the enclosure in order to throw it out of focus. It’s also good to shoot RAW so you can adjust any colour casts caused by artificial lighting when you post process your image. If you’re using a 100-400mm lens try setting your camera to Aperture Priority mode, go for f/2.8 – 8, ISO 400 – 1600 and auto shutter speed.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/2.8-8

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 400-1,600                    Lens: 100-400mm


#5 Whales and dolphins


Shooting whales or dolphins is challenging as they’re quite a difficult subject to frame. For starters you’ll need to use continuous AF and fast shutter speeds. To get sharp photos increase your ISO and use a wide aperture (low f-number like f/2.8 or f/4). If possible try to position yourself with the sun behind you, although you might be at the complete mercy of the tide and animal behaviour. If you can’t get close enough, a good trick is to include the animal’s reflection as it breaks the surface of the water. This way you’ll double its size and fill the frame.

Suggested camera settings: 

Mode: Aperture Priority       Aperture: f/2.8-5.6

Shutter speed: Auto              ISO: 400-3,200                   Lens: 100-400mm

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