Wildlife Photography for Beginners

What is Wildlife Photography?

Wildlife photography gives photographers the opportunity to document wildlife in their natural habitat. Any mammal, bird, amphibian, or reptile can fall under the category of wildlife photography.

This form of photography takes a lot of patience, you can’t tell an animal how to pose. They can be hard models to work with since you don’t know when they’ll show up and for how long. Although difficult, it can be rewarding and fun when you capture nature in all its glory. If you’re looking to get started in wildlife photography, here are some tips for any beginner.
Shot on iPhone with
SANDMARC Telephoto 6x Lens
Shot on iPhone with
SANDMARC Telephoto 6x Lens

Before You Get Started: “Leave No Trace”

It’s important to remember that when shooting wildlife photography we are guests entering an animal’s home. Leave no trace is a phrase used when exploring outdoors as a way to preserve it. Two simple principles to remember when shooting are, to leave no trash and to stay on the trails. By leaving no trash we are keeping the environment clean,and protecting the wildlife from possibly digesting it. Staying on the trails is important in maintaining the land, foliage and waterways. There are five more main principles to follow when exploring the outdoors that can be found here.

The Equipment: Going the Distance

When shooting wildlife many national parks require you to stay 25 yards away from smaller or less harmful animals, and 100 yards away from predators like wolves and bears. Even if you decide to go to your local zoo, you will have the obstacle of the fencing to work with. With this in mind, it’s important to have a camera that can capture shots of animals in far distance, while maintaining a crisp image.

We recommend shooting with a telephoto lens with 6x optical zoom or more. If you are shooting with your iPhone we recommend the SANDMARC Telephoto 6x Optical Lens. Easily attach the lens to your iPhone and go from digital zoom to optical zoom within seconds.
Shot on iPhone
Shot on iPhone +
SANDMARC Telephoto 6x Lens

Research: Get to Know the Wildlife

It’s important to be aware of the type of wildlife that inhabit the location you are taking photos at. Figure out what animals you hope to see and once you figure that out, ask yourself these three questions below:
  • What time of day are they most active? There may be a specific time of day that they are more active, like the morning or night. This is important to know so that you are able to get a good picture of the animal when they are most active.
  • Where are they seen most often? Are they near rivers, up in the trees, or seen wandering through open fields. You will want to position yourself where they are most commonly found.
  • What is their behavior like? What do they do when they feel threatened? How close is too close to them? What would promote aggressive behavior? To be assured of your safety you need to know what not to do. Remember you are a visitor in the animal’s home. When you get a better idea of the wildlife in your location you'll know what animals to research. As an example, here is a video of what to do if you encounter a bear:

Photoshoot Day: Patience is Key

As previously mentioned animals can be the hardest models to work with. You never know what they will do next. Will they choose to sleep and not be active, or decide to stay in the same position for an hour giving you no angles to work with?
As much as you plan and envision the perfect photo, animals will do what they want, when they want. It is not rare for a photographer to wait hours, and then something unexpected happens, giving them the perfect shot.

A great example of unexpected shots are the photos that get submitted to the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards. The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards honors humorous moments of wildlife captured through a photographer's lens.

Monday Blahs

“This Great Gray Owl spent most of the afternoon posing majestically and looking, well, wise. But for a moment or two after doing some elegant stretching, he/she would slump and give a look of 'is Monday over yet?' I really like the uniqueness of the Comedy Wildlife Awards, and that they emphasize conservation while taking a fun and special look at wildlife. While out shooting I often find myself smiling or laughing with some of the behaviors of various species, and this annual event is a great way to bring that fun element of nature to others. While photographing the great gray owl shown in my image, I had been busy working to capture that majestic looking pose. As the owl preened and then sat still for a short while, it stretched once more and for a quick moment gave the pose shown. As it did, I grinned and thought… now that’s funny!”

- John Blumenkamp, Comedy Wildlife Photo: "Highly Commended Winner"

Look at right Bro

"The photo was taken in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur, Rajasthan, India. This park is heaven for nature lovers. The park is full of lush greenery and habitat of mammals & migratory birds. During my trip, I planned for Jackal & Hyena shooting apart from birds. There are plenty of Jackals & Hyenas in the park. Upon reaching the spot, I was waiting for the moment to capture. Even after waiting hours, there was no call from the jackal or Hyena. Still I was waiting. Suddenly a deer in the far distance appeared on the road and stood exactly in the middle of the road and started looking at me. Seeing the arc behind the deer I tried to capture the frame I pre-visualized. Suddenly, a Macaque also came in the middle of the road too and started itching, extending its hand outside which was hilarious. Without further delay, I captured the beautiful and rare moment of "Itching Macaque with deer in the background."

-Pratick Mondal, Comedy Wildlife Photo: "Highly Commended Winner"

Fight Back

“This salmon decided to punch the bear in the face rather than be lunch.”

- John Chaney, Comedy Wildlife Photo: "Highly Commended Winner"
Wildlife photography can be rewarding since it gives you an opportunity to be in nature and experience wildlife in a new way. With the correct lens, good research and a lot of patience you will begin to capture some of your favorite wildlife photographs.