I always say that making mistakes is the best road to mastering a craft. However, some mistakes are subtler than others and seemingly less important. Still, making them turns a stunning image into a mere snapshot, and avoiding them will elevate your photography to a higher level.
These are the kinds of mistakes Steve Perry talks about in his latest video. It’s six photography mistakes that probably everyone has made at some point – but being aware of them will take your snapshots and turn them into amazing, compelling wildlife photos.
1. Not paying attention
Steve divides this into two categories, so to say. The first one is not “keeping your eyes on the prize.” In other words, getting distracted while waiting for your subject to do something and missing the moment you’ve been waiting for.
Other than paying attention to what’s going on in your viewfinder, make sure to also pay attention to your settings. Look at your shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO, but it doesn’t hurt to check your AF area and metering mode either. Using proper settings can make all the difference!
2. Not shooting from the right height
For most wildlife shots, your best bet is to get to the subject’s eye level or slightly below. This creates a sense of connection between the subject and the viewer and makes a bigger impact. However, Steve notes that he often sees wildlife photos shot down on the animal – and it’s something you should rather avoid whenever possible. It doesn’t mean you’ll take a bad photo, but getting the shots at eye level makes a much greater impact.
3. Not paying attention to the background
A crammed background can take so much away from your shot. So, this is another “pay attention!” item to add to your list. When you spot the animal you want to photograph, Steve suggests that you immediately start searching for the background that would look best in the shot. Avoid bright spots like clouds, bright vegetation, or sunlight shining through the branches. These bright spots take away the viewer’s gaze from the subject straight to the background – and that’s not something you want to achieve. Steve also suggests avoiding animals standing too close to the background, especially if it’s crammed and distracting from the main subject.
In short, go for clean, solid, distant backgrounds, as uniform as possible, and avoid distractions.
4. Not getting out during the best light
Let’s clear this out first: what is the best light? For Steve, it’s 20 minutes after sunrise and 20 minutes before sunset. This stretches up to 1.5 hours after sunrise and 1.5 hours before sunset, while the sunlight is nice, golden, and low. Overcast days can also be great for wildlife photography, especially those bright overcast days.
What you want to avoid is shooting in the midday sun. This light is too harsh and doesn’t give the best results. Still, if you have no choice, keep an eye on animals in shaded areas and try keeping the sun behind you. This way, you’ll avoid harsh shadows even in bright sunlight.
5. Shooting subjects that are just too far away
When shooting a subject that’s too far away, you may think, “Oh, I’ll just crop it.” However, these photos will be noisier, less sharp, and less detailed than if you’d just photographed an animal that was closer to you. Plus, in cases like this, the background will always be more visible no matter how far it is from your subject.
Steve has a video on cropping and noise if you’d like to learn more about this topic:
6. Not thinking about composition
Last but not least, here’s another thing to pay attention to: composition. Don’t just put your subject’s eye or head in the center and crop out the image later to compose it. Fill the frame the way you should, as best you can, in order to keep the maximum size of your files. You can turn on the Rule of Thirds grid on your camera to help you out while you’re in the field.
Let us know if you are guilty of these wildlife photography mistakes.