Wildlife photography

During lockdown, it can be troubling and worrying being stuck inside your home. For those of us with gardens, time spent outside can be a great help to our mental wellbeing. I would encourage you to explore your garden and find pleasure in the smaller things. Get up close with your flowers; find an interesting leaf or pretty petal to photograph from an interesting angle or light direction. Take close up shots of ladybirds and butterflies, experiment with your settings on the frog poking its head out from under a Lilly.

If like me, you enjoy watching the birds and have a feeder in your garden, maybe try and move it a little closer to your home, in an area with good lighting and a clear view from a window you have good access to. Feed the birds with fresh seed and mealworms everyday and you’ll have a garden like runway two at Heathrow Airport very soon. Watching the birds can be very relaxing, educational and a fun activity to do with children. Photographing them is more of an individual activity to do when things are quiet.

         DSLR Cameras are the latest gadgets in the world of Photography and can be a confusing thing to master. There are so many buttons and dials, you kind of feel overwhelmed when holding it for the first time. The key to taking great photos with these cameras is having a basic understanding of the settings. The standard setting, Auto will seem like your friend initially but he’s only holding you back. Like that kid at school that keeps getting you in trouble, he will work and you’ll get on ok but there’s so much more potential there and taking a step out from under its wing will enable you to go forth and concur like the photography wizard you were always destined to be.

Raw or Jpeg?

         In most DSLR Cameras, you have the choice of shooting photos in Raw or Jpeg formats. Raw, put simply is capturing every bit of light and colour available for the time the shutter is open. Jpeg captures the image but in less detail. After the photo is taken, Raw photos can be manipulated in a photo editing software to adjust light and colour levels, reduce noise in the photo so it looks sharper etc. I shoot in Raw as I like to have the option to bring out the best in my photos later on the laptop. It does have the disadvantage of being much higher in data size, meaning you’ll need much bigger storage options on both the SSD in the camera and on your hard disk drive for the computer.


         I find it easy to select autofocus on the camera and use this as my standard focus setting. For wildlife photography, the subject is often moving and manually setting the focal point can take time. This will mean you’ll either miss the shot or it will be out of focus.


Aperture Priority

For Wildlife photography, I always start with the setting ‘A’. This setting is for the Aperture of the camera. Also known as the F-Stop, this setting is what controls the exposure and depth of field. I find it best to try and keep this setting as low as possible, keeping the depth of field low and the background fairly out of focus. If you need the background clearer or are taking landscape photos, then a higher F-Stop would certainly help in that situation.

White Balance

         This setting controls the colour, setting it to Auto if shooting in Raw gives you the option of adjusting colour levels later on the computer.

Goldfinch wings-


         ISO is the digital setting that is equivalent to film speed. For portrait photography of things such as a dog lying down or a bird perching on a post, where movement is not happening, a setting of ISO 100-200 would be perfectly acceptable. To catch a bird flying away from the bird table and to get its wings clearly, a setting of ISO 800-3200 would be needed. A higher ISO speed will also help in lower light conditions.

Shutter Speed

         If you’re using Aperture Priority, shutter speed will be automatically selected by the camera. Sensors will pick up the light level and going off the F-Stop you’ve selected will set the Shutter Speed to allow in enough light for that exposure. If you select Shutter Speed Priority, then the same is true but in reverse.

Cross Bill

Light Sensitivity (+/-)

         You will find many situations where the camera is receiving far too much light and everything looks far too bright. In this situation, adjusting the setting with the symbol (+/-) will help you get the photo light level you are after. Adjusting -0.3 to -1 in this situation will likely have the photo looking somewhat realistic in brightness. Similarly, adjusting +0.3 to +1 will help if the photo appears too dark. In a somewhat mind boggling twist, a photo where the subject is silhouetted by a light background such as the sky when taking photos of birds, adjusting up will help bring the detail of the animal out and will result in an actual photo and not a silhouette. These settings can be adjusted on a computer if you shoot in Raw format.


Some of my most enjoyable days have been with my camera in hand, taking photos in the garden. Step away from that Auto setting and you could have some amazing shots, some maybe even worthy of framing and hanging on your wall.

Stuart Wedge- Apprentice Instructor

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