Top tips for wildlife photography

Bird flying over grassland

Michelle Nicol has been developing her photography skills for 26 Wild, while out and about in Northumberland, and shares her top tips for capturing some amazing wildlife experiences.

The best camera is the one you have with you

You don’t need a fancy expensive camera with a big long lens to get great wildlife shots. A compact point and shoot or phone camera can take some great photographs if you know how to use it.

Can you brighten up a dull scene, zoom into some interesting detail or focus on a particular area as you take your shot?

Knowing what your camera can do can help you capture nature and wildlife photography that others may miss. While they’re looking into the distance with their zoom lenses, you could be spotting insects, butterflies and wildflowers.

Use your senses

Sight and sound are key to spotting wildlife photography opportunities. Being quiet, still and patient is a good tip to avoid spooking wildlife and seeing it disappear from the environment as soon as you turn up.

I could hear a commotion in the trees in my local park, and on searching for the source, a chap kindly pointed out the specific tree where I could see a woodpecker chick yelling for its dinner. I waited around for a while and was rewarded with the adult returning to the nest to feed it.

two woodpeckers on the side of a tree, one poking its head out of the hole in the trunk,

Observe behaviour

Even spending a bit of time looking out of your window at your garden should teach you something about your local wildlife. Do certain birds appear earlier in the day than others? Which feeder, plant or area do they go to? Do they always come and go from the same direction?

Watching wildlife closely will give you an idea of what it’s likely to do, so you can be ready with your camera. For example, I spent the best part of an hour watching terns on a lake from a hide. One kept coming back to the same spot to fish, and eventually I managed to capture it hovering in flight.

Keep a low profile

Being unobtrusive is not just likely to encourage wildlife to approach so you can get a photograph, but by getting down low, at your subject’s eye-level usually gives you a more impactful photo too. Not always easy to do, especially with smaller creatures, but it’s worth experimenting with different angles and not always taking photos from your eye level.

Get to know a local area

Whether it’s your garden, local park, beach or nature reserve, different times of day or year will give you different wildlife experiences. Before lockdown I was a regular visitor at my local Wildlife Trust reserve at Hauxley, Northumberland where I could see lots of birdlife. While travel was restricted, I spent more time exploring my local park and shoreline.

Many local wildlife spots have volunteer groups happy to share sightings and photos so you get an idea of what you can expect to see, and a chance to have your camera ready at the right spot.

Enjoy your wild times and share them

You won’t see the hundreds of photographs where someone just missed an amazing bird or mammal or caught it out of focus, but we all take them. I count it a success if I get one decent shot from a day out, and often I don’t even manage that. But I always enjoy my time outdoors, watching, listening and observing nature and then learning about all the birds, animals, insects, plants and trees I’ve seen in my small corner of the UK.

Just as you’ll find people are happy to share their knowledge and love of wildlife with you, it’s really nice if you can share your images too, perhaps with your local Wildlife Trust or other organisation. They love to see photos from supporters, especially of nature in your area. It’s a great way to inspire a love of wildlife and share it with people who may not be able to get out and see it every day in such detail.

Find your local wildlife reserve

Where to see wildlife in the UK

30 Days Wild – an update

Thank you to everyone who took part in The Wildlife Trusts’ annual 30 Days Wild campaign – photographs are a big part of the month-long celebration and we loved sharing yours. It made June a bumper social media month for 26’s Twitter feed. And we’re thrilled to say that you helped make this year’s event even bigger than ever with over 650,000 participants getting involved.

We were thrilled to see even more people get involved in this year’s events,” says The Wildlife Trusts’ marketing officer Abbie Hargreaves. “We were particularly pleased that almost 1,500 care homes got involved – three times more than last year. The nature on our doorstep has become a lifeline for so many during lockdown and I think the numbers show that.

– Michelle Nicol

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