Text and photos by Clay Bolt
These simple tips make taking great nature photos a snap!
1. See Eye-to-Eye
When you spot an animal you’d like to photograph, don’t stay where you are. Put yourself at your subject’s level. Aim your camera at an animal’s eyes, and you’ll get a peek into its world.
2. Respect Your Subject
Always remember that you are a visitor in a wild animal’s world. Approach your subject slowly and respectfully, just as you would do with another person. A relaxed animal will look better in photos, too!
TRY THIS: KEEP IT CLEAN
Try to avoid clutter in your photos. Move in closer and angle your camera so your subject doesn’t have to compete with a busy background.
3. Hold Steady!
Even the coolest critters don’t look so great in a blurry photo. That blurriness of ten comes from a moving camera. If you find you can’t keep your hands still enough, try this: Hold your elbows against your sides and slowly breathe out before snapping the photo. Or prop your camera on something (such as a rock or log) to steady it .
4. Get the Light Right
If you snap your subject with the sun behind it, color and detail will disappear into dark shadows. Always shoot with the sun behind you or to the side of your subject. This will make the photo brighter and clearer.
TRY THIS: SHOOT EARLY, SHOOT LONG
If you’re trying to capture an animal in motion, start photographing before the action starts. Then keep shooting for a little while after you think the moment has passed. Great shots can be missed when you wait for the perfect pose!
5. Room to Roam
It’s tempting to put your subject right in the center of a frame. Af ter all, it’s the star of the photo! But this actually makes a photo look less interesting. Instead, imagine that you’re giving the animal a little “room to move” by placing it to one side.
6. “Zoom” with Your Feet
Whenever possible, avoid the “pinch and zoom” feature on your smartphone or tablet. This can make the photo look grainy. But you don’t want your subject to be a tiny part of the photo, either. So walk up as close to your subject as you safely can. Then fill the frame with the plant or animal.
TRY THIS: LOOK AROUND
Always pay attention to what’s around your subject. There’s nothing worse than discovering an unwanted twig—or person!—in the image after it’s too late.
VIDEO TIPS: Wildlife in Motion
Say you spot a wild animal doing something really cool: a mama bird feeding her babies, a bobcat prowling in your backyard, or a butterfly coming out of its chrysalis. You may want to capture the action on video! Here are some tips to help you make nature videos that are as wild and wonderful as their subjects.
1. GO WIDE
When recording a video, make sure your phone or tablet is in the horizontal, or widest, position. It may feel strange to hold your phone sideways rather than straight up and down. But you capture a lot more with a wide shot. And, as with a wide -screen movie, your video will look a whole lot better.
2. GO LONG
Rather than shooting just few seconds of interesting animal behavior, follow the animal over a longer period of time. Record when it eats, when it rests, and when it plays. Then use an editing program to stitch together your videos.
3. BACK IT UP
Don’t rely on your phone or tablet to store your videos. You could end up losing them all! Instead, use a program such as Google Drive or Dropbox to back up your favorite videos—and your photos.
Give Us Your Best Shots!
Ready to try these tips yourself? Head outside with your phone, tablet, or camera. Then enter your favorite photos in the Ranger Rick Photo Contest!