5 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR WILDLIFE

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1 5 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY TRENTSIZEMORE

2 INTRODUCTION A great image will immediately grab a viewer s attention and keep it as they start reading into the deeper meaning. With millions of photos shared to the internet every single day, how do you make yours stand out among the masses? Through free ebooks, an online course, and live workshops in Yellowstone, I ve helped thousands of photographers take the steps needed to start improving their own work. This book will give you actionable tips in five areas of photography that you can start using right away to see a dramatic visual improvement in your photos.

3 1. COMPOSITION CHANGE YOUR POINT OF VIEW Composition is the life-blood of impactful wildlife photography. A less than flattering composition can ruin an otherwise perfect image. The quickest and most effective composition tip you can employ is to match your camera level to the eye level of your subject.

4 This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition an organic coordination of visual elements. HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON

5 The example below shows how lowering to eye level creates a strong separation between subject and background. The low angle makes your background farther away, causing it to be more out of focus. If the camera here was just a few feet higher (aimed more downward), the snow would become the background. Because the snow is closer to the focal point than the trees, it would be less blurred. ISO ƒ/4-1/3200th

6 Compare the low angle above to this coyote viewed from a much higher angle. You don t feel like a part of his world, and there is nothing to help separate the subject and background. No matter how wide your aperture is, the background is not distant enough to create a separation. Distance to both the subject and background play more impactful roles. ISO ƒ/8-1/1000th

7 A high angle isn t always a bad thing, as it can help reveal your subject better in some cases. One example is when I photographed a swimming beaver in a river from a bridge above. I was almost looking straight down and could see his full figure. A super low angle would have only revealed his head above water (not necessarily bad, just different). The separation in this case is accomplished by the color of the water. ISO ƒ/4-1/800th

8 2. LIGHTING LOOK FOR CONTRAST If composition is the key image aspect that you can control, light is the key that you can t. The only thing about it that you can control is simply being there, changing your position, and knowing how to capture it effectively. Contrast created by light is another very effective way to separate subject and background.

9 In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary. AARON ROSE

10 The best way to get extreme contrast in your image is by utilizing backlight. With the sun in your face and behind your subject, you can create dramatic silhouettes and rim lighting. If you re interested in learning more about using backlight, click here to register for my free mini-course. ISO ƒ/5.6-1/640th

11 Contrast can also be used in a more subtle way and still be effective. In this example, the contrast is created mostly by the difference in color since the subject was entirely in shade (even lighting). Depth of field is also a way of creating contrast - sharp vs. blurry instead of light vs. dark. ISO ƒ/4-1/800th

12 3. POST-PROCESSING KEEP IT AT A MINIMUM There s a point in post-processing where an image changes from true photography into digital art. If photography is about showing the truth, your processing should be limited to applying basic corrections and a gentle emphasis on certain areas to guide your viewer. Once you start drastically altering the reality of your image, you start creating a piece of digital art (not that anything is wrong with that!).

13 Photography is truth. JEAN-LUC GODARD

14 The majority of major adjustments will take place in the basic tab, adjusting white balance and tone sliders. In the screenshot below, you ll see how I only adjusted the shadows and whites sliders to create the final image. The tone sliders include overall exposure and contrast, as well as your black and white points. The highlights and shadows sliders are highly effective at bringing details where shadows get too dark or highlights get washed out.

15 BEFORE AFTER

16 This example shows how too much processing can be misleading to your viewer if not labeled as digital art as opposed to photography. People that have yet to see what you have seen may not know the truth, and will believe they can see these things in nature. Not disclosing exaggerated editing borders on being unethical in my book. Any adjustment can be way overdone. The key to a natural look is applying things in a subtle way. If your viewer can t tell what s been edited, you re doing it right. NO EDITS EXAGGERATED

17 QUICK TIP If you aren t shooting in RAW image format, even basic adjustments will start to degrade your image much faster than editing a RAW file.

18 4. EXPOSURE KNOW YOUR CAMERA It s vital to know your camera like the back of your hand, if you want to be able to focus on improving the creative side of your photography. Read your specific camera s manual to get comfortable with all the buttons. Learn the effects of changing each setting. Practice, practice, practice!

19 VITAL SETTINGS IMAGE QUALITY - If you are even remotely serious about your photography, you should be shooting in RAW format. The file size is much larger, but the benefits of having all the image data captured far outweigh the downsides. WHITE BALANCE - Most days I will leave this on automatic. Occasionally I will set it to match a sunny or cloudy day if I know the weather won t be changing. White balance can be fully adjusted in Lightroom with no image quality loss in RAW. FOCUS POINTS - Almost always I will select a single focus point instead of all of them. For wildlife shot with long lenses, the depth of field is often very narrow. It s important to have the plane of focus exactly where you want it. You can also opt for a single focus points and the ones surrounding it in cases where accuracy is not as vital.

20 BACK BUTTON FOCUS - Many cameras have the ability to change the functions of your camera s buttons (see the manual for how to do this). By setting the back focus button to start autofocus, and setting the shutter button to only start metering, your focus won t change each time you press the shutter button. This is helpful if you want to meter in a different area than your focus point. PICTURE STYLE - When shooting RAW, I have found the neutral picture style to give you the most accurate representation on the back of the camera. Picture style is NOT applied to the RAW file, just the JPEG shown on the camera preview. HIGHLIGHT ALERT - This feature will show a black blinking area where highlights are too bright. Having just a tiny area blinking is okay, as you have a couple stops of light that can be recovered while processing RAW files. OTHER SETTINGS - Various enhancement options like highlight tone priority, auto lighting optimizer, and high ISO speed noise reduction should all be turned OFF when shooting RAW. These are only applied to JPEG and will slow down your shooting frame rate.

21 QUICK TIP ALWAYS format your memory card in the camera when you want to empty the card. Never delete images on the card individually, or through your computer.

22 5. WILDLIFE BEHAVIOR HAVE PATIENCE Seeing wildlife on every outing is anything but a guarantee. Always being prepared and ready for a sighting ensures you won t miss it. Practicing on more common animals or even pets will help you nail the shot when that rare species appears in front of your camera.

23 The lions taught me photography. They taught me patience and the sense of beauty, a beauty that penetrates you. YANN ARTHUS-BERTRAND

24 Patience is arguably the most useful nonphotography skill a photographer can have. It s useful whether you re working with kids, a bride, or animals. I waited many hours on the verge of going home before this fox family finally came out of their den, but it was well worth it. The law of nature guarantees the animal will show up as soon as you give up and leave Okay, that s not necessarily true. At some point you just have to move on to find something else, giving luck a chance over patience. ISO ƒ/5.6-1/500th

25 Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON The only way to guarantee your photography will improve is to get out there and take more photos! Ready to take the next step to improve your photography? JOIN A YELLOWSTONE WORKSHOP OR TAKE AN ONLINE COURSE

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