KNOW YOUR SUBJECT
Photographing animals, whether your cat at home or a cougar in the great outdoors, requires patience, perseverance and an understanding of animal behaviour so you can predict how they will be likely to act or react, and anticipate the moment for a good photograph.
If you consider an animal's character in the same way you do when photographing people, and try to capture it on film, you won't go far wrong. Make sure you know what you want your images to say about the animal before you start clicking away, and then put your knowledge of composition, lighting and angles to work to get the pictures you want.
YOU ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY PICTURE
No shot is worth risking your safety when dealing with animals. Stay in the car if there is a bear or a buffalo on the road. A wild animal's reaction to your presence is unpredictable and even if they look so docile you feel you could walk up and pet them, remember, they can hurt and even kill you. Don't ever follow a dangerous animal into the woods because you didn't get its picture. You wouldn't dive into an alligator pool, and for the same reason, you shouldn't follow behind a cougar or a moose. And please don't pet a porcupine.
This is one wild animal you can get fairly close to, but don't touch!People love photography
After the word "safety," the next three important words that govern animal photography are patience, patience and patience. Photography is like fishing in this regard. You often have to wait a long time in the right place to catch the best ones.
Patience applies equally when photographing pets and domestic animals. They sometimes seem to have a knack for being uncooperative when you bring out your camera. Keeping calm and taking things one step at a time often helps the animal to relax.
KNOW YOUR CAMERA CONTROLS
A long lens brings potentially dangerous animals close.
You must be able to react quickly when photographing most animals in the wild. In order to concentrate on your subject and to anticipate its next move, you should be completely familiar with your camera's operation. Handling your camera should become second-nature to you, and using its controls should be instinctive. You can achieve this through frequent practice and test shooting before venturing into the animal's domain. Be sure to shut off autofocus when you are close to your subjects since the noise from its operation may disturb them. This also applies to autoflash if your camera is so equipped. Use a cloth wrapped around your camera to muffle your motordrive.
Wildlife photographer, Ken Laninga sent us this camera buying tip. He wrote: "Many of the pictures I take are of wildlife, particularly big game. I bought a $1,900 SLR (digital) camera. The very first picture I took with it was of a deer, standing about 30 yards away. The click of the shutter was noisy enough that it frightened away the deer - no chance for a second picture. I took the camera back and bought a Panasonic DMC-FZ20 digital camera which is completely silent. It works perfectly for wildlife shots. This is something that all the photography guides omit. It must be mentioned." Thanks, Ken. A noiseless camera can be a big benefit for photographing wildlife.
A LONG LENS WILL HELP FILL THE FRAME
Since it is often difficult or unsafe to get close to wild animals, especially big game and elusive smaller creatures, long (300 mm) and extra long lenses can do the job for you. The most useful lens is a fast 400 mm to 600 mm telephoto. Quality lenses in these sizes are, unfortunately, expensive. If a very long telephoto is out of your price range or you would not use it with sufficient regularity to justify its purchase, check with camera suppliers to find out whether they have long lenses for rent by the day or week. Select a lens with good light-gathering ability (a wide maximum aperture) since many animals are most active when lighting conditions are low at dawn or in the evening. A tripod or at least a light monopod will likely be needed for camera support.
Often the safest place to be when shooting dangerous animals is in a vehicle.