Animal Photography Basics – How to Get Great Photos in Your Backyard

Often when we think of wildlife we think of animals far away from home, but many people take amazing wildlife photos in their own backyards.

Photographing Furry and Feathery Wildlife

Depending on where you live, there are many ways to turn your yard into a wildlife haven for squirrels, raccoons, birds, deer, frogs and other critters.

While it’s true that we rarely do wildlife a service by feeding them from our cupboards, if you follow the wildlife attraction and sustainability tips from the National Wildlife Federation (they’re online) you can feel good knowing that you are giving back to wildlife.

You will also be creating an environmentally friendly landscape as well because what is good for the animals is also good for the environment.

Take a bit of time to read about the habits of the species you want to photograph and you’ll find it much easier to capture them with your camera. And you will be better able to avoid attracting potentially dangerous predators into your yard. You might also want to check out the code of ethic posted for professional nature photographers by the North American Nature Photography Association.

Just as with photographing pets, when you take a picture of a furry or feathery wild critter, follow these guidelines:

  • Use natural lighting to your advantage
  • Fill the frame with the subject
  • Focus on the eyes
  • Shoot from various angles
  • Capture personality

Photographing Insects

Wildlife photography also includes the miniature world of animals. Butterflies, dragonflies, snails, ladybugs, honeybees, bumblebees, spiders…these are all popular subjects.

Photographing insects can be tricky. Here are some tips from the pros to help:

  • Like with larger wildlife, it will help to know your subject’s patterns of behavior. Do the butterflies frequent one flowery shrub more than others? Then stake it out and wait for the subject to come to you. And be ready!
  • To get the best shots of small creatures at rest, use macro mode and fill the frame. Your camera’s manual will tell you how close your macro mode works. If you stay within the proper range and hold your camera steady, you will get some nice, crisp shots.
  • Unless the insect is very still, use sports mode or flash to freeze action.
  • Most insects are very sensitive to carbon dioxide and will run or fly away if you breathe directly on them. So when you lean in close for your close up, hold your breath! There are a few exceptions – some beetles will freeze (they won’t say “cheese” though.)
  • Keep in mind some insects and spiders pack powerful, even deadly venom, so know your bug before approaching.
  • Because insects slow down with cooler temperatures, early morning and twilight are easier times for capturing them with your camera. Insects can see shadows very well; so don’t approach from the same direction as the light casts.

Photographs of wildlife can make for beautiful fine art, the type that you’ll want to frame and display proudly and give as gifts. Another way to use your animal photography is in photo crafts – greeting cards, calendars, iron on transfers for t-shirts and much more.