Natural History Photography
Ten Top Tips for Those Interested in Natural History Photography
1. Ideally, research your subject well before taking your photograph. If this is not possible, research it well afterwards. The greater your natural history knowledge, the better nature photographer you will be.
2. Always give your image a factual, informative title, ideally with a common name and a scientific name. If your image is more than a static portrait, include in your title some brief explanation of your subject’s behaviour or of the particular stage in its life-cycle.
3. Always use a tripod if you can. This may not be possible for some subjects, such as birds in flight, but it is virtually essential for close-up and macro work by ambient light. However, hand-held close-up and macro work is usually possible when some kind of integral flash set-up is used, as this will serve as “stopping power” and eliminate or minimise both subject and camera movement.
4. When photographing moving subjects, such as birds in flight and the like, use the fastest possible shutter speed with correspondingly larger apertures, even if this means sacrificing the depth-of-field afforded by the use of smaller apertures. This is necessary if you want sharp images.
5. The opposite is usually true when you photograph insects and other small subjects by natural light with the camera mounted on a tripod. Depth-of field diminishes rapidly the closer you approach a small subject, so you need to compensate by using small apertures. This means longer exposure times - hence the need for a tripod - and a cable release.
6. If you have a depth-of-field preview button or lever, use it whenever you can, particularly at close range. It is invaluable for evaluating your depth of field and especially for spotting potentially distracting highlights in the background.
7. In this digital age it costs little or nothing to make an image. So, take plenty of pictures if you find a good subject and be prepared to experiment with different shutter speeds, apertures and angles.
8. Very contrasty lighting is usually best avoided. It can cause burnt out highlights and blocked up shadows, thus losing important detail. To avoid excessive contrast, it may be necessary to use more than one light source or to use reflectors to bounce light into shadow areas. Hazy sun is often ideal, especially for close-up or macro work, but exposures made in dull, flat lighting can be made acceptable by judiciously increasing the contrast in the computer.
9. Exposures of some subjects, especially botanical ones, can often be made much more dramatic by shooting against the light. In such circumstances fill-in flash or reflectors can be used to add light to the shadow side.
10. Digital manipulation of natural history images is not acceptable,
except for the removal of minor distractions or blemishes. The finished image should show essentially what the photographer saw at the time the exposure was made.
Tony Wharton FRPS and Chairman of the RPS Nature Panel
Images;Grevy's Zebra Quartet, Male Brimstone on Knapweed, Cock Bullfinch la pyrrhula,pyrrhula Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera, Grass Snake Natrix natrix - Tony Wharton FRPS and Chairman of the RPS Nature Panel
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