What Setting Do I Use For Wildlife Photography

There are a lot of different things to think about when doing Wildlife photography; The Subject, Lighting conditions, How close you can get and many more.
I've been asked over on my YouTube page to go over what setting I use when going out to photograph wildlife, I mainly look for deer but you might pick up some tips that will help with your photography as well.

Here's the response video to the questions

I do want to make a one thing clear before going into this - I don't care what brand you use. Canon,Nikon, mirrorless whatever, this isn't the place to have that argument, use what you have or save up to get what you want. Stop worrying about what other people think

Equipment

The equipment makes a big difference to what settings you have available e.g. You could have the canon 400mm F5.6 or the F2.8. Same focal length but one is 2 stops of light quicker = more options

My setup

I'm currently using the Canon 7Dii with a 400mm F5.6. Is it the perfect setup? No, the lens is pretty slow but it's all I can afford at the moment. Ideally I would have the 600mm F4 but they cost around £11,000. But it's not the worst set up either, here's my opinion of the Pro's and Cons

Pros

  • It's light -910g (Camera) + 1250g (Lens) = 2160g
    I usually have it attached to a tripod (2500g) so it's about 4.7kg all together and its still easy to carry 1 handed for a few hours.
     
  • It's relatively "cheap" - It's one of the cheaper set ups you can get, but it's still quite expensive.
    £3-400 for a lens (400mm F5.6) is easier to save up for than a £7-8000 lens (400mm F2.8)
    Will the more expensive lens be better? Definitely. Will it be 20 times better? Probably not
    ( I got mine 2nd hand from a friend so the price will vary)

Cons

  • It's slow - F5.6 doesn't let that much light in so it gets tricky in low light situations
     
  • Doesn't have IS - I've never had a lens with IS though so I don't know the difference
     
  • It doesn't get you that close,  this is the main reason I mainly photograph deer. They're big and fill the frame more, I don't like having to crop into the image as I photograph for prints. I try to get as close as possible to the subject and frame the shot the way I'd want to print it, making the most of the cameras sensor.
Red deer eating holly

Red deer eating holly

What settings should I use? 

Manual settings

Shutter Speed 

Birds in flight - 1/1000 shutter speed to freeze the movement

Animals that are moving - 1/200 or faster - You're success rate will be lower the slower your shutter speed, I would say slightly noisy images are better than blurry ones so you might want to choose the shutter speed you can get away with and set the ISO higher, you will need to find the balance that works for you

Animals that are stood still - 1/100 is about my limit with the 400mm for reliable results. Occasionally you will get animals that will stand really still for you and you can experiment with slower.
I photographed a deer with a 1 second shutter speed and the deer was still sharp. Wild animals rarely do what you want though so it's unlikely to work every time. I ended using the photo at 0.3 seconds in the shop

1.0 Seconds , F5.6 , ISO 100, Canon 7dII, 400mm

1.0 Seconds , F5.6 , ISO 100, Canon 7dII, 400mm

Aperture

It's the same as any other photography;

Use a large aperture (F2.8) for a shallow depth or if you're in a low light situation. 

Use a smaller aperture (F8 or smaller) for if you want more in focus 

ISO

Keep it as low as you can to avoid noise in the image

I've found that ISO 4000 is about the limit for usable images on my camera

Should I use a tripod or shoot handheld?

I pretty much always use a tripod, you have a lot more stability as you have the legs on the ground. I put my left hand on the lens to muffle the vibrations off the shutter and I press my head pretty hard against the eye piece and it creates a solid base to shoot from. Roll your finger onto the shutter rather than tapping it and you should have more chance of getting the shot.

It's also good for when your sat waiting for the animals to appear, you can find a composition that you want the animal to be in in advance and hopefully they will walk into the frame.

It does make the set up heavier but what ever, you'll get over it.

How do I decide what settings to use?

I usually walk around with my settings at:  shutter speed- 1/200 Aperture, F5.6 and I will adjust the ISO depending on the light.
If I see a animal moving I'll increase the shutter speed
If I see a group i'll set the aperture to F8-F11
If it gets dark i'll increase the ISO and set the shutter speed to 1/100

There isn't one set of settings that fit every situation

What do I focus on?

I forgot to put this into the video,  I use AI Servo mode with the auto focus on Spot AF. I focus on the eye's/face as I find that to be the most important. If they're not in focus I end up getting rid of them

Share your results!

If you found these tips helpful please share your photos on social media using the tag #AdamKappaPhotography . It would be great to see your results!

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