When photographing wildlife one will encounter action and interaction between the animals and the photographer. Capturing this behaviour at the right time in the right place is another story and takes a lot of patience.
You need two things to get good action photos: some basic action-shooting skills, and some knowledge of the activity you’re photographing. The skills include panning, peak action, follow-focusing, prefocusing and developing a sense of timing. The knowledge helps you anticipate those perfect peak moments that make for great action wildlife photography. It does take some practice to perfect the techniques so practice action photography as often as you can.
Timing is a key element in great wildlife action photography. If you shoot at the right moment (actually, just a beat before, to give the camera time to react), you’ll get a better shot than if you miss the moment. The secrets to good timing are knowledge of the subject you’re photographing, practice, and good luck. If you know about your subjects behaviour and their environment, you’ll find that luck will come your way a lot more frequently. You’ll see those key moments developing, and be ready to capture them when they occur.
Study the animals you want to photograph. Look at photos in wildlife magazines, and watch live footage of the animal in question on the internet. Think about the pictures you like, and why you like them. Then go out and practice shooting those types of photos. Of course, you’ll come up with other neat photo ideas as you shoot, but this will give you a good starting point. And keep in mind, wildlife aren’t the only source of action photos. Sports photographers are good sources, and photojournalists must be ready to capture fast-breaking moments, too.
A large part of successful photography is being in the right place at the right time. At times this is a matter of luck. But often you can tilt the odds considerably in your favor, especially with wildlife subjects you have studied at forehand.
The first step in getting a great action photo is finding a good place for your camera. Where you put your camera is where you put the viewer of your photos, and if you bring the viewer into the action, your photos will be more successful. A good camera position is one that gives you a clear view of the action, keeps you out of harm’s way, provides a pleasant backdrop for the photos, and works with the lighting at the scene.
Before you start taking images, walk around the location and look for suitable shooting locations, taking into consideration access to subjects, the background, the lighting and your personal safety. In some habitats, you can get right up front, while at others you can’t. Either way, find a site with as clear a view as possible of the subject(s). Rule No. 1 about point of view is: Don’t get in the way, where you might interfere with the action, or get hurt. A little common sense helps here.
If you are interested in learning more about action photography then join me on a 1:1 workshop in the field on a subject of your preference to improve your action photography skills.