Whether you live in the city, or the suburbs, wildlife is plentiful—and you don’t have to look further than your own backyard to find it. Your backyard is the perfect setting to hone your wildlife photography skills.
Think big, and small, when photographing urban wildlife. Birds, squirrels, humming birds, butterflies, bugs and bees are all excellent subjects.
Here are my 7 tips for photographing urban wildlife in your own backyard:
- BAIT AND HOOK. Create an inviting environment in your backyard to attract critters you want to photograph. Stock bird feeders with seeds to attract common birds in your region. Create a hummingbird garden by planting fragrant flowers and hang a nectar feeder to lure these colorful birds. By doing this, you get a two-for-one advantage. Butterflies are also attracted to fragrant and colorful flowers, as well as rotted fruit. Water is essential to all animals—consider installing a bird bath in your garden. Don’t be afraid to get close to bees collecting pollen from flowers. (I have never been stung by a bee that I was photographing…I may have just cursed myself!) And, to attract squirrels, lots of seeds, peanuts, and dried corn on the cobs are excellent “bait”.
- PATIENCE GRASSHOPPER. Sometimes you get lucky. You have your camera in your hand and the opportunity to shoot a bird or other critter strikes. Ah, perfection. But, most times, patience and persistence is what wins the game. Set up an opportunity to shoot urban wildlife, and wait for the subject to come to you.
- LAY LOW. Wildlife, especially birds, can be skittish around humans, so hiding out of sight, or just sitting still and quiet is essential. Camouflage couldn’t hurt. I purposely hung my bird feeder off the back patio within sight vantages of two windows in my house. I can easily shoot from the windows with minimal interference of the birds and squirrels.
- ROCK YOUR CAMERA. Don’t think you need expensive and fancy camera equipment to shoot amazing photos. Whether you have a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR it is essential that you know how to use your camera. I have shot many critters with my point-and-shoot camera and the photos have turned out spectacular. That’s because I have learned the capabilities of that camera and know how to use them to my advantage. (The bee on the flower above was shot with a point-and-shoot, and I was really close to that bee!) Now, if you have a DSLR camera, a wise investment is a telephoto lens. This will allow you to keep your distance from your subject, isolate your subject through framing, and still achieve sharp focus.
- FOCAL POINT. Focus on the eyes of your subject—always. This is a golden rule, not just when photographing animals but humans as well.
- SHOOT FAST AND OFTEN. Wildlife moves fast, so should you. What I mean by that is you should shoot fast and often, but avoid sudden movement as not to scare your subject. Don’t be afraid to take the shot because you may think it is not be “good enough”. If your camera has a continuous shooting mode, use it. You never know what shot will become your prize winner!
- COMPOSITION. Remember to apply the composition rules, such as rules of thirds. Great composition is what takes a photo from an average snapshot to a visual statement. Pay attention to the background. Try to avoid distracting backgrounds that will take away from your subject. Although, sometimes the background can’t be helped…it is what it is. Take the shot anyway. Don’t discount cropping in post production. The top original photo applies the rules of thirds and is good composition wise; but the bottom cropped photo is more interesting and detailed. This can transform a good photo to one that will impress your friends and make you look like a photographic genius. It will be our little secret.
BONUS #8 FINAL TIP: Look, you can Google this subject and get more than 7 million results. I gave you my seven tips above, but there really is one more thing you should always do…HAVE FUN! Because if you’re not having fun behind your camera then why do it?
Got some amazing urban wildlife shots? I’d love to see them. Leave me a link in the comment section and I’ll stop by your blog. Happy Shooting.
Please remember: Unless otherwise noted, all photos and designs are created by me. Pin it if you like it, but please do not copy it. All rights reserved. Photos ©Jeri Stunkard.