Young birds can be great photographic subjects because there will be interactions such as feeding between them and their parents. However, it is really important to make sure that you don’t disturb them. If the birds start alarm calling then it would be wise to retreat, as your presence is clearly unsettling for them.
Resist the temptation to shoot all your subjects up close on safari just because you can. We often like to pull back and do ‘animal-scapes’; showing off ‘small’ foreground subjects. This works especially well for Africa’s iconic big game set against the wonderful scenery or a simple backdrop of a vast sky.
Amphibians and reptiles have beautiful and intense eyes so make them your focal point. Try composing with your subject off-centre for a different perspective, and photograph at eye level. To give your subject more context and create a more complex image that tells a story, look at incorporating the surrounding habitat.
Backlighting really suits insects, as it tends to highlight their form, detail and intricacy. Low early-morning or late-evening light is perfect for shooting backlit subjects – the light’s quality is warmer and softer too. Position yourself carefully, so you sandwich your subject between the light and your camera. TTL metering can be fooled in tricky light, so check your histogram and apply positive exposure compensation if images are underexposed.
When photographing garden birds, keep an eye on the weather. If snow or frost is forecast ensure your perches or any other props are in place the night before. If you know a heavy frost is on the cards try spraying a perch, as well as any attractive berries or foliage, with water to emphasise the frosty look the next day.
Before you press the shutter, ask yourself the question, ‘How would I caption this image?’ If the only answer you can come up with is the species name: a tiger, a bear, an eagle, etc – stop! Wait for a better shot. Avoid the standard record shot and try to say something more about your subject.