The Big Picture: 6 Tips For Better Wildlife Photos

A bison at Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch (All photos: Jen Judge).

How to Get the Shot

Photographer Jen Judge recently shot Virtuoso Life’s story about wildlife tours and photo workshops on Ted Turner’s 920-square-mile Vermejo Park Ranch in northern New Mexico. “The biggest challenge of wildlife photography is finding the animals,” Judge says. “With elk, you need to understand their behavior, terrain preferences, what they eat, and their mating patterns – and a little luck never hurts.” Whether you’re chasing the “big five” in Botswana or a Western version – say elk, black bears, bighorn sheep, bison, and wolves on Turner’s range – when it all aligns, here are her tips to make the most of the moment.

1. “Have patience: Wildlife photography happens on the animals’ schedule, so prepare to sit for long stretches, sometimes in uncomfortable positions.”

2. “Frame up simple backgrounds to set your subjects apart, then wait.”

3. “The best shot can happen quickly, so be ready: Set the appropriate focal length, shutter speed, ISO, and aperture long before you need to press the shutter.”

Mule deer in the early fall.

4. “I’ve seen wildlife photographers miss incredible photos because they only had a 400mm lens and the animal came too close. Be ready with a shorter lens on a spare body.”

5. “A UV filter and lens hood will protect your glass from damage in the field, but more important, they’ll minimize reflections that might give away your presence.”

6. “Leave the tripod at home and use a higher ISO. Animals move, and trying to shoot from a tripod often means missing a photo.”