Best kit for wildlife photography
June 16, 2017
Wildlife photography is a very popular genre, but you’ll need the right kind of kit in order to capture those elusive wildlife moments. In our wildlife photography kit list below, we run through what every wildlife photographer should have.
Wildlife photography kit list: camera
Obviously you’re going to need a camera – but which kind? You may be immediately drawn towards a full-frame DSLR, but for wildlife photography, there’s an advantage of using cameras with a smaller sensor. The “crop factor” means that the focal length of any lens you attach will be extended. For example, if you use a Four Thirds camera and attach a 300mm lens, that instantly becomes 600mm and gets you closer to the action.
For DSLRs, you can apply a 1.5 or 1.6x crop, so a 300mm lens becomes 450 or 480mm. That’s not to say of course that you can’t use a full-frame camera, you’ll just need to invest in longer lenses – or teleconverters – to get the same kind of reach.
There are a couple of other functions you might want to consider if you do a lot of wildlife photography. First up is a fast frame rate – if you’re photographing a quick moving animal, being able to shoot many frames per second is beneficial. Something which has a quiet, or better yet, silent shutter mode is also good if you’re shooting something reasonably close in a quiet environment and don’t want to startle whatever you’re photographing.
Telephoto lenses can be very expensive, so if you’re just starting out in wildlife photography, a bridge camera can be a good compromise as you’ll get a huge zoom range for a fraction of the cost.
Wildlife photography kit list: lenses
Telephoto zoom lenses are the obvious choice for wildlife photographers as they allow you to get close to the action without actually having to be near a timid (or dangerous) animal. You can choose between a telephoto zoom lens, or a prime telephoto lens, such as the Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM lens. Generally speaking, zoom lenses tend to be a little cheaper, but don’t offer a bright or wide aperture.
If you’re interested in insect photography as well, a macro lens is an obvious purchase, while you can also get some nice wildlife shots with wider angle lenses. For instance if you’re photographing a field replete with deer. Have a think about the type of wildlife photography you’re most likely to be shooting. Perhaps also think about hiring a lens to try it out before you commit.
Wildlife photography kit list: bag
Your bag choice may often depend on the type of photography you do. For wildlife photography it’s likely you’ll be stopping in one place to set up and take your images. It’s also very likely that your gear will be heavy. For that reason a backpack or rucksack makes the most sense. Make sure if you have long telephoto lenses that the bag has enough space inside to fit the lens, or lenses if you have more than one. The Gillis London Trafalgar Rucksack is a smart choice for those looking for something stylish.
Wildlife photography kit list: tripod and bean bag
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s likely you’ll be staying in one place for wildlife photography, and if you’re using telephoto lenses, a tripod is pretty much essential.
Look for a tripod which is sturdy and offers plenty of support for both your camera and the lens attached to it. Check its maximum load bearing weight to make sure it can handle it. If your budget stretches to it, consider a carbon fibre tripod like the MeFoto GlobeTrotter travel tripod as this should be relatively light weight while still being strong enough to support your gear.
The head, whether attached or purchased separately, needs to be a ball and socket type of tripod as it’s likely you’ll be making quick movements. This kind of socket allows for speed and fluidity.
A bean bag can also help you out when you need to rest your camera lens against something to keep it steady when a tripod isn’t necessarily practical. For instance, if there’s a conveniently placed wall, or a dedicated photography hide. You could also use them when shooting from your car if you’re lucky enough to spot a subject near a convenient parking location.
Wildlife photography kit list: teleconverter
If you’re shooting something in the distance and even a 400mm lens can’t quite get there, a teleconverter is your friend. A teleconverter is placed in between the camera and lens to increase the focal length up to 2x. The downside of using one of these means the maximum aperture will be narrower when using a teleconverter – that can have an impact on the autofocusing capability of some cameras.
Wildlife photography kit list: binoculars
You’ll probably spend a high proportion of your time on a wildlife photography shoot just waiting. And waiting. You could look through your camera’s viewfinder, or shoot on live view, but it makes much more sense to use a pair of binoculars and save your camera’s battery. A decent pair of binoculars will help you to scan the scene without causing eye strain.
Wildlife photography kit: batteries and memory cards
Given that it’s a waiting game, extra batteries can be useful if you’re out all day shooting and your battery expires. It can also be quite cold when you’re shooting wildlife so keeping a spare battery warm and ready to go can help you out.
You’ll also want to invest in some fast memory cards that can keep up with shooting at fast frame rates.
Wildlife photography kit: rain cover
If you’re lucky enough to be shooting in the great British outdoors, a weatherproof camera is a good idea. However if you don’t have one, or you want to get a bit of extra peace of mind, a rain cover is a good option. Ideally, look for one which not only fits your lens but still offers a good view of the rear LCD screen.
Wildlife photography kit: clothing
At the risk of sounding like an overbearing parent – make sure you wrap up warm. Wildlife photography often involves sitting around for long periods of time in one position – even in mild conditions it can quickly get cold. Not to mention, wet.
Furthermore, you might want to invest in some camouflage clothing to help you to blend into your surroundings – especially useful when photographing meek animals. Alternatively, you can even pick up jackets which have been designed for photographers, such as the COOPH Field Jacket.