Wildlife Photography 101: What to Pack in the Handbag

If nature inspires you and the great adventures of the wild seem like your calling, here’s all you’ll need in your starter kitty to get you started with wildlife photography.


A good DSLR is a primary requirement, preferably full-frame cameras with at least 1080p video quality minimum. It must have the ability to take photos in burst mode with high shutter speeds using available light to freeze action. If you are shooting in low light (e.g.birds in foliage), this also implies that you need a fast lens, and to a lesser extent, good high-ISO performance in the body. Cameras such as the Nikon D500 or Canon 1DX are recommended. It is better to start with easier models and work your way up to the ones with more features, such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II.


Wildlife photography is a strenuous waiting game and tripods are necessary to get the gear ready without exerting yourself. It is important to get tripods that match your eye level, so check the height when it is fully extended. A good monopod such as the Sirui P-S with its three fold-down feet for added stability is also an alternative option.


One of the most effective tools to get smooth images is a gimbal. They are great for free motion, especially for photographers who need to shoot fast and rare animals. It is important to understand the different motions of the gimbal and account for vertical movements that can affect the image. The Jobu BWG-J3K or the PG-02 is a good option to use.


Due to the uncertainties of weather and the cost of the equipment, a long lens cover that fully and secures protects your equipment from rain is a must. It is better to get a slightly more expensive but durable cover when considering its benefits. It is always important to check the sizes of the cover and its compatibility with a gimbal and camera. The LensCoat Canon Lens Cover and Storm Jacket covers are good options.


For a reliable steadfast platform that can allow you to shoot in different settings and support the camera and lens, a Lensack is important. They can rest easily over a car door and hence can aid in shooting in on a car door, safari, slick surfaces or railings. The LensCoat and Lensack are good options that are constructed with heavy water-resistant material and locking zipper to prevent leaks.


Long lenses and heavy equipment will require a sturdy camera bag, preferably in monotone colours for camouflage. It is important to check the dimensions of the bag and compare them to the lenses so that they fit snugly. The F Stop Satori Exp camera bag is comfortable and fits a good amount of gear.


To spot animals, especially wildlife, binoculars or a monocular is easier to use than holding a heavy camera lens. Since they are compact, light and easy to carry, they are essential to wildlife photography. The pro-prism binoculars are better for image quality but the roof prism binoculars are more compact and robust. The Vortex Optics is a good option and they even come with a VIP warranty.


Telephoto lenses are effective tools to fill the frame, pick distant subjects out, get a shallow depth of field or capture fast-paced animals. They are essential to get distinct animals, especially in a group. While they are helpful when used right, high focal lenses can distort the image which is also called the telephoto effect. Canon’s 200-400 f/4 L IS 1.4ext is used widely and is a good option.


Nighttime or early morning photography will require a torch or headlamp to arrange the gear and spot animals. A headlamp is more convenient to use and can aid in hiking to photo spots or in jungles. The Petzi Reactik or the Sidiou Group SDO-K1 are recommended.


Teleconverters are used as camera lens extensions that increase the overall focal length. They are good to use if shooting from distant contact from the animals. It is important to check the weight and lens speed of the teleconverter and ensure that they are compatible with your camera lenses. Recommendations include the Canon Extender EX 1.4x II and Sigma 2x EX DG.

Cover Photo Credit: Sheldon Ion Healy


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