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5 Wildlife Video Photography Tips

5 Wildlife Videography Tips

There is nothing better than going deep into the untouched nature and making a video of the wildlife inhabiting it. On a good day, one can shoot wonderful and breathtaking colourful videos of gorgeous animals emerging from the background painted by unconquered wilderness.

In case you were wondering what stands between you and the magnificent video files on your SD card, we are here to help you with that. Here are some tips that you could find useful should you decide to try yourself at wildlife videography.

The Gear

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We won’t go in depth on this subject, since there is not enough space here to list all the DSLRS and camcorders in order to compare them. The number of situations and shooting subjects the wildlife videography encompasses is vast and variable, thus gear discussion about the specifics would be futile.

But, on the other hand we might talk in general. Some would say that DSLR is a better companion for this type of journey since its way smaller and you can travel lighter through nature. Also, the size of the DSLR image sensor allows it to capture high quality videos.

While camcorders are way better for long wildlife videography assignments. The battery in those lasts way longer but some may argue that the camcorder’s dynamic range capabilities and its performance in the low light setting come in handy in situations when you would otherwise need additional gear to make good videos.

Also when shooting video with an DLSR a sensor, heat may be the problem. There is a high chance that you will have to turn off your cam and miss a unique opportunity to shoot something of value. Another thing you should consider when it comes to DSLRs is the lens.

Huge professional lenses are very expensive. You will need extra funds to approximate the focal length of a mid-range camcorder with a 1/2.3” sensor.

Learning the Storytelling Technique

Wildlife videos should be able to communicate the story to any viewer. So not only do the picture and the sound have to be of high quality, but the story also has to be captivating in order to grab the attention of a viewer. This might require some video-editing skills, since you will need to chop and arrange frames to build the sequence that has a meaning. This one is an absolute must, since it is impossible to shoot a video from the start to the end with so many variables and adjustments in the equation.

When it comes to the sound in your video, you have several options. You can go with a voiceover, some music or the raw sound that you’ve recorded on site. The best option would be to combine them all. By telling a story with a sequence of shots accompanied by voiceover and natural sound you can achieve very good results.

If you are the beginner it is always advised to start shooting something that looks both beautiful and interesting. For instance, some rare or interesting animal behavior in their natural habitat, something that will captivate the viewer’s attention, even without any video or sound editing.

Footage Composition

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Footage composition is also a really important aspect of video and, if done right, it can add up to that captivating effect. Generally, what you want to avoid is taking the shot from the same angle without zooming in or out for longer periods of time. If you do take those kind of shots, just make sure that you cut them shorter in video-editing. Mixing different compositions also adds to the dynamics of the video and makes the storytelling much easier.

In order to get very potent raw material, it is best to shoot a lot of close-ups and wide shots. The shots where you slowly zoom in on the objects can also be used in some situations, so if you have the opportunity to take some of those feel free to do so.

Forget About Auto Mode

This is basically the number one rule of wildlife videography – don’t use auto focus. This is simply because the cameras are set to search for the focus non-stop, so once it switches your shot is “damaged”. You still might use some of it in post editing, but why create more work for yourself when you can learn the manual focus technique.

Controlling the focus can really add that creative touch to your videos, which is why it is strongly recommended for anyone who even remotely considers videography as a hobby to master this technique. It sure isn’t easy, and requires a lot of practice, time and effort, but once you get a hold of it, you will be able to record some amazing and breath-taking videos that will easily attract many viewers.

Don’t Forget to Shoot Fillers

These so-called “filler shots” are an absolute must for anyone who wants to make videos about wildlife. They are responsible for adding diversity and making sure that the viewer doesn’t get bored while watching a video. This is why you should always consider the wider context when you approach wildlife videography.

The idea is to not only film the animals you came for, but also to make clips of surrounding areas, interesting trees, dew drops on the leaves, scenery on the rivers, lakes etc. In post editing, you can use these clips to guide the viewer through your storyline more effectively. Also, by showing the surroundings, you will be able to drag the viewer into the video and make them feel like they were there, watching the animal in its natural habitat.

The combination of narrow depth of field and precise manual focus control is what can easily get you lost in this artistic engagement. In any case, your manual focus control skills will require you to have the cam attached to a tripod. So make sure to take one with yourself when you embark on this journey.

Shooting videos in the wilderness can certainly be a thrilling and mind-blowing experience, but as you can see, getting ready for it requires some preparation. And this preparation is the key to success in most cases, especially in this one.

Keep in mind that nobody said it’s going to be easy, as with all activities that involve a camcorder or DSLR this one also requires some experience. Once you are deep in the wilderness, you can’t afford to forget some of the lenses or an extra battery pack. For the end, stay on your toes, since who knows when the opportunity for the perfect shot will present itself.