The Best Gear For Mammal Photography

Wildlife photography can be tricky to get into. You’ll see a mountain of other photographers online, showing off their amazing images with crystal clear detail, and yet your pictures are of a blurry field. First, you need to find your mammal.

The Best Gear For Mammal Photography

Then you need to capture its beauty. Writing it down, the process seems easy, but you’ll need a great deal of patience, and some amazing tech. Today we will tell you what gear you need, and give suggestions on our favorite choices.


This isn’t a flashback to the 00s. Although photography bean bags are made from the same materials as the classic chair alternative, this equipment is designed for your camera. The weighted ends keep the flat surface stable.

They are normally used on vehicles, to help create a stable flat surface over the car’s window ledge. When you take a photo of wildlife, you have to wait in a quiet location, unmoving, for a long period.

This will allow the animals to wander into your area without feeling threatened by you. When the animals finally arrive, you don’t want to create sudden movements as this will scare them off.

If you’re in a safari, or taking photos from any window ledge, you will quickly develop dead arms as you wait for your moment. Unless you have arms built like a Greek God, you’ll need a stand. That's when the bean bag comes in.

Lay this over your window ledge, and put your camera in a nested position. Now all you have to do is wait.


It goes without saying that you’ll need a pair of binoculars or a monocular to take mammal photography. This tech helps you see far off into the distance, allowing you to witness wildlife without getting too close.

However, you shouldn’t buy any binoculars you can find. You need a magnification of 10X or more. This will help you see further into the landscape, with the same crystal-clear imagery you expect from your photos.

Ideally, your distance should match your camera’s capacity too. That way you’re sure that your camera can take the same distanced images as your binoculars.


Of course, you’re going to need a camera. For capturing wildlife, you’re going to need 4 features - a fast burst mode, a large lens range, a decent buffer depth, and fast focusing.

A fast burst mode is when your camera takes multiple images at once - in a burst. If you were photographing a bear in the water, you’d only have a split second to capture the beautiful image before they submerge for more fish.

With a fast burst mode, you would take 20 pictures in that time. A single large lens range will help you create the frame you desire.

Far away animals and close-range creatures can be photographed without issue (see also "How To Photograph Zoo Animals"), or fumbling around for the correct length. Next, you’ll need a good buffer depth. A buffer depth describes how many images the camera can take without stopping.

Think of it like a continuous burst mode. If you held down your shutter button and didn’t let go, how many bursts would you get and how long is the wait between bursts. Ideally, the wait or buffer should be minimal.

Lastly, expensive cameras can focus your images automatically and quickly - allowing you to follow the creature and take pictures without changing the focus constantly. This is essential for photographing unpredictable animals.


The tripod is the typical stand used for photography. We have already mentioned how great a bean bag is, but if you don’t plan on taking photos from your car or window, you may need a tripod instead.

The same rules apply. You can’t be holding onto your camera all day, as you wait for an animal to arrive. You need something for it to lie on. When buying a tripod, make sure it has long extendable legs.

This will give you a great range of views. Secondly, Don’t put the camera at eye level. The ground is very rarely flat, and most creatures aren’t clinging to the mud.

Instead, raise it high, and when a creature comes your way tilt your camera to find them. Looking down on your camera is easier to manage, than trying to lift it up while keeping yourself motionless.


A ground pod is perfect for capturing small wildlife - mice, insects, lizards, and so on. A good ground pod is heavy and allows you to cover up the obvious base. This way animals don’t get spooked by the random artificial structure in their area.

With a ground pod, you still want to create an elevated angle. This will help you create good framing and maneuverability. But, because your target creature is small, you can keep close and intimate with the low-to-the-ground pod.

This tool is only good for capturing small creatures. If that’s not your aim, you can avoid this suggestion.


A gimbal head acts like the neck. The tripod is your camera’s legs and body, the camera itself is the head, and the gimbal is the neck, allowing it to twist and turn on the tripod.

The twisting allows the camera to point in any direction, while also keeping your tripod balanced. Without this time, your camera’s movement is limited, and when you make a change to the camera position, the tripod might topple over.


A good headlamp should be waterproof with a good grip. That way horrible windy and rainy weather won’t prevent you from going outside and taking photos.

You may be wondering why you should bother using a headlamp at all - won’t it scare away the animals? Well, the best times to take wildlife photos are in the morning and evening.

During these times the sunlight is soft, and the creatures are more active. Using a headlamp can help you set up your equipment in the dim light, while also having access to both your hands.

You can also use the lamp to shine a light on certain objects to create illumination in your images.


Ideally, your camera should be waterproof, however allowing something to get wet just because you can, will degrade it faster than necessary.

A rain cover will protect your equipment from the elements, allowing it to stay in top condition for longer. However, you can't buy just any rain cover. The coat needs to fit over your lens while it sits on the tripod.

This means you should measure your most common lens and camera configuration, and then buy a cover that matches that length. If you buy one too long, then your lens will be covered and you cannot take a photo.

If it’s too short, your equipment will be exposed to the elements and will degrade quicker than expected.


If your object or target is really far away, you may need a teleconverter to get a clear image. They are little devices you add to your lens, so you don’t need to buy a whole new lens.

If you’re taking pictures of dangerous animals, and need to keep yourself far away, this tech will help you stay at a safe distance while still creating a great image. However, teleconverters have a narrower aperture.

This means your autofocusing software might not work very well. Your images will still be great, but you may need a more manual alternative.

Ideally, you should pick a teleconverter that matches the same brand as your lens. This way the converter would fit and work seamlessly.


If the type of animal you plan on photography is easily spooked, use camouflage clothing. The poncho we have shown above goes over your whole body and will allow you to stay unseen while being very close to your mammals.

Most photographers don’t bother with the full camouflage gear, because their animal of choice doesn’t require it.

If you’re not trying to picture easily spooked animals, you still need a fully waterproof wardrobe - coat, wellington boots, and trousers. Everything needs to be ready for the cold and the natural dew you’ll be treading through.

In the colder months you’ll need gloves too, so make sure they are “touch ready”, allowing you to control your camera without removing the gloves.

Final Thoughts

The gear above is either necessary or a great help to your mammal photography ambitions. Click on our links to see our recommendations, but use our information to understand what alternatives you might need.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Specs Do You Need For Wildlife Photography?

You will need a minimum focal length of 100mm. Most lenses aimed at wildlife photographers are either 70-200mm or 100-400mm. Either will do.

Is Manual Or Autofocus Better For Wildlife Photography?

A quick autofocus is better than a manual for this type of photography. Most creatures move frantically or unexpectedly, so you need to capture your image fast. There is no time to pose for the perfect picture.

Laura McNeill
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