Nature has so much to offer when it comes to photography. While many people believe that stunning wildlife photographs require lots of money and expensive gear, you don’t need a big budget.
In our ultimate guide to wildlife photography on a budget, we explain everything you need for your wildlife photography with a small budget.
From basic equipment to the right clothes, capturing wildlife in a breathtaking photograph doesn’t have to be expensive.
Let’s find out how to photograph insects, mammals and other wildlife professionally without a big budget.
1. Dress Properly
Wildlife photography is great fun but you need the right clothing to protect you from harsh weather conditions.
From a proper train jacket during a downpour to warm clothes that keep the cold out in winter, make sure that you check the weather before you head out.
The right clothing allows you to stay comfortable for some time in the wild. Nature photography is a lot of sitting around and waiting, so you need to feel cozy in what you wear.
You may also need some extra pockets to store some of your gear. It is also a good idea to consider the color of your clothing.
Try to choose green or brown clothes that aren’t so easy to see when you are out in nature. This means you can blend in easily without distracting the animals you want to photograph.
2. Try Macro Wildlife Photography
Macro photography is a fantastic way to capture smaller animals or little details. Take a picture of a butterfly sitting on a flower or a close-up of a bee.
You don’t necessarily need a specific macro lens for this type of photography. Just use your current lens and try to get as close to your subject as possible.
Alternatively, you can also get a cheap macro converter that turns your camera into a macro lens which is ideal for capturing details of animals, bugs and small insects.
One of the key elements you need for wildlife photography is something you cannot buy: patience. Taking pictures of animals in the wild means that you need to wait for the right moment.
This requires a lot of patience and waiting until this special moment arrives. Depending on what animal you want to photograph, you may want to stake out your location before.
Some mammals, such as bears and wild cats, regularly visit certain spots where you may be able to get a good picture of them.
Just wait at a good distance from their favorite spot and observe the area until the animal appears.
4. Use A Remote Shutter Release
Most wild animals are shy creatures which means they run away whenever anything nearby moves. This means that you can’t get too close to them, especially with a standard 50mm lens.
The best solution for this is to use remote shutter releases. They allow you to release the shutter of your camera remotely without the need for touching the camera.
Plus, they are also ideal for creating blur-free images because you cannot shake the camera or move it.
Wireless shutter release systems are relatively cheap and they allow you to get a much better glimpse into the intimate world of a wild animal.
5. Photograph With A Reliable Camera
From Canon to Nikon, you can spend thousands or a few hundred dollars on a camera. This all depends on your budget and what you need.
However, if you are new to wildlife photography, then you don’t need a professional DSLR with all the bells and whistles.
It is best to buy a good, reliable camera that has the basics you need without any confusing settings. A decent second-hand camera is often a better beginner option, especially if you are on a budget.
6. Stake Out The Location With Binoculars
Most wildlife photographers carefully stake out the location where their intended subject roams. You can use binoculars with 8x magnification to get a good view of your potential subject.
It is best to spot and follow animals through binocular or scopes to ensure that you get a glimpse of them. This means that you can follow the animal if it moves away from you.
Binoculars have come down a lot in price, so you can get a cheap second-hand pair of binoculars for a few dollars at a carboot sale or a thrift store.
7. Use The Right Lens
There is no one size fits all when it comes to wildlife photography lenses. Depending on your location and lighting conditions, you can use almost any lens you like.
As a rule of thumb, a wide angle lens is ideal for a lot of landscape and nature photography because it captures animals in their natural habitat.
8. Use Autofocus For Action
In wildlife photography, you must be quick to capture the right moment. This means that you cannot lose valuable seconds by changing the settings on your camera or adjusting the focus.
That is where autofocus comes in handy. It automatically changes the focus with your moving subject to ensure that you can get a clear shot.
Some cameras even allow you to set custom settings for wildlife photography, (see also: 10 Best Cameras For Wildlife Photography)so you already have the perfect setup.
9. Use A Hide
Pop-up animal hides are a fantastic way for photographers to get closer to their desired object. It allows you to capture more intimate photos of an animal.
With a hide, you can make yourself invisible to animals and you neatly blend into your natural surroundings.
Hides come in a variety of camouflages, sizes, shapes and prices, so you can choose one that fits your budget and location.
The most commonly used animal hides are made of canvas. They have a dome shape that is fast to set up and easy to collapse.
Another great benefit of a wildlife hide is that you are also more protected from the weather, so you can keep your gear and yourself out of the rain or glaring sun.
10. Work With A Camera Trap
Another way to capture beautiful wildlife pictures is with a camera trap. Camera trapping allows you to leave the camera overnight and the device takes a photo each time it detects motion.
Camera traps work in various different ways, some use passive infrared (PIR) beams while others work with active infrared (AIR) beams.
The biggest advantage of camera traps is that you can photograph animals in their natural state without entering their environment when they are present.
This gives you an intimate glimpse into the animal’s life and behaviors. Some camera traps even allow you to record video.
11. Use The Right Settings For Your Subject
The correct camera settings depend on your chosen subject. For example, for bird photography, you need to combine a minimum shutter speed with Auto ISO to ensure you get well-lit photos.
As the light conditions change, your camera will automatically adjust the brightness. It will also change the shutter speed according to the ISO.
The lighting conditions are important in wildlife photography, (see also: The Best Gear For Wildlife Photography)especially when you shoot an animal with a single color, such as a grizzly bear or a panther.
Make sure that your chosen location is well-lit. Ideally, you need to have soft, natural light that brings out the beautiful details in your subject.
12. Use A Continuous Shooting Mode
Make sure that you set your camera to shoot in bursts or continuous shooting mode. This ensures that you don’t miss the moment when your chosen subject moves around.
While this quickly fills up your SD card, you can be certain that you end up with a shot that is absolutely perfect.
13. Set Up A Tripod
Tripods aren’t very expensive and you can use them for a great variety of your nature photography. A good carbon-fiber tripod is lightweight and easy to collapse.
Make sure that your tripod adjusts to the right height. Some animals are typically closer to the ground while others move around in tree tops.
With a tripod, you can install your camera and ensure that it is stable. This allows you to capture sharp wildlife images that are in focus.
Just keep in mind that a tripod isn’t always practical. For example, when you have a subject that continually moves, such as in bird photography, then it is better to opt for handheld.
14. Use A Camera Bean Bag
A camera bean bag is a small bean bag specifically designed for cameras. These bean bags are an ideal alternative to tripods when you want to shoot closer to the ground.
You can place them directly on the ground, rocks or fence posts. A camera bean bag keeps your camera stable and it also protects your gear from surface scratches.
The biggest advantage of a camera bean bag is that you can get much lower down than with a tripod, which makes this cheap piece of kit a fantastic budget gear for photographing anything living close to the ground.
15. Shutter Speed Settings
In order to capture sharp and crisp photographs, you need a shutter speed of around 1/1000s. For bird photography, you need a shutter speed between 1/2000s and 1/4000s.
As a rule of thumb, the faster your chosen subject, the faster your shutter speed. Keep in mind that the specific shutter speed and light conditions also affect your exposure settings.
It is worth experimenting with different camera settings for different subjects to find the one that’s right.
While wildlife photography (see also: Essential Tips On Wildlife Photography For Beginners)requires some patience, you don’t need a lot of money to capture stunning animal photos of birds, insects and other wild creatures.