Wildlife photography requires a love of the outdoors and a lot of patience, but does it require a fancy camera? Or can you just use your iPhone? Taking photographs of wildlife can be challenging, whether you are capturing images of animals in the wild or in captivity. Using an iPhone for wildlife photography is certainly possible with limitations. Here’s an overview of how to take photos of wildlife with an iPhone, plus some tips for taking the photo.
What is wildlife photography?
The definition of wildlife photography is different depending on who you ask. Many professional photographers will argue that for the images to be classified as wildlife photography, they must have been taken in the natural habitat of an animal. Others believe that images of “wild” animals taken in zoos and sanctuaries should also be considered photographs of wildlife.
For the purposes of this article, we will consider the photography of all animals that are not domesticated as wildlife photography. We will not focus on photographing pets such as cats and dogs, or livestock (horses, cows, chickens, etc.), and we will save the ethical argument about whether zoo animals are considered wildlife for another day.
Types of wildlife photography
There are practically as many types of wildlife photography genres as there are animal species, but in general, we can divide them into a few general categories:
- Mammal photography
- Bird photography
- Underwater photography
- Macro photography of wildlife (insects)
Can you take good photos of wildlife with an iPhone?
The answer to this question is somewhat complicated. When most people think of wildlife photography, they think of incredibly detailed close-ups of wild animals. Those images are best captured with huge telephoto lenses so as not to disturb animals in their natural habitats. These types of wildlife photos cannot be easily captured with an iPhone.
However, there are many types of wildlife photography that you can capture with an iPhone and some additional equipment. These include portraits of animals in zoos, bird photography, insect photography, and large-format nature scenes that include wildlife. You can start taking photos of wildlife with your iPhone and decide that you want to invest in a more advanced camera model to capture detailed close-ups of the animals you come across.
IPhone Camera Settings and Wildlife Photo Gear
Before planning a wildlife photoshoot with your iPhone, there are a few pieces of gear we recommend investing in, plus a few settings you need to know about.
When photographing animals in the wild, you don’t want to get too close. On the one hand, you are invading the animal’s habitat, and the closer you get, the more likely you are to put stress on the animal. In some situations, getting too close to a wild animal is risky and sometimes downright dangerous.
From a photographer’s point of view, the less you disturb an animal, the better your chances of getting a decent shot. Enter the telephoto lens, which will help you get closer to your subject without causing stress or injury.
If you’re shooting with an iPhone that has a built-in telephoto lens, use it to zoom in on wildlife in the field. Another option is to buy an external lens that you can wear over your iPhone lens. There are many options at different prices for external lenses. Moment lenses, which are well rated and expensive, can even be used over the iPhone’s own telephoto lens for up to 4 times the focal length.
We suggested above that you give the wildlife you are photographing plenty of space, both for their benefit and yours. An exception is when the wildlife you are photographing has more than four legs! Insects are as wild as bears and wolves, but much more accessible to the amateur photographer.
If you’re shooting with the iPhone 13, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can now take focused photos as low as 2 centimeters from your subject for extremely detailed macro shots of insects and other creepy critters. For older iPhone users, consider trying a external macro lens.
It is true that wildlife images are easier to capture when animals are sleeping or relaxing. If you have the opportunity to photograph wildlife in action, be prepared to use Burst mode to capture every thrilling gesture. Burst mode will take a succession of photos at high speed. All you have to do is keep your finger on the shutter and pull to the left.
When the excitement of your photo moment is over, you can review all your Burst photos and choose the ones that came out the best.
The last setting to practice when shooting wildlife is Portrait mode. This setting works best between eight and eight feet from your subject, so it can be impractical for capturing mammals in the wild. Use it in zoos, to capture birds at your feeder, or when photographing insects.
To use Portrait mode, open your iPhone’s camera and slide your finger across the menu over the shutter. Choose Portrait mode and frame your shot. If you are within the proper distance, a yellow frame will appear around the subject. If you are too close or too far, your iPhone will prompt you to zoom in or out.
Portrait mode gives your photo more depth by giving the background a subtle blur while keeping the subject in focus.
Wildlife photography tips to shoot with your iPhone
Now comes the fun part. Grab your camera and any additional gear you want to try and hit the field. Here are some tips for taking stunning wildlife images.
1. Start in your own backyard
When you start to experiment with wildlife photography, you may be tempted to go to a national park or wildlife refuge, but the best way to practice is with the animals you see every day. Install a bird feeder in your garden so that the birds get used to coming closer to your house. Plant some flowers to attract bees and other pollinating insects.
2. Use a manual camera app
To get more precision in your wildlife photos, you’ll want to have manual control over some important camera functions. the ProCam application it is one that will allow you to adjust your camera’s shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. These manual settings will allow you to adjust to the lighting conditions so that your shot is the best possible.
3. Use a tripod to reduce camera shake.
A steady hand is important for all types of photography, but this is especially true in wildlife photography, when a telephoto lens is often used to capture subject details. A little portable tripod It can be useful for photographing birds or other wildlife at home or in the field.
4. Capture the animal and its habitat.
Because the ability to get up close to wildlife isn’t one of the iPhone camera’s strengths, you may want to get creative with how you capture the animal. Find a way to capture images of animals within their natural environment. Look for large groups of animals or landscapes where you can capture animals in the scene to give you a greater sense of scale.
It is true that wildlife photography is not one of the strengths of the iPhone. But if you’re willing to experiment, you’ll find opportunities to take stunning wildlife photos of your favorite animals.