Top 5: Tips for improving wildlife photography

Blue Planet II cameraman Mateo Willis shares his top tips for shooting wildlife at a one-off masterclass in Scotland's rough and remote Loch Lomond

By Tamsin Wressell
Published 8 Dec 2017, 14:00 GMT, Updated 12 Jul 2021, 14:31 BST

Loch Lomond

Photograph by Getty Images

1. Have it to hand

"The best camera to have is the one that's easiest to access, point and shoot when out in the field."

When shooting for his ever-growing portfolio of wildlife documentaries, Mateo keeps a phone camera close to hand to capture any fleeting moments. The action when filming wildlife can happen in an instant, and if you're short on time to set up your camera or change out your lens, capturing what you can on a compact camera or phone is often the best solution.

2. Get low

"I spend a lot of time as close to the floor as I can get when photographing wildlife — otherwise you're shooting more of the ground and changing the focus of the image."

Considering your angle can alter the scale of your photography. Aim to get low, and the image will become more focused on capturing the wildlife — at eye level, or lower if possible. This offers a better perspective of the subject, as opposed to filming from higher up and showing a lot of the ground it's walking on.

3. Get to know your subject

"Watch and observe. Wildlife can of course be unpredictable, but over time you can start to pick up on patterns and learn the cues to its movement."

Taking some time to study your subject can help you understand characteristics and behaviours, giving you a better chance of capturing the subject in action and, ultimately, a more meaningful image.

4. Be patient

"If I didn't have patience, I wouldn't have this job — it's probably the single most important part of being a wildlife photographer."

Watching and waiting to see how a scene unravels can lead to a really special image — much more so than a simple point-and-shoot. As mentioned, wildlife can be unpredictable, so waiting in a spot — and returning to that same spot repeatedly — can lead to more rewarding pictures.

5. Consider the quality

"When you zoom in, it's going to cut the quality down — the smaller the frame or the more you zoom in, the more pixelated it'll be."

Having the right equipment for a wildlife shoot is key, and knowing what you're aiming to shoot will help with this. Either having a decent lens, or getting closer to the subject — if it's safe to do so — will help keep the picture quality as sharp as possible. However, another option is to use a wide-angle lens to take in the scenery and give more context to the subject's environment.

During their time in Loch Lomond, Tamsin Wressell and Mateo Willis shot on an Xperia XZ1, as part of Mateo's project with Sony to film and produce a crowd-sourced film captured entirely on Xperia smartphones.


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2024 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved