The West

Wildlife photography coach Andrew Beck, of Johannesburg based Wild Eye, with client Andrew Wederbun-Maxwell and wife Debbie on the Wild Eye photography boat on Chobe River, Namibia. Picture: Stephen Scourfield

  • Use catchlights to give your subject life *

·It is crucial that you capture a catchlight (the glint in the subject's eye) in order to bring your subject to life. Images without these catchlights appear cold and lifeless.

  • Be acutely aware of your depth of field *

·This is especially important for photographing birds in flight. Typically I would suggest using an aperture value of f8.0 for birds in flight in order to give your subject a great depth of field to move into. This will improve your hit rate with birds in flight dramatically.

  • Keep an eye on your shutter speed *

·Birds are typically fast-moving subjects, especially when they are taking off or are in flight. Using a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th of a second will help you to capture a sharp and in-focus image.

  • Observe your subjects' flight path *

·Birds will often use the same flight paths when hunting from perches, returning to nests or drinking at water sources. Spending a couple of minutes watching their behaviour and looking for these patterns will help you to anticipate their movements and make for much easier tracking.

  • Show interaction or interesting behaviour *

·Images of birds sitting perched on a branch are great "documentary" shots but don't tell much of a story. Look for interaction between individuals and interesting behaviour (calling, flying, feeding, grooming etc) which will make your image so much more interesting and appealing.

  • Leave some space in the frame when composing *

·All too often people tend to clip the wings of birds in flight because they have zoomed in too tight on their subject. This is easily rectified by pulling back slightly and leaving some room for your subject to move into. You can always crop the image slightly afterwards to achieve your desired composition.

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