FIAP Articles: Three articles of a three part series combined – 2023

Wildlife Photography My Way: Musts, Myths, and Maybe as well as Travel Tips

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My ABC for Wildlife Photography (rev. 12 Dec 2022)

(Copyright: Johan J Botha Hon FPSSA, MPSSA, FPSA, ARPSA, EPSSA, SPSA, EFIAP)

Rule number ONE: Respect the environment, wildlife, park rules and fellow photographers…

Image Processing

1.   The purpose of wildlife image processing is only to reconstruct the original scene from RAW data

2.   The better image is always the one that was captured correctly and is normally NOT the one “fixed” with PS or LR etc

3.   I believe in maximum effort in the field with capturing and minimum effort with image processing

4.   Maximum cropping:  20 – 30% if necessary at all

5.   Process only with frequently and correctly calibrated equipment

6.   Strictly obey wildlife photography image processing rules


1.   It is important to remember that the photographer is the creator of the image; the camera and lens are just the tools to capture

2.   I always use the longest possible lens and “best” camera for the purpose, implying I back off from the scene. For me, it is not optimum to be as close as possible.

3.   A solid camera-lens support that is easy and quick to operate is critically important

4.   I pair a camera and lens for an entire trip for various reasons

5.   I will only use a 1.4 x converter if necessary

6.   I may crop in-camera if it has an FX sensor that has enough pixels to allow a decent-quality cropped RAW image

7.   It is essential to know the cameras and lenses inside-out, in terms of their capabilities, menus and ideal settings for a certain situation

8.   I always have fully charged spare batteries at hand

9.   Acquire the fastest memory cards

10.   Spare, already formatted memory cards must be easily accessible when needed

11.   Two years ago, I have changed to mirrorless, mainly because of reduced weight and
much better focus systems


1.   Adobe RGB

2.   Uncompressed 14-bit RAW at the largest image size

3.   Maximum motor drive (max fps)

4.   Continuous focus (AFC)

5.   Back button (thumb) focus works best for me

6.   Focus Area selection depends on the situation

7.   Aperture priority mode

8.   Always lowest possible ISO…

9.   Under-expose for whites, especially where black and white together

10.   I always start with the widest aperture possible (eg f4) and only stop down during capturing

At the Scene

I regard the following as very important at a scene:

1.   I prefer my own vehicle as group photos or workshop images are seldom unique…. it also provides freedom of movement and time

2.   Be aware of environmental conditions like wind direction

3.   Check the vital signs like the type of tracks and direction, excretion, puffing of feathers, nervousness, etc

4.   Know the animal behaviour and pre-empt what is going to happen… think like an animal…

5.   Check all the camera settings a hundred times and again…I know I will have only one chance

6.   Be patient… wait….but be awake and ready

7.   Shoot many well-timed images during action but NOT finger permanently on the shutter

8.   Try different things with repetitive situations like vultures taking off and landing at a kill for e.g., slow shutter speed, panning, creative compositions, extreme cropping, artistic white balance, etc

9.   Practice!!!

PS: It helps a lot to talk to fellow visitors, staff and the rangers to find out what is where.