8 Secrets for Super Sharp Wildlife Photos

Photo for sharp wildlife photo tips

Everyone wants sharper wildlife photos but not everyone knows the basics of how to capture them. In the below video tutorial, pro photographer Steve Perry shares his “eight secrets” to help you shoot sharp photos of birds and other animals every time.

“Do you want sharper wildlife photos? Are you tired of deleting otherwise amazing shots because of sharpness issues?” Perry asks. “Then take a look at this quick ten-minute video where I’ll share eight different field-tested (and time-tested) methods for securing sharper wildlife images.”

Here’s an outline of Perry’s eight tips. But if you want to get all his helpful info on shooting sharper wildlife photos, watch the full tutorial at the bottom of this post.

#1 Shutter Speed

“This might seem like a back-to-basics tip but the truth is when people present me with photos so I can diagnose sharpness problems, somewhere between 70 and 80% of the time, the issue is actually with shutter speed,” Perry says. “The problem is there’s a prevailing assumption out there that shutter speeds like 1/250th of a second are fast enough for most subjects and something like 1/1000th of a second should be enough to stop any kind of action. So, it’s often difficult to convince people to crank their shutter speeds up to more like 1/1250th, 1/2000th or even 1/4000th of a second for faster action.”

#2 Shoot from Good Support

“Often when shutter speeds drop, people resist placing the camera on a tripod or monopod for far too long. Instead, they try their best just to handhold the thing. The bottom line for me is if I’m shooting a long lens and I’m under 1/800th of second or so, I grab a monopod, or a tripod and my shots are consistently sharper than when I don’t.”

#3 Use the Best Autofocus (AF) Area

“Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras feature a wide array of choices for AF areas and choosing the correct one is often the difference between capturing the photo you want and one that’s sharp in all the wrong places. The trick is to use the smallest AF area you can reliably keep on your subject.”

#4 Keep AF Engaged and On Target

“Start with the camera in AF-C mode and then, if possible, move the AF point to the animal’s eye. Once you start shooting, keep the AF point on the eye and keep AF engaged the entire time you shoot. That way, if you move a little or the animal moves a little, the movement is compensated for instantly and you never miss a sharp photo.”

#5 Shoot Longer Bursts

“If you’re facing slower shutter speeds, one way to help secure a sharp photo is to shoot longer bursts. The reason? It’s simple math. Longer bursts give you a better chance of nailing at least one sharp image.”

#6 Avoid Heat Diffraction and Heat Haze

” If you’ve ever looked down a road on a sunny day and saw heat waves rising up from it, you already know an extreme example of what I’m talking about. If you’ve ever shot wildlife across an open field or even a body of water on a sunny day and couldn’t quite figure out why your images weren’t as sharp as you thought they should be, this is likely the culprit. The only solution is to move to a location where the area between you and the subject is protected from sun or reduce the distance between yourself and the subject.”

#7 Use VR When Needed

“Use VR or image stabilization when the shutter speed drops below a level you can successfully handhold. And you can often use this to help with tripod word too.”

#8 Last Resort: Consider AF Fine Tuning

“If you see consistent front or back focusing you may want to consider AF fine tuning/lens calibration. However, I do urge caution here. The truth is most lenses do not require AF fine tuning or calibration. Unfortunately, people turn to it when the real problem is actually one of technique.”

Leave a Comment