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What settings on DSLR camera for shooting wildlife

Wildlife photography is an exciting and rewarding genre of photography. Capturing stunning images of animals in their natural habitat requires not only patience and skill but also the right camera settings.

If you’re planning to photograph wildlife with a DSLR camera, it’s essential to know the optimal settings to use. In this article, I’ll provide you with tips and tricks to help you achieve stunning results.

Camera Settings

Shooting wildlife? Get the best shots with a DSLR camera! You’ll need to understand the settings. Here’s the key ones to consider: camera mode, shutter speed, ISO, autofocus, and aperture. All of these will make a huge difference in the quality of your capture!

Choose the right lens

Choosing the right lens is key for shooting wildlife. For close-up shots, use a telephoto lens from 200 to 500mm. If you’re further away, a wider angle lens like 18 to 200mm or 28 to 300mm is best. If you’re new to DSLR photography and not sure which lens to pick, get a zoom lens. This way, you can adjust your focal length without switching lenses.

Settings also matter. Wildlife moves fast so a fast shutter speed (1/250 or 1/500) is vital. Aperture helps adjust the depth of field and ISO helps ensure enough light enters the camera’s sensor. This is important in low-light settings like early morning or late evening when animals are active.

Set the right shutter speed

Shutter speed is key when shooting wildlife. For shots with sharp detail, go for 1/250 second or faster. A tripod and manual focus will help avoid camera shake. But for movement, slower shutter speeds such as 1/15 to 1/30 seconds are perfect.

For an extra special look, try panning – move the camera with the subject against any background. This always looks amazing!

Choose the right aperture

Aperture is key when shooting wildlife. Lower apertures (higher f-numbers) give greater depth of field. For wide-angle lenses, use f8-f11. With telephoto lenses, try f5.6-f8 to keep more elements in focus while isolating the subject. In low light, open the lens to its widest setting (lowest f-number) to let in more light.

Shutter speed is also important. To freeze action and get sharp images, use 1/500th of a second for bird photography, and 1/1000th for fast-moving mammals. Increase ISO if light levels are low. Check exposure levels with the LCD screen. Bracketing can help with difficult lighting conditions.

Set the right ISO

Adjusting your DSLR’s ISO is the first step when shooting wildlife. ISO determines how fast the shutter opens and closes. A low ISO will give you a slow shutter speed, potentially making fast animals blurry. But a high ISO can bring too much noise and distort colors.

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A good ISO for outdoor photography is between 100 and 400. This gives clear details and sharpness. Depending on the lighting and subject, you may need to set the ISO higher than 400. Experiment with different values to find the best for your scenario.

Autofocus Settings

Shooting wildlife? Autofocus settings can make a huge difference! Select the right ones for the best shots. This article covers AF mode, AF zone, and AF area mode.

Let’s discuss these settings. Get the most out of your shots!

Select the right autofocus mode

When shooting wildlife, autofocus mode can make a big difference. You need to adjust the focus settings to get sharp photos when your subject is moving quickly.

The three common autofocus modes are: one-shot, AI servo and AI focus. One-shot locks onto your subject and holds the focus until you take the shot. AI servo refocuses when you hold down the shutter button halfway. This makes it great for moving subjects. AI focus switches between one-shot and AI servo depending on when your subject moves or stops. It’s ideal for unpredictable subjects.

Check your camera manual to find out the specific settings. I recommend one-shot or AI servo. If your camera has AI focus, try that too. Test how well each setting works with your particular subjects. Animals are different, so it’s best to do some test shots before a full shoot.

Set the right autofocus point

For wildlife photography, you need the right autofocus setting. The more points of focus your camera have, the easier it is to track a moving animal. Many cameras, like Canon and Nikon, have multi-point autofocus settings, with multiple focus points all around the frame. This helps you track the subject better.

DSLR cameras have 3 main AF modes, AF-S (Single-Shot Auto Focus), AF-C (Continuous Autofocus), and AI Focus (Automatic Selection). The mode you choose depends on the speed and location of your subject’s eye/face in the frame.

For example, if the subject is still, use the centermost point of a single point system, or a single central point from an array of multiple AF points when dealing with larger sensors. This will ensure sharpness and accuracy.

But, if you’re shooting a fast action sport, Continuous Autofocus with Tracking Mode is best. AI Focus helps too, as it can detect which mode is ideal for any given time – like when tracking objects or changes in light. To capture sharp wildlife footage, selecting the correct Autofocus setting is key.

Adjust the autofocus sensitivity

For snappy wildlife pics, your DSLR camera’s autofocus sensitivity must be adjusted. This setting decides how fast the camera can find a target and focus on it. Increasing this sensitivity can help the camera focus in low light or with busy backgrounds; however, when zooming in close, it may cause misfocusing.

The settings to adjust autofocus sensitivity vary by camera. Generally, you can find it in your Camera Settings Menu under AF Sensitivity/Acceleration. If possible, enable AI Servo/Continuous Autofocus mode. This will keep the focus on the moving object until you take a photo or press the shutter button halfway.

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Also, select specific focus points when shooting wildlife. You can usually make quick changes with joystick buttons near the four main direction buttons near the back control panel. This helps to keep moving animals in focus.

Don’t forget to check aperture size and shutter speed. These should be set based on lighting and environment. With the right settings, your images will look sharp and have a wild bokeh effect in the background!


Photography? It’s all about composition! Especially when shooting wildlife. Preference plays a part, but some techniques will always result in better shots. So, let’s take a look at what settings you should use on your DSLR camera for shooting wildlife.

Use the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is something to remember when capturing any subject. You must form your image in a 3×3 grid, with focus on the center intersections. Wildlife photography calls for the animal’s elements to be aligned with these intersections, with other features adding balance. Aim for emotion, like through eye contact or leading lines. Remember to shoot from low angles and capture movement.

The rule of thirds is essential for pleasing compositions with animals, as they typically have more vertical than horizontal structure. It’s something you will get better at with practice!

Utilize leading lines

Leading lines, like tree limbs and wires, can help guide the viewer’s eye to the animal’s habitat. For this technique, f5.6 to f8 aperture works best. It gives enough depth to keep the whole photo in focus. Increase ISO if the environment is dark. To freeze movement and get sharp images, use 1/1000s shutter speed or higher. Remember to use RAW mode for wildlife photography. This will make it easy to edit and make adjustments later.

Pay attention to the background

When capturing wildlife, pay attention to the background. A cluttered background will make your subject blend in and be hard to spot. For great shots, choose a plain background with few distractions.

When taking the photo, use Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode to control the composition. Apertures between f/4 and f/8 give sharpness and depth of field. The shutter speed should match or exceed the camera’s focal length. High ISO increases light but can add noise so try to use the lowest ISO.

To freeze any movement and avoid blurriness, use a high shutter speed (1/500th or higher). It also helps with accurate metering. Finally, understand the right distance to the subject. Closer shots reveal detail, while wide-angle shots illustrate size and context.


Lighting is Crucial! When taking wildlife photography, lighting is a must-have. It affects the shadows, highlights, and contrast. Plus, it determines the quality of the photos, including detail and color.

Let’s check out the best settings for capturing wildlife with a DSLR camera!

Utilize natural light

I always prefer natural light for photographing wildlife. It shows the textures and details of the subject beautifully. Plus, it’s simpler to capture the moment with less equipment.

When using natural light, check the depth of field and shutter speed. Adjust settings depending on what you want. For example, use a lower f-stop value for a shallow depth of field. Or, use a fast shutter speed for an exciting shot. Remember to control ISO too.

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Watch out for shadows from direct sunlight! Look for softer lighting from clouds or the time of day – early mornings and late evenings. Change the white balance settings too. Auto white balance settings like cloudy/remote are usually good.

Use a flash if necessary

Wildlife photography calls for careful decision-making when it comes to flash. Dawn and dusk provide too little light for sharp, colorful images. Some photographers refuse to use flash to avoid disturbing animals. So I choose settings that don’t require flash. Such as a wider aperture or faster shutter speed.

When I need to freeze action in low light, like night photography, I use rear curtain sync or flash with HSS. I try to mix available light and my camera’s built-in flash. Before venturing into protected areas with animals, I test everything to make sure my settings work. That way, I can capture amazing moments quickly and accurately without altering animal behavior too much.

Use a reflector to fill in shadows

Photographing wildlife? Use a reflector! It’s cheap and portable. Position it at 45 degrees to the subject, in the direction of the sun or other light source. This will give you beautiful catchlights in the eyes. Use a diffuser too, if you can. It will help evenly distribute light across the face.

Experiment and you’ll get stunning wildlife images with natural textures, vibrant colors and soft light!


Shooting wildlife with a DSLR camera? Grasp the significance of post-processing! It’s a brilliant way to refine those shots. Plus, it can make your photos look their absolute best.

This article will show you the post-processing settings you should use when you’re taking wildlife pics.

Adjust the white balance

When shooting wildlife, it’s important to get the white balance right. This helps keep the animals’ natural colors vibrant and emphasizes them in your photos. On a DSLR camera, you can select pre-set options like “AWB” for auto white balancing, or “DAY” for daylight settings. You can even customize the white balance if none of these work.

To do this, take a shot of a neutral gray surface, and use a RAW image previewer like FastStone or FastRAWViewer. If you can get an accurately exposed white shot, you can create a custom preset and use it for future shots.

Adjust the exposure

Once you have shot wildlife photos, there are settings to adjust afterward to make the image look great. Exposure is key! Adjust it according to the environment. In bright sun, lower exposure with the Exposure Compensation control.

When shooting in shadows or at night, raise exposure to make up for the lack of light. With the right exposure, your photograph will be stunning!

Enhance the colors and contrast

Once you’ve clicked the pics, post-processing them is essential to make them look great. Enhancing colors and contrast boosts their appeal. You can try altering the hue, saturation, curves, brightness, and levels. This will make viewers focus on the main subject while maintaining details in the rest of the image.

The final result should be a balanced photo with a unique character – none of the parts should be overly bright or dark.


Capturing wildlife photos with a DSLR camera can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. By using the right camera settings, you can capture stunning images of animals in their natural habitat.

Remember to experiment with different settings, be patient, and most importantly, respect the animals and their environment. With practice and dedication, you can take incredible wildlife photographs that you will cherish for years to come.

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