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Hints & Tips

Hints and Tips from 2019 Otago Wildlife Photography Competition Judges 


From Paul Donovan (Video: Wildlife in Action category judge)

  • Try to have an opening and a closing to your shot. For example you might decide to ‘reveal’ your creature by panning or tilting onto it. A shot might end when the creature walks out of frame.
  • Aim to capture animal behaviour. If it is interesting enough to hold our attention, your shot may not need an opening and a closing as suggested above.
  • Ensure your creature is big enough in frame to hold our attention. Filming wildlife is a challenge and usually requires the use of telephoto lenses. If you don’t have such a lens you may need to rely on stealth and camouflage to get close.
  • Carry out all camera moves, like panning, tilting or hand-holding, as smoothly and as steadily as possible.
  • Check what you are recording to ensure you have correct exposure and focus.
  • Before leaving home be sure your camera battery is charged and you have a flashcard in your camera.
  • Have a pack with you that contains items that will keep you safe, dry and warm. I suggest binoculars, hat, gloves and scarf, windbreaker, first aid kit, drink and snacks.

Other items you might include:
A paint brush is good for removing sand from camera equipment
Tissues or cloth for lens or filter cleaning
Plastic bags to use as rain covers
Camouflage clothing or net to drape over camera and tripod.


From Max Quinn (Video: Wildlife in Action category judge)


  • When using a hide, try to set it up the day before. The next day head out with a friend so when you go into the hide your friend is seen to walk away. Generally birds aren’t big into counting and will feel confident they can come in closer.
  • It might seem harsh, but pretend you are a predator stalking its prey. That way you’ll soon learn to use your guile to get close to the wildlife without them knowing.
  • Wear dark clothing or camouflage gear and stay as still as possible. Be prepared to wait it out, often for several hours. Even then, you may not get the shot but you are giving yourself the best chance.
  • Try to approach with the wind in your face blowing your scent away from your subject. This especially applies when filming mammals.
  • Try to learn as much as possible about the behaviour of the creature you want to photograph and then use that knowledge to your advantage… such as knowing when penguins come ashore. That way you can be in position before they show up and therefore don’t disturb them.
  • Remember, always take your cell phone but have it on silent!
  • It might sound strange, but remove the cellophane wrappers from all your snack bars and food and place in a cloth bag. I soon learnt this when I scared off my subject by opening a muesli bar!