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As we reach the final month for entries into the Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year 2016 competition, the amazing Will Burrard-Lucas gives a few more tips and tricks for improving your wildlife photography.

An evocative image off an elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, entered into the competition by Kathleen Ricker
An evocative image of an elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, entered into the competition by Kathleen Ricker

Thanks to his free wildlife photography course we have already learnt 10 easy ways to improve our wildlife photography, 8 things to look for in a camera, 9 things to look for when buying lenses, all we need to know about shutter speed and how to get the perfect focus in our wildlife photos.

Now Will lets us in on the secret to taking wildlife photos like a pro, using some great entries into our competition thus far to demonstrate his point!

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So what’s the secret? Well it really boils down to just three things; the power of envisaging the shot you want to take, planning how you will take it and preparing accordingly. Taking these steps can help you make the transition from a good photographer into a photographer that consistently pushes boundaries and gets noticed.

The key to great photography is knowing what you want and making plans to get the perfect shot like this aerial images of zebras in black and white by Andrea Galli
The key to great photography is knowing what you want and making plans to get the perfect shot like this aerial image of zebras in black and white by Andrea Galli

Before you start working on any new project, try to imagine the best possible photograph that you could get. You may even find it helpful to sketch it out. Once you’ve done that, you can start researching and planning the best way to achieve it. Will you need to work at a certain time of year to maximise your chances? Will you need specific equipment? How much time will you need? Will you need the help of an expert? Will you need special permission or access? If you go through this process, you will be able to prepare and give yourself the best possible chance of getting the shot you were aiming for.

When it comes to wildlife photography, patience and careful planning make the difference, as is evident in this picture taken from a hide at Zimanga by Charlene Bacchioni
When it comes to wildlife photography, patience and careful planning are the keys, as is evident in this picture taken from a hide at Zimanga by Charlene Bacchioni

For each project, you may have two or three of these dream shots in mind, and have made the necessary preparations to achieve them. It may not work out for you every time, but eventually your hard work will pay off and you will start to take images that truly capture people’s attention.

The right background can make all the difference. This blues and greens in this image by Yair Schwartz really make the rhino pop.
The right background can make all the difference. The blues and greens in this image by Yair Schwartz really make the rhino stand out

There are many examples from Will’s career that illustrate this point. BeetleCam is an obvious one where he built a remote-control buggy specifically to achieve the close-up, wide-angle shots of African wildlife that he wanted. Another example is KomodoCam, a device he built to get similar close-up photos of Komodo dragons in Indonesia. He couldn’t take BeetleCam with him, so he spent a few hours before his trip, designing and building a rig that would allow him to push his camera up to the dragons. This rig wasn’t difficult or expensive to make, it just required a bit of forethought and planning to create.

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Whenever you speak to award-winning photographers, you will find that their best shots are rarely a case of being in the right place at the right time. More often than not, they will have gone out and made their shots happen.

The perfect moment is seldom just occurs because of sheer luck. This stunning pic of an elephant was captured at just the right moment by Marius Zeilinga
The perfect moment seldom just occurs because of sheer luck. This stunning pic of an elephant was captured at just the right moment by Marius Zeilinga

Don’t miss helpful tips and tricks from Will Burrard-Lucas – sign up to his free wildlife photography course here or to ‘take-home’ some of his fabulous work, check out his brand new book: Top Wildlife Sites of the World, which features spectacular images from 32 of Will’s favourite wildlife destinations.

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Think you have what it takes to be Africa Geographic’s Photographer of the Year? Enter here before it’s too late!

Shenton Safaris
Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year

The Africa Geographic Photographer of the Year Competition is brought to you by Land Rover and Canon, in association with At Close Quarters, Airlink, Klaserie Sands River Camp, Hideaways, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Thule and Rhino Tears. The competition will run from December 2016 to May 2017 and entrants can submit images via the online entry form or via Africa Geographic's Instagram channel. This profile will be used to showcase photographic tips from experts as well as blogs from our sponsors to set you on your way to becoming our Photographer of the Year!