Wildlife Photography: From First Principles to Professional Results, by Richard Bernabe | Book Review

This new book from wildlife photographer Richard Bernabe is crammed with useful and practical information on capturing anything from the most exotic safari animals to the hidden gems in the wildlife in your backyard or local zoo.

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From First Principles to Professional Results, by Richard Bernabe

Title: Wildlife Photography: From First Principles to Professional Results
Author: Richard Bernabe
Publisher: Ilex Press
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Total Pages: 240 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1683830825
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This new book by American wildlife and nature photographer Richard Bernabe dives deep on the ins and outs of wildlife photography. Of course, wildlife photography can feature prominently in one’s travel photography. But this is especially suited to photographers really looking to invest some time and effort (and, inevitably, money!) into shooting animals (with a camera!) rather than the casual travel shooter. Not that more general photographers won’t get plenty of useful information out of it–there’s a lot that overlaps with travel photography considered more broadly, of course–but this is really designed as a specialist book on a specialty subject.

And by that, I also don’t mean that it’s only for seasoned pros–it’s not. It’s chock full of juicy information that newer photographers and pros will find useful. It covers the gear and process from soup to nuts. As the subtitle puts it, it aims to cover from first principles to professional results.

Wildlife Photography: An expert guide
  • Bernabe, Richard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

This is a beautiful book. It’s paperback (there’s also an e-book version), but it’s still a substantial book with heavyweight paper and a clean layout and design. The images are a real highlight–not only are they excellent photos that provide plenty of visual interest and inspiration, but they’re printed large and sharp and are very useful illustrations of the ideas and techniques being discussed.

Much of the book covers the mechanics of setting up and getting the shot. There are sizable sections on camera gear, exposure modes, and working with features like autofocus, white balance, or file formats.

There’s very good information in there, and it’s crucial to include it, but there’s also quite a lot of overlap with other books on digital photography.

Where this book really stands out, though, is when Mr. Bernabe dives deepest with his unique experience and advice. I found the Strategies chapter especially interesting, with its sections on approaching particular types of animals or locations to get interesting photos. There’s a section on shooting large mammals, for instance, and another on small mammals. Or capturing birds in flight. Or if you’re closer to home, capturing interesting shots of the animals at the local zoo.

Large Mammals. With large animals, I often try to employ a low perspective if possible, so that I am slightly shooting upward. It’s as if I am setting them up on a pedestal or showing respect. That’s the subliminal message I’m sending to my views: These animals deserve respect and honor. A high perspective (shooting down on your subject) does the opposite–not the message or feeling I want to convey. [p.170]

Another aspect that I particularly enjoyed and is quite unique is the inclusion of travel guide sections at the end of each chapter. While it’s not going to replace a trusty general travel guide in your pack and isn’t much good for booking a good hotel, there’s some really useful information in there aimed specifically at capturing great photos. When the migrations are, for instance, or when the weather provides the most atmospheric lighting. And there’s a good mix of locations covered, some that make for easier traveling (eg. Yellowstone National Park) and the harder to reach (Etosha National Park in Namibia) (although, obviously, it’s all relative to where you’re starting from…).

Small Birds. Using a little bit of flash goes a long way toward images of small songbirds and hummingbirds. Too many photos of these beautiful creatives suffer from “dead eye,” particularly in flat lighting. The antidote to dead-eye syndrome is to shed some light on the bird’s face to that it creates a catch light–a specular highlight in the eye. [p.177]

I have some minor quibbles with the design–the font used for the image captions, for instance, is both tiny and very faint. In some books, that mightn’t matter much, but the captions in this book are used extensively to convey unique information that’s not always available in the main text. And even the main text could be a point or two larger to make it easier to read. That said, the layout gives pride of place to the imagery, and it’s stunning imagery at that.

Zoos. One of the biggest challenges of photographing in a zoo, assuming you want the images to appear as natural as possible, is avoiding any evidence that the animals were actually in a zoo. . . . One trick that works when shooting through a screen or fence is to get as close to it as possible so it blurs out and isn’t noticeable in the image. [p.192]

About the Author

Richard Bernabe is an American wildlife, nature, and travel photographer. He’s been widely published in places like National Geographic, The New York Times, Time, Audubon, The BBC, The World Wildlife Fund, National Parks, Outdoor Photographer, and many others. He also has a slate of major corporate clients. You can find more of his bio here.

His style tends to be very clean and vibrant, with tight and strong composition and rich contrast. You can see some good examples of his wildlife photography here.

Wrap Up

Whether you’re headed out halfway around the world on a trip-of-a-lifetime safari or wanting to capture the local wildlife in your backyard or the local zoo down the street, this book is crammed with useful and practical information. There’s a lot of it, but it’s not overwhelming, and it’s sensibly laid out. And, just as importantly, it’s even more crammed with beautiful and inspiring examples that will get you itching to go out and start shooting.

Overall, I highly recommend this book.

Find it At

It’s available as a Paperback and eBook. You can also find the ebook version at eBooks.com.

As much as I like ebooks, this is a time that I’d recommend the paperback version to really enjoy the large-format photos.

Table of Contents

1. Equipment

  • The Basics
  • Cameras
  • Lenses
  • Lens Specifics
  • Teleconverters
  • Extension Tubes
  • Filters
  • Camera Bags & Packs
  • Camera & Lens Support
  • Flash Equipment
  • Underwater Gear
  • Image Storage
  • Computer Equipment
  • Software
  • Equipment Care
  • Travel Guide: Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

2. Exposure

  • The Basics
  • Exposure Modes
  • The Histogram
  • Metering
  • Travel Guide: Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

3. Composition

  • The Basics
  • The Image Frame
  • Focal Point
  • Rule of Thirds
  • Symmetry & Balance
  • Framing
  • Negative Space
  • Lines
  • Shapes & Patterns
  • Seeing Abstractly
  • Travel Guide: Etosha National Park, Namibia

4. Light

  • The Basics
  • Intensity of Light
  • Light Direction
  • Color of Light
  • Travel Guide: Arctic Refuge, Alaska, USA

5. Autofocus

  • The Basics
  • Autofocus Modes
  • Back-Button Focusing
  • Autofocus Points
  • Travel Guide: Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

6. Getting the Shot

  • Raw or JPEG
  • White Balance
  • Shutter Priority & Auto ISO
  • Selective Focus
  • Getting Close
  • Essential Approaches
  • Be a Better Naturalist
  • Travel Guide: Okavango Delta, Botswana

7. Strategies

  • Reflections
  • Silhouettes
  • Panning
  • Aim for the Eyes
  • Using Flash
  • Large Mammals
  • Small Mammals
  • Animals in Groups
  • Small Birds
  • Large Birds
  • Birds in Flight
  • Little Critters
  • Underwater Photography
  • On Safari
  • Zoos
  • Travel Guide: Katmai National Park, Alaska, USA

8. Travel

  • The Basics
  • Packing
  • Travel Extras
  • When to Go
  • Weather
  • Lodging
  • Transportation
  • Travel Guide: Great Yellowstone, USA

Publisher’s Blurb

There is nothing quite so satisfying as capturing a stunning wildlife photograph; a good one will reflect practice, patience, careful equipment choice and dedication. Those challenges are perhaps why so many enthusiast photographers aspire to perfect their images in this area; to get their work recognised by the photographic community as well as record their experiences.

This captivating wildlife photography instruction book, written and illustrated by renowned travel and wildlife photographer, Richard Bernabe, reveals more world-class images with every turn of the page with a practical approach to the photography techniques for capturing such images including chapters on recommended equipment, exposure, composition, light, autofocus, getting the shot, strategies, and travel. There are also wildlife photography travel guides to many of the world’s wildlife photography hotspots. For every lesson, concept, or tip that’s taught, there is at least one photo (with captions) included as an example.

Wildlife Photography: An expert guide
  • Bernabe, Richard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2023-05-27 at 23:28. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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