Wildlife photography can be quite challenging. Unlike landscape or portrait photography where the subject is large and stationary, nature photographers must deal with much smaller subjects, and ones that are almost constantly moving. Whether its a bird of prey in flight, a small songbird flitting among the branches, or a butterfly moving from flower to flower, one of the hardest elements of wildlife photography can be locating the subject in your camera’s viewfinder.
Fortunately, there is a simple trick photographers can use to make locating their subject much easier. By using your camera’s hot shoe as a sight, locating your subject will become much faster. If you are unfamiliar with what a hot shoe is, it is the mount on top of your camera where an external flash or other accessories attach. If your camera is not equipped with a hot shoe, you can simply use the top of the camera body itself as a sight.
Once you have determined your subject, instead of looking through your viewfinder trying to locate it, simply look above the viewfinder through your hot shoe moving the camera until the subject is located. When your subject appears, slowly lower your eye into the viewfinder and you will see your subject in the viewfinder. Next, acquire focus and take the shot..The key to this technique is moving only your head slightly, enough to see through the viewfinder without moving your arms and subsequently the camera, losing sight of your subject.
This technique can be practiced with larger, stationary objects until perfected. Once you are comfortable with moving just your head slightly and not your arms and camera, you can move on to smaller moving subjects. As I mentioned above, this technique is incredibly helpful for photographing birds in flight as locating a bird against a large expansive background through your viewfinder can be incredibly difficult. It is equally effective for quickly locating a bird surrounded by branches or other objects. In fact, this technique can be used in any in any situation regardless of the subject.
If locating the subject in your camera’s viewfinder is something you struggle with, give this technique a try. I think you will find that with a little practice this approach will alleviate a lot of frustration and ultimately lead to more keeper images.