Photo Tips

Our Top 13 Deer Photography Tips

  1. Most wildlife photographers I know are after the classic deer picture portraying that 10 point buck in a wonderful backdrop that blurs into infinity.  Given most species shed their antlers early winter your window of opportunity to capture that shot is ideally September through October during breeding season as the bucks (male deer) are most active during this time.
  2. A word of caution, bucks can become extremely aggressive during the rut (breeding season) so approach the situation cautiously.  I always make sure I have an escape route planned out and a nearby tree that I can place between myself and them if need be.
  3. I shoot f/2.8 or f/4 for single deer when I am cropping in tight on just the animal as I prefer the background to be as out of focus as possible.  I am usually taking these shots with my Nikon 200-400mm or my Nikon 600mm.
  4. When the backdrop is a lovely Autumn scene I bump up the f stop up to f11 or f/16 to keep the background more in focus.  The f/16 in focus shot is what I use when I want to portray the deer in its natural environment and I will typically be using my Nikon 24-70mm or Nikon 70-200mm for that type of shot.
  5. If things get heated and the males begin to chase the females try to keep your shutter speed above 1/800 to freeze the action unless you are intentionally going for the blurred motion image which often turns out very nice results but it takes some practice.
  6. Shutter speeds for panning are always going to depend first on the speed (and distance) you have to move your camera.  I’ve found 1/80th gives a nice artistic blur but you’ll need to experiment with every scenario to get a shot you find appealing.
  7. We’ve talked about the rut in Autumn but Spring can be great for deer photography as well.  After all who doesn’t appreciate a little fawn with mom action.
  8. Deer are more active after dusk however I tend to see them at all times of the day in Eastern Canada at least.
  9. You’ll hear this repeated over and over in wildlife photography but having sharp focus on the animals eye is a must so make that your focal point.  I’ve yet to see an award winning deer picture where the eye was out of focus.
  10. The very best wildlife photography images are usually taken at the subjects eye level or shooting upwards.  Example, the deer is on a ridge above your shooting position.
  11.  Pay attention to the backgrounds.   Coniferous trees with snow, fall colours and rock outcroppings make wonderful backdrops for deer photography.  Sometimes a good shot could have been great if only you had taken a step to the right or the left so pay close attention when you look through the viewfinder not only at the animal but what is behind it.
  12. Plan to take a variety of lenses with you.  I shoot everything from a 24-70 to 600mm.  Shooting with different lenses yields varied perspectives and that makes for a more interesting and diversified portfolio.
  13. Don’t forget to go vertical every once and a while especially with single subjects that are beside tall vertical objects likes rocks or trees.  Often the front cover of a magazine or calendar is looking for a vertical shot so mix it up.