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Photography Tips from National Geographic’s Kelley Miller

Yesterday as part of my new role as a National Geographic Kids Insider, I participated in a fabulous one-hour video call with National Geographic Kid’s photographer Kelley Miller.

Photo of National Geographic Photographer Kelley Miller

National Geographic Photographer Kelley Miller

Kelley has one of my dream jobs: Traveling around the world and getting paid to take pictures! As someone who absolutely loves to take photos yet has never had any formal training whatsoever, I learned a ton from Kelley’s basic photography tips on how to capture nature, specifically animals in the wild. Normally, I prefer to take photos of landscapes or objects and haven’t really attempted to photograph animals in the wild. It looks like now I will have my chance!

Starting today through September 29th, National Geographic is hosting “The Great Nature Project” which is a worldwide photography project to share plants and animals from your world while celebrating the immense diversity of our planet. It is National Geographic’s goal to set a Guinness Book of World Records title for the largest online photo album in the world of animals.

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So now you’re all ready to go right? Well, not without sharing the dozen tips I received from Kelley. In a nutshell, here are Kelley’s 10 top tips for photographing nature:

  1. Be observant. Look around and really, truly look. There are dozens of amazing things in nature that are just awaiting to be captured on film. All it takes is a willingness to truly seek the photo opportunities out.
  2. Make eye contact with the animals and smile. Seriously this sounds rather silly but it is not. Capturing an animal on film looking back at you into the camera is bound to give you a fabulous picture. Yet it takes patience and persistence!
  3. Don’t always frame your subject in the center of the picture. Instead, make the photos more interesting by positioning the subject off to a side.
  4. Show animals in their natural environment  as often as possible. The landscape and sense of space can truly give the picture a sense of scale and dimension for the animal. Also pay attention to graphic details.

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    Photo credit: Kelley Miller/National Geographic

  5. Go for motion. If an animal is running, be ready and catch it on film in all its glory. Get as close as you can to the action.  Timing is everything!
  6. Pursue the personality of the animal. For example, we all love hippos basking in the mud or animals being playful.
  7. Look for details and capture it. If the animal is a peacock, do a close up on its wings. Zoom in on a specific body part such as the eyes, ears, nose or mouth. You’ll be amazed how much detail can change the entire feeling of a photo.Slide06
  8. Try for different angles of a shot. For example, why not capture a bug on a leaf looking down on it?
  9. Experiment with changing from color to black and white. Sometimes the details of the photo will be more striking without color.
  10. Make the animal stand out. Use a simple background or a shallow depth of field. The subject will literally pop off the page!

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    Photo credit: Kelley Miller/National Geographic

If only I could take such incredible photos! There is so much to learn. But if you are like me you are willing to keep at it and keep trying. Well, here is your chance! You can participate in The Great Nature Project and be a contributor of the world’s largest ever online photo collection of nature and animals.

Screen Shot of the Great Nature Project

All information below is used with permission from National Geographic’s website: The Great Nature Project (www.greatnatureproject.org). To see more details, click here. 

The Great Nature Project

The Great Nature Project is a worldwide celebration of the planet and its wonders. People of all ages are invited to appreciate nature by taking pictures of plants and animals in their worlds, and then sharing those pictures with the whole world. Together we’ll create a global snapshot of the Earth’s incredible biodiversity—and try for a Guinness World Records® title for the largest-ever online album of animal photos!

The Great Nature Project is one of the largest initiatives National Geographic has ever created, but we need your help to pull it off. So get outside, explore, and connect, and join us for a project as big as the world itself.


How to Participate
With the Great Nature Project, you can share the plants and animals in your world with the whole world. From the national park to the parking lot, you can grab your camera and document the wildlife you see. By participating, you’ll help National Geographic celebrate the amazing and diverse life on our planet. You can also help us win a Guinness World Records® title for the largest online animal photo album.

To join in, snap a picture of a plant or animal in your neighborhood, and upload it to a photo sharing site like Flickr, Instagram, Twitter, or National Geographic Your Shot, making sure to tag it #GreatNature. To participate in the record, add #animal to any animal photo.

22 comments

    • Thanks! I am really enjoying working with them so far. They are wonderful! I’ve been posting my Instagram pics for the Great Nature Project and its been fun. They do such wonderful stuff!

  1. Nicole — huge congratulations on your new role with National Geographic, a magazine enjoyed by several generations of our family, too.

    This is an excellent post for those of us without formal photography training and want to improve upon techniques…no matter how old, or how long we have been taking pictures.

    Sure wish I read this prior to going to the San Francisco Zoo with my grandchildren. Great tips for our next outing though (my grandsons already are taking some good photos for 8 and 6 year olds…and we posted some of sea otters recently). I’ll be sharing and working on these tips right along with them, too — and we will participate in The Great Nature Project!

    • Thank you! I love working with NG. They are such a great organization and do so many cool things. I have been trying to incorporate the tips I learned as well. I’ve been working on the Great Nature Project via Instagram and have enjoyed it. Only a few days left and still need 40,000 photos! Go for it and share your pics! 🙂

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