If you love watching birds or wildlife, we've shared some expert tips on how to choose and use a DSLR or mirrorless camera and take snaps like a pro

Wildlife photography is tricky to get right. Its subjects are unpredictable, the elements can work against you, and it takes a lot of patience and practice. But the rewards are worth it; natural beauty and fleeting moments can be captured and immortalised forever.

If you want to take photos that do your subjects justice, you need the proper tools. Smartphones may be convenient for capturing unexpected opportunities, but a smartphone camera won't give you the quality and flexibility you need for exceptional wildlife photography.

To really unlock your potential, you need a standalone camera, such as a DSLR or mirrorless model.

These cameras come with a host of extra features - including zoom lenses and adjustable shutter speeds - that open up your wildlife photography potential to more than just lucky timing. In this article, we'll explain how some of the features of a good camera will help you to freeze nature in a still.

What camera specs do I need to look out for?

1. Shutter speed

This is the amount of time a camera needs to take a photograph. Lightning-quick shutter speeds are essential to capture objects in motion, such as a bird in flight.

A slower shutter speed will produce a photograph with motion blur. This can be useful for arty, stylised shots - capturing long streaks of rain or a flying bird's blurry trail, say - but it can also be a frustrating and unwanted effect.

All good DSLR and mirrorless cameras should have fast enough shutter speeds to keep up with racing wildlife. For flying birds, speeds of between 1/8000th to 1/1000th of a second should freeze them in the frame.

2. Autofocus (AF)

This is where the camera uses sensors to automatically adjust the focus of the shot, constantly adjusting as subjects shift, leave and enter the frame.

Autofocus technology has become highly advanced. The OM-D E-M1 Mark III, for example, has 121 individual points, each of which is responsible for detecting subjects and altering the focus accordingly.

At the other end of the market, cameras might have a dozen or fewer AF points. We rate every camera out of five stars for its focusing performance, so pay mind to this rating when you browse for a device.

At more than £2,000, the OM-D E-M1 Mark III will need to deliver on more than just autofocus capabilities. Find out if it warrants its high price tag in our full OM-D E-M1 Mark III review.

3. ISO

The ISO level represents the sensitivity of your camera's sensor. Good cameras can reach higher ISO settings, and high numbers increase the camera's ability to take photos in low light (though the cost may be increased grain).

When you shoot, you can set the ISO to auto and choose a minimum shutter speed of 1/1000, which means that the camera will work to ensure brightness while still maintaining a fast enough speed. This will come in handy during odd hours, dim days, and dark spots, helping you to conquer the environment.