How To Become A Wildlife Photgrapher

Written by on July 22, 2013 in Career - No comments | Print this page


picture of deer

Wildlife photography, like most creative fields, is one that many people want to pursue but only a handful will make a career out of. Does that mean you can’t do it? Of course not. Every successful wildlife photographer today started from the beginning.

Travel and the right photography equipment are more accessible today than ever before. You can also easily show off your work on your website, without anyone’s permission or a certificate in photography. But that does not make you a wildlife photographer. Yet.

It’s not about just equipment, or just creativity – becoming a good wildlife photographer requires the combination of both, along with a few treasured traits, such as perseverance and patience.

Here are five things you need to do to get started in your career as a wildlife photographer:

Invest in Quality Equipment

You can’t skimp here. If you aspire to see your photos in professional magazines, or even to be featured in National Geographic, you need professional equipment. A regular digital camera that your grandpa uses to take pictures on holiday won’t cut it.

Do your research. Learn what the professionals are using. You don’t have to buy top of the range, or the most expensive kit. You will find a whole range of professional equipment, and then you just need to decide what suits your needs.

Learn the Techniques

Wildlife photography is not the same as landscape photography. The mountain isn’t going anywhere, and in the digital age, you can take as many shots as you want to get the perfect photo.

But when you are a wildlife photographer, animals aren’t going to pose or wait for you. You will usually have just one chance for that right shot and so you need a whole different set of techniques.

You have to do your research, figure out where the animals are going to be, and then plan where you can take up a position to take pictures.

You need to figure out what settings are best used for wildlife pictures, how much focal length you need, what kind of equipment, and how to take the best shots while respecting the wildlife and the natural environment. Then, you need to be patient.


Practice is the key. Taking photography classes or assisting an established photographer will get you up to speed sooner, and probably help you avoid some mistakes, but it still comes down to practice. You need to learn by doing.

If you want to be a wildlife photographer, you don’t have to wait until you can get to the Amazon Rainforest. There is a whole world of wildlife just outside your back door that you can practice on.

Start taking pictures of your dog or cat, animals in your neighbourhood, birds, and insects. A wildlife camera will give you access to nocturnal creatures or those that only come out when your back is turned.

Be creative. Imagine that your dog is the last of its species on this planet. How can you make it seem that important through your photos?

Consider Specialising

Wildlife photographer is a broad term. Is there a particular niche that you would like to specialise in, or a particular technique that could become your signature style?

Think about what would set you apart from thousands of other wildlife photographers. Specialising leads to expertise faster, and if you find the right market, it could also open up potential career avenues.

Make Yourself a Professional

If you want a career as a wildlife photographer, you have to sell your photos. The first step to doing that is actually putting your work out there, giving people the chance to buy it. Even when you are starting out, there are numerous ways to start promoting your work.

Enter photography competitions; submit your work to magazines. Don’t discount online sites that sell stock photos. Remember, the important thing in the early stages is to make a name for yourself, and start building a portfolio. Make sure you have your own website where you can show off and sell your work.

Most importantly, don’t give up. If you want to be a wildlife photographer, then be one. Start today and get taking photos.

Why do you want to be a wildlife photographer? Share your success and advice in the comments. 

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Dolly Garland is an eclectic writer who loves travelling and capturing the journey in photos. She teaches a Travel Journaling course and recommends Fly on the Wall for top of the range camera equipment to catch those special moments in the wild.  


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