How to become a wildlife photographer

Female wildlife photographer taking picture of elephant

Wildlife photography can give you the chance to see extraordinary sights and to showcase them to the world. There is something intoxicating about capturing that perfect photo of an animal and preserving it for posterity.

It’s little wonder then that many people would like to be wildlife photographers. But if you’re new to this world, how should you set about achieving your goal? Keep reading to find out.

How can I become a wildlife photographer?

It’s important to note that while it might be an alluring prospect, the likelihood of landing a salaried job as a full-time wildlife photographer with a publication or other type of organisation is slim. Roles like this are few and far between, and the industry is highly competitive. However, there are other options available, such as working as a freelancer and selling your images or starting your own photography business.

Whichever direction you wish to go in, there are various steps you can take to help ensure you stand the best possible chance of success.

Invest in the right equipment

The right equipment is a must if you want to be taken seriously as a wildlife photographer. The kit that will work best for you depends on a whole range of factors, including the type of animals you want to photograph and the budget you are working to. However, there are a few fundamental properties that you should look out for.

For example, a fast burst speed may be essential. This gives you the ability to take a series of shots in very rapid succession, and it helps you to capture those split-second moments when wildlife is in motion. A good burst mode can make the difference between taking that perfect image and completely missing out. Related to this, think about buffer depth. This refers to the number of images your camera can take in a single burst. The better the buffer, the more pictures you can take at once.

You’ll need to think about lens range too. A powerful zoom lens may be a must, especially if you will be photographing animals from a distance. And to help you capture perfectly sharp images, you might want to go for a model with a quick and efficient autofocus, and an autofocus that can work well even in poor light.

With so many cameras out there, it pays to do your research and make sure you’re completely happy with the model you buy. And once you have it, spend time familiarising yourself with the kit. You don’t want to miss out on the ideal moment because you don’t have proper command of your equipment.

Get your equipment insured

High quality cameras and lenses don’t tend to come cheap, so it’s really important to get your gear insured. Look for a policy that will cover you against loss, theft and damage. If you lack this type of cover and something happens to your equipment, you might be left facing significant costs - or even the prospect of having to give up your photography.

Depending on the type of photography you’re doing, you might also need to find insurance policies that provide other types of cover, such as professional indemnity and public liability.

Practise where you can

Hours spent behind the lens pay off when you’re a budding wildlife photographer. The more time you put into practising different types of shots in various environments and in different light conditions, the better you will become. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending all your time in exotic or far-flung locations. You can hone your technique in a whole range of different places. From your garden to nearby parks or even a zoo, there are opportunities everywhere to develop your technique.

Take a course

If you want some expert input, it’s useful to take a wildlife photography course. You’ll pick up new techniques and approaches, learn more about how to get the most from your equipment and gain insights into animal behaviour and tracking. There are various courses available across the country that focus on different animals and environments, so you should be able to find a course that reflects your interests.

Get experience with other photographers

Spending time with other wildlife photographers is a great way to pick up hints and tips from those who really know their stuff. Courses are useful for this, and there are also groups you can join. Search online to see if there are any near you.

Sell your photographs online or at craft fairs

As mentioned previously, it’s very difficult to land a job as a salaried photographer within an organisation. This means that to make money for your photos, you have to think creatively. One option is to take your best shots to craft fairs and markets. This can be a great way to introduce your work to the public, but bear in mind that you will need to invest some money in prints. You can also try to sell your work online. You might decide to approach publications directly or go through an agency. It’s worth investigating both options.

Try not to be put off if you don’t start making sales straight away. It can take time to perfect your skills and to find the right avenues for your particular style of photographs. The key is to persevere and to be willing to learn and grow. 

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