How to Become a Wildlife Photographer (Step By Step Guide)

Wildlife photography is a combination of patience and skill sets. Wildlife photography can be a good career option if you want to remain close to nature.

So, how to become a Wildlife photographer?

I’m sorry to say that this journey is not as easy as it seems. You need to learn the fundamentals of capturing in the wild conditions.

Wildlife behavior, investment in quality gear, and certification from reputed institutions are required.

In this context, I’m going to share how I’ve passed all the obstacles and finally became a successful wildlife photographer. So, let’s get started.

What is wildlife photography?

What Is Wildlife photography

 Wildlife photography is capturing photos or videos of animals, plants, and natural habitats from a variety of angles.

This type of job has been done by government photographers or private photographers. This is not just a job but a dream for many photographers.

A professional wildlife photographer must know the ecosystems, and sometimes even conservation actions.

Photographers must not be capturing photos by disturbing them.

They should know the ethics and avoid using flash excessively.

Similarly, a photographer should not be getting too close is considered an unethical approach.

Wildlife photography is not just a combination of words.

To become a professional photographer requires dedication, patience, and skills. Remember, we mark a picture as ideal when it can tell stories.

What Do Wildlife Photographers Do?

What do Wildlife Photographers do

Wildlife photography is a specialized niche of photography that captures wild animals in their natural habitats.

As a wildlife photographer, your main goal is to document the lives of these animals without disturbing them or altering their behaviors.

This field combines elements of nature photography, art, conservation, and ethics.

To be successful in this career, you need to develop a keen eye for composition and lighting.

You’ll often find yourself working during the golden hour, when the light is soft and warm, which can enhance the images you capture.

Understanding animal behavior and being able to anticipate movements, as well as having patience, is essential for capturing compelling and unique photographs.

As a professional skilled wildlife photographer you should focus on the following things:

  • planning for shooting assignments for publications
  • selling your popular stories to outlets to generate earnings
  • selling prints
  • creating images to license for copyright issues
  • partnering with nature organizations to document particular species or conservation efforts
  • and much more

Moreover, as a professional wildlife photographer, you will need to invest in high-quality equipment suitable for the job, such as cameras, lenses, and tripods.

This investment will pay off as you build your career and start making money with your photographs.

Your income as a wildlife photographer will vary depending on several factors, such as freelancing, being self-employed, or working with reputable organizations.

The salary may also fluctuate based on the demand for your work and how well it is received.

As a wildlife photographer, you may monetize your art by selling prints, licensing images, or offering photography workshops and tours, among other methods.

One important aspect to always consider is ethics and respect for wildlife and their habitats.

Practicing conservation principles, you should aim to minimize your impact on the environment and avoid practices that may be harmful to wildlife.

At the same time, your work may contribute to raising awareness about wildlife conservation and the importance of protecting natural habitats.

By honing your skills, ensuring ethical practices, and consistently producing stunning images, you can build a thriving career as a professional wildlife photographer.

Wildlife Photographers Requirements

To get into a professional or skilled wildlife photographer, there are some requirements or suggestions that you should not neglect.

A wrong suggestion can demotivate you. Thus, it’s important to know the proper requirements to follow.

Let’s see which are they:

1) Right Gear: The first and foremost thing is the right gear. You must have a better camera, lens, tripod, and other essential elements. All the lenses are not perfect for wildlife photography.

Here you have a complete helpful guide to get knowledge how to choose best trail cameras for capturing wildlife photos.

2) Knowledge: You must know how to capture a photo without disturbing the animals. Besides, your dress up and survival is an important factor.

3) Personal Qualities: If you’re a crazy guy, then this will be not the right job for you. Patience is a vital factor in becoming a good photographer.

8 Powerful Footprints To Be a Wildlife Photographer

A passionate wildlife photographer requires dedication, patience, and a deeper understanding of the photographic level. Don’t know what to do?

Well! In this section, I’ll share with you the exact steps that will help you to reach Zero to Advance.

After reading these steps you can make sure whether this career is whether is for you or not. Let’s have a look:

Build your wildlife photography basics

The first and the most initial is to become a student of wildlife photography. The more you learn, the more skilled you will be.

So, it’s important to learn the basics like composition, lighting, and other technical issues.

You can complete a degree from a reputable institution or online classes to learn more effectively. Overall, having the proper knowledge is essential.

Invest in the suitable gear

All the cameras and lenses are not suitable for wildlife photography. You should collect and learn how to use them if necessary.

I highly recommend using a mirrorless camera with a zooming lens. In this case, the prime lens is not worth it.

If you do not have enough budget to purchase the right gear, then it’s better to wait. The wrong equipment can destroy your photography.

Learn wildlife manners and behavior

Ethics is an essential aspect of all the variations of life. Wherever you go, you should behave based on the surroundings.

You don’t have any right to distract or disturb them just because of snapping photos. So, developing ecological behavior is important.

Thus, you can capture unique photos and videos without knowing them. Don’t take your camera too close to the animal. It can be the reason for their afraidness.

Develop your patience level and perseverance

Previously, I’ve already said that there is a little bit of difference between wildlife photography and other photography.

In other photography, you don’t have to wait for the subjects.

On the contrary, sometimes, you need to wait for long hours just to capture the perfect shots. In this case, tolerance is important.

For the person who does not have enough patience to wait, then this wait can be a bed of thorns for him. So, develop your patience level.

Build a portfolio

After acquiring all the knowledge, it’s important to build a portfolio. This can be helpful for you when you’re going to submit your face interviews.

In this case, I highly recommend you increase your online activity. Make a website and upload your captured photos to them.

This can help you to get clients sooner. You will be happy to know that you can sell your fantastic shot through the website.

Submit an internship proposal

Theoretical and practical are different things. It’s highly recommended to submit proposals if you’re a beginner or remain at an intermediate level.

You can submit your proposals with your certifications to most professionals.

They can help you to learn photography more deeply based on their previous experience.

This can help you to boost your career and their recommendations can help you to get more projects.

Developing your editing skill & Post processing

Wildlife Photos editing Skill
Photo Credit: Dariush M/Shutterstock

Editing makes your regular image more eye-catching and aesthetic. You should learn Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator software as well.

You can get huge both free and paid courses online like YouTube, Udemy, and other platforms. So, if you don’t have sufficient editing knowledge.

Then, take a course, practice, and apply. Don’t lose your motivation while learning the fundamentals of the software.

Network within the industry

Every beginner and intermediate wildlife photographer should join the program, and events that are related to wildlife.

From that platform, you can learn more advanced things that you wouldn’t get on a random course.

In this way, you can connect with more professional people.

When any opportunities will come, you can get from them easily. So, networking is a powerful thing that should not be neglected.

Tips for a Wildlife Photographer

Do you want to upgrade your photographic level? In my photographic journey, I’ve learned huge things.

In this section, I’ll share it with you. These tips will be helpful for your photographic journey.

Let’s have a look:

(i) Take your time while captured. Don’t capture randomly. I recommend you to wait for the right moment.

(ii) Use a better zooming lens. You should not go too close to capture the image.

(iii) Don’t forget to shoot during the golden hour like the morning and afternoon hours.

(iv) Try different angles and compositions. This can help you to build your own style.

What Are The Revenue Streams You Can Try Out as a Wildlife Photographer?

As a wildlife photographer, it’s essential to diversify your income sources to achieve financial stability.

Here are some revenue streams to consider:

01. Stock photography

Selling your images through stock photography websites can be a passive source of income.

Companies and content creators might license your photos for their projects, and you will earn a commission for each sale.

It’s a numbers game, so the more photos you have in stock libraries, the greater your chances of generating income.

02. Workshops and online courses

You can share your expertise and passion through workshops and online courses.

Once you have established yourself, people will be willing to learn from you.

Hosting workshops can also be a great way to network with fellow photographers and expand your professional circle.

03. Print sales

Selling prints of your wildlife photographs can help generate additional income.

You can sell them through your own website, galleries, or exhibitions.

Limited-edition prints are particularly valuable, as they can attract collectors and command higher prices.

04. Working for clients

Specialized in Wildlife Photographs a photographer can get paid for taking pictures for clients, such as companies or organizations focused on nature or wildlife issues.

This may include photography for marketing efforts, awareness campaigns or other social needs.

Fees for these type of services are typically negotiated on a per-project basis, so you need to make sure to include as many expenses as you can in the price of your packages.

Some expenses example as a wildlife photographer you can include when you go through for charges negotiations:

  • Travel expenses
  • Quality of Photography gears
  • Renting equipment
  • Charges for additional accessories to purchase like SD card, memory card or hard drives
  • Permits and access fees
  • Tip for hiring freelance shooter
  • Hiring an assistant/second shooter for the shoots

05. Magazines and books

Getting published in magazines or creating your own wildlife photography book is another way to showcase your work and earn royalties.

Make sure to target publishers focusing specifically on wildlife and nature for the best chances of success.

Becoming a NAT GEO Photographer

Earning a position as a wildlife photographer for National Geographic or any prestigious photography platform involves a combination of skill development, networking, experience, and a bit of luck.

When you are skilled enough to shoot wildlife photos, you can check our helpful complete guide on how to earn as a NAT GEO Photographer.

06. Competitions

Participating in wildlife photography competitions may not guarantee stable income, but it can help boost your career.

Winning prestigious competitions gives you exposure and credibility, and some contests offer cash prizes or even paid assignments.

07. Guided photo tours

Organize and lead photo tours to popular wildlife destinations. Your knowledge and experience in the field make you an excellent guide.

By providing personalized attention and photography tips, your clients will gain valuable skills while enjoying an unforgettable adventure.

08. Memberships

Membership platforms for any wildlife photographers can be a great way to generate handsome earning from your skilled wildlife photography.

This allows photographers to build a subscription service where individuals can pay a monthly, yearly or lifetime access fee to gain exclusive tutorials, contents, and pro tips.

Here is some of the short list of platforms that you can use as a wildlife photographer to host your membership-based services:

The More and more professional photographers are using memberships to help fund their work in the field, while also teaching and mentoring upcoming photographers.

It takes a lot of work to run a membership successfully, but it’s a wonderful win-win option.

FAQs

Which degree is best for wildlife photography?

If you want to complete a degree then I’ll recommend photojournalism. This degree helps you to create more opportunities.

However, to become a wildlife photographer there is no academic requirement.

Having a certificate can be useful while you’re submitting proposals to any wildlife photographer farm.

Which camera is best for wildlife photography?

There are lots of camera companies developed quality cameras for wildlife.

I have tried several models like Sony Alpha 1, Canon EOS R3, and Olympus OM-D E-M10. You can try any mirrorless camera with suitable lenses.

If you don’t have enough budget then you can try 3rd parties lens with them as well. So, I recommend a mirrorless camera over DSLR.

Is wildlife photography the same as nature photography?

Wildlife includes all the elements of plants and animals. On the other hand, nature photography basically focuses on the nature.

However, several professionals said that both are the nearly same.

Overall, in both photography, you have to keep your focus on nature, beauty, and other wildlife elements.

Do wildlife photographers edit their photos?

As a beginner, you must have to acquire the editing skill. When you’ve developed and have an agency then you can hire another person for editing.

Primarily, you have to develop your editing skills. At least you should learn how to edit a photo with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.