Nature Photography

What Is Nature Photography?

The untamed beauty of Mother Nature is a constant source of satisfaction for many in the modern word. With the shadow of civilization rapidly encroaching on natural spaces, capturing this scenery is extremely important, now more than ever. A nature photographer does just that.

These types of photographers take photographs of all aspects of nature, including scenery and animals. This can include photographs of specific types of animals, animal action shots, underwater shots, plants, and weather phenomena.

Photographs that nature photographers take are often featured in nature, environmental, outdoor, and travel publications, including books, magazines, and online media.

Work Environment

A nature photographer uses photography equipment, like cameras and different lenses, to capture photographs of different types of nature scenes. Besides focusing on just nature scenes in general, many photographers will also specialize in photographing specific subjects in nature as well.

Some nature photographers, for instance may only shoot a certain type of animal. Others, however, may only shoot animals in a particular region or setting, such as African animals or animals underwater.

A career in nature photography often requires skills that may not be needed in some other types of photography, like fashion photography. First of all, animals usually won’t cooperate well when it comes to posing. Nature photographers must be ready to get great pictures when the animals are. This often requires a great deal of patience, and obtaining one single quality shot can often take hours, or even days.

Also, a career in nature photography might also require a great deal of travel as well. Not every nature photographer is lucky enough to live smack dab in the middle of a forest or nature preserve. They will usually have to go where the action is, so to speak.

Photographing animals might also require the use of certain specialized photography equipment, particularly special lenses. Long lenses that enable a camera to zoom great distances will often come in handy when trying to photograph animals from a distance. These allow a nature photographer to take pictures of animals without spooking them or putting themselves in harm’s way. Macro lenses, on the other hand, allow photographers to take extreme close-ups of very small animals, insects, and plants. Underwater photography equipment is also necessary for taking photographs of marine life.

Unlike some other photographers, nature photographers may not have access to a power source for days or even months. Since they will sometimes be unable to charge digital cameras, some of them may need to resort to “old fashioned” photography techniques. This usually means that they will need to use photography equipment that requires the use of film and not digital memory cards.

Most nature photographers also usually abide by a certain code of ethics as well. For example, they will usually try to ensure that they do not interfere with an animal’s actions or environment, if at all possible. They will often try to impact the surrounding environment as little as possible, and they will also avoid trying to manipulate an animal’s actions in order to get a specific shot. In fact, nature photographers will almost never interfere with the wonder that is Mother Nature, even if this means the death of a helpless prey animal by a larger predator.

Education Requirements

It only makes sense that the majority of nature photographers love nature and are comfortable being in natural surroundings for long periods of time. Individuals that prefer a comfy office setting or those that are afraid to get dirty will most likely not enjoy a nature photography career.

Outdoor and basic survival skills are also essential. For instance, they should be comfortable setting up camp in the wilderness, and they should also know where and how to obtain food, water, and shelter, if necessary. Some nature photographers will sometimes find themselves out in the middle of nowhere for days, weeks, or even months at a time. They must be able to be almost completely self-sufficient.

Nature photographers that plan on traveling to exotic locales should also have at least a basic knowledge of foreign customs and languages in these areas. This can make communicating with native people much easier, and it can also mean the difference between complimenting and offending the wrong people.

As far as education goes, individuals interested in nature photography careers should consider earning a degree in photography. Most traditional universities, along with art schools, will usually offer these types of degree programs. Many photography schools will also offer courses specifically in nature photography.

Other classes may also be particularly helpful when pursuing a career in nature photography. Classes in animal behavior, zoology, wildlife biology, botany, and marine biology degrees are all excellent degrees to hold in order to better understand animals and the environment.

Salary and Job Outlook


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for a photographer in 2017 was around $32,490. Individuals interested in a career in nature photography, however, may make more or less than this, depending on a number of factors. Obviously, more talented and dedicated photographers will usually be able to earn much more. On the other hand, individuals who only work part-time as nature photographers will usually bring in less.

Job Outlook

The majority of nature photographers are freelancers. Many of them take photographs and submit them to publications, like magazines and books, with the hopes that some of them will be bought. Some freelance nature photographers can also create framed prints and sell those to individuals and collectors. In some cases, a publication might offer assignments to nature photographers who are regular contributors. A few publications, like National Geographic, may even hire very talented nature photographers as staff photographers. The Internet is another option for some photographers. Several sites online allow freelance photographers to sell their photographs.

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Nature Photography Jobs