Wildlife Photography

What Is Wildlife Photography?

In today’s modern world, natural settings are rapidly diminishing. This means that the wildlife that lives in these natural settings is diminishing as well. In fact, scientists estimate that human encroachment causes several animal species to become extinct each and every day.

Preserving these natural settings and this wildlife can be rather difficult, but there are now programs in place to help prevent this. In the meantime, however, some professionals are using this time to preserve this precious wildlife in a different way – with photographs.

Wildlife photography is a type of photography that focuses on taking photographs of wildlife, or non-domesticated animals. This type of photography is important not only for its artistic value, but also for its scientific value as well.

Unlike many other types of photography that rely on staged and posed subjects, wildlife photography does not. The subjects in this type of photography are wild animals, and they are usually captured as such. For instance, a lion could be photographed protecting herself from the hot sun under a shade tree or in mid-pounce while bringing down prey. Although it is possible to trap and pose captive wild animals, this is generally frowned upon and usually reserved for scientific purposes.

Work Environment

Wildlife photographers shoot photographs of wild animals in their natural surroundings. Some wildlife photographers are opportunists, meaning that they photograph any animal that happens across their paths. Others, however, are a little more particular and choose to photograph only certain species or types of animals.

Depending on where they live, some wildlife photographers might be able to do their jobs right from their backyards, or at least close to their home. Since it requires very particular subjects, however, wildlife photography as a career generally requires extensive travel. These types of photographers typically have to go where the action is, so to speak. Their destinations are usually determined by which subjects they hope to shoot. For instance, if their intended subjects are polar bears, they would travel to the Arctic Circle. If their intended subjects were lions, however, they would travel to the plains of Africa.

Because nature photographers often need to travel to the farthest corners of the globe, they should be well-versed in the ways of the world. They should truly enjoy and make an attempt to understand the native culture and language where they are traveling. Sometimes being able to effectively communicate with native inhabitants can mean the difference between going home with nothing and going home with the shot of a lifetime.

Wildlife photographers should also be very comfortable with being outdoors for long periods of time. Camping, hiking, and survival skills are usually a must for anyone interested in a wildlife photography career. At times, a wildlife photographer will spend hours, days, or even months camped outdoors, just waiting for the perfect shot.

Most wild animals also have keen senses of smell and hearing as well. This means that wildlife photographers should have the knowledge to do their jobs so as not to alert the animals of their presence. They might position themselves downwind, for instance, and avoid scented products like cologne and soap for long periods of time. They should also be able to stay silent for a long time as well. These types of actions can prevent animals from detecting their presence and fleeing or even attacking.

Nature and wild animals have a tendency to be rather difficult to predict. Because of this, wildlife photographers must be very patient individuals. They will often lay in wait for long periods of time in order to get the shots that they want. For instance, a lion pride will not chase down a zebra on command. They’ll get around to it when they’re good and ready, not when a photographer wants them to. When the time does come for a perfect shot, however, a wildlife photographer has only one chance to capture it; he must be quick and shoot quickly, since wild animals aren’t likely to repeat an action simply because the photographer didn’t get the shot he wanted.

Education Requirements

As with any type of photography career, a successful wildlife photography career generally starts with a sound education from a photography school. A two or four year degree in photography should give aspiring wildlife photographers the ability to learn basic – as well as advanced – photography techniques necessary for a successful career.

A degree in zoology with a minor in photography is also an excellent way to start a wildlife photography career. These concentrations will give aspiring wildlife photographers extensive knowledge about animals and animal behavior as well as knowledge of photography.

Salary and Job Outlook


Since the majority of wildlife photographers are freelancers, determining the average salary of these professionals can be somewhat difficult. Some wildlife photographers might make very little money from this profession, for instance, while others will have very lucrative careers. The amount of money that a freelance wildlife photographer makes is largely determined by his talent and ability to get decent paying work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect salary specifically for wildlife photographers. According to the BLS, however, the average annual salary of all photographers was $35,980 in 2010.

Job Outlook

As with most other photographers, the majority of wildlife photographers work as freelancers. This means that they take photographs in hopes of selling them, or they are commissioned to take photographs of certain animals. The photographs that a wildlife photographer takes may be featured in different types of publications, including books and scientific journals. Travel and nature magazines also work with wildlife photographers on a regular basis. Some of these publications might even hire full or part-time wildlife photographers as staff members.

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Wildlife Photography Jobs