Wildlife Photography: The Ultimate Photography Guide for 2021

Wildlife photography can be challenging, and it needs a lot of patience. You always have to be ready to photograph animals in their environment.

This genre of photography is probably the most rewarding — especially if you’re an animal lover. Why do I say that? Well, you have a chance to travel the world to photograph astonishing pictures of animals in their habitats.

Imagine a herd of elephants walking into the wild and throwing water through their trunks. Now imagine seeing it in person and then photographing it! What a thrill that would be.

This article will show you:

  • why you should start a career in wildlife photography;
  • some tips that will make your wildlife photos more visually-appealing;
  • the necessary gear for this genre of photography;
  • more information that you need to know about wildlife.
Herd of elephants
Wildlife photography

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”

Karl Lagerfeld

Table of contents

Is wildlife photography a good career?

If you have a passion for animals, a lot of patience, and good technical ability, you could be a wildlife photographer. The job is important, not just for making gorgeous photos of animals, but for science and education, too.

What’s more, wildlife photographers are often paid to travel to faraway locations to photograph exotic animals, so a desire and ability to travel is a must.

Wildlife photography

You will definitely develop a passion for nature by doing this. If you want to find more, you can watch wildlife photography tutorials.

You will love your days – spending your time with animals and their surroundings, getting the most impressive shots, and showing people how wonderful it is to make a career in wildlife photography.

Research your wildlife subject

All genres of photography require a bit of research, but none as much as wildlife photography. It’s important to know as much about the animal you’re shooting as possible. That way you can anticipate what they’ll do so you can be ready at all times.

For example, it helps to know where your animal hunts during the day (or night), where they sleep, if they travel in packs or alone, their body language, and more.

The more you know, the better you’ll be prepared. Bird photographers, for example, know that birds always take off into the wind. So, when the wind is as your back, you know you’re facing the right direction to capture a bird taking off.

Wildlife photography
Get to know your subject

Wildlife photography needs time and dedication. So, start searching on Google how the animals you photograph live their lives to be able to capture some amazing pictures.

Though, if you are not a fan of research, you can simply go into nature and wait until the animals come to life. You will see plenty of action and learn things about animals just by watching them.

Patience is the key to the wildlife’s heart

If you want to end your day with impressive shots of animals, be patient, and wait for the magic to happen. Go into the wild before dawn and stay until dusk.

You will need to get to know the animals’ routines and watch every movement they do. Spend time observing their behavior and try to understand them.

Wildlife photography

Spending your time with animals will make them feel comfortable, and you will succeed in taking the most breathtaking shots.

Animals will do what they want to do. It’s not like shooting people and asking them to pose the way you want. They will live their life as they please, so have your camera ready to shoot at all times.

Wildlife photography

Of course, staying all day and waiting for the animals to do something miraculous can seem a waste of time. But I promise you that it is not.

You will agree with me when you will see those wonderful pictures you took. The longer you stay, the more chances to take amazing wildlife photographs you have. 

Hunting wildlife with a camera

Nowadays, the camera is no longer a problem. There are a lot of models, and you have many choices.

Well, if you want to begin your career with wildlife photography, the best cameras are DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. What makes them suitable for wildlife photography?

I can list many benefits, but some of the most important are: the need to be weather-sealed, to be able to set manually, and to accept different lenses for taking pictures of animals.

Wildlife photography

Do you want to know how to take professional wildlife photos? Start with a proper camera and learn how to use it. You will have to practice and always be a part of the wildlife’s environment.

As I still like to add, get inspired by other wildlife photographers. Search for professional wildlife photographers and explore their creativity.

What gear do I need for wildlife photography?

Once you start taking wildlife photographs, you will need professional lenses to capture the animals from a significant distance. Some of them are shy and skittish, so don’t get too close to them – snap them from a distance. To be able to do that, you need telephoto lenses. These lenses are a must for wildlife photography. 

Wildlife photography

Moreover, you better take a tripod with you. I know that it is pretty heavy to carry with you through the wild, but you need a tripod with multi-angle legs.

You need the best gear if you want to become a professional.

Techniques for wildlife photography

If you want to start right, have fun with ISO, and adjust it properly. I advise you to use a low ISO to keep down the noise.

For low light situations, adjust your camera and choose a higher ISO. Make sure that it doesn’t affect your image quality.

However, selecting a proper ISO depends mostly on your model of camera. 

Wildlife photography
White-tailed eagle

Now we should talk about action photos. Most of the great animal photographs are the ones that snap the animals in motion.

Imagine an eagle flying over the sea, approaching and you capturing its reflection in the water. Speechless!

Wildlife photography
Wildlife picture

Well, to make sure that you freeze the action, use a fast shutter speed. Also, you will be able to shoot quicker and avoid the motion blur.

Take into account what kind of depth of field you want in your pictures. If you want a smaller depth of field, use a wide aperture. These wildlife photo tips will make you look like a pro. 

More tips for shooting wildlife

Photographing wildlife in motion needs the best settings so, shoot with continuous autofocus. It will sharp your subject and make it freeze.

If it’s winter or a rainy day and you feel that snowflakes and raindrops spoil your image, switch to manual focus. This way, you will still be able to focus your camera on your subject.

Wildlife photography
Macro photography of a spider

Like any genre of photography, try using the rule of thirds for composition. This technique will help you compose your photo to make it visually appealing.

Most of the digital cameras came with a grid to help you compose with the rule of thirds. This grid will help you frame the most important parts of your subject and snap the perfect pictures. 

Take care of yourself and your gear

Remember, you’re shooting wild, unpredictable animals. Your safety is your top priority, always. Never put yourself in harm’s way for a photo.

Wildlife photography

Be prepared to shoot in any and all weather conditions. Carry a raincoat, and take measures to avoid sunstroke and annoying bugs. Also, in case it rains, you will need protection for the camera as well. Take into account grabbing a rain cover for your camera.

The better prepared you are, the more likely to have a successful shooting you are. If it’s winter out there, bring a jacket and special gloves for wildlife photographers.

Wildlife photography
Wildlife photographer

Moreover, you will have to keep all these items in a safe bag. So, take a waterproof camera backpack with different compartments for your equipment.

Bonus: Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Sergey Gorshkov won this year the prize for the best wildlife photographer with a picture of a Siberian Tiger embracing a tree in Russia’s Far East.

Wildlife photography
“The embrace” photo by Sergey Gorshkov

“It’s a scene like no other. A unique glimpse of an intimate moment deep in a magical forest,” said Roz Kidman Cox.

What’s next?

Now that you have decided to take photography seriously, it is time to promote your work and make an online photography portfolio.

Wildlife photography
Red panda

First of all, create your website with WordPress, one of the most powerful website builders and vigorous content management systems. This platform has a lot of features and the best portfolio plugins for photographers.

However, with so many plugins, which one should you use? If you want to show people your masterpieces, we recommend you to use Modula to create the most stunning portfolio.

Key takeaways

  • Be patient – capturing the best shots need time and waiting.
  • Get to know animals and their habits.
  • Spending time with animals will make them feel comfortable.
  • Capture animals from different angles and positions. 
  • Telephoto lenses are a must for wildlife photography.
  • Animals are different – some of them are shy; some of them are ignorant.
  • Use long lenses to shot wildlife photographs.
  • You will need a tripod with multi-angle legs.
  • Use fast shutter speed and take into account what depth of field you need.
  • Animals have personalities – try to capture that in your photos.
  • Don’t stop with big animals – try to capture the beauty of small animals.
  • Take shots with SLR cameras for wildlife photography.
  • Find cameras that are weather-sealed and can accept different lenses.
  • You will need a camera with manual mode.
  • Take care of yourself and your gear.
  • Use low ISO to minimize the noise.
  • Focus settings – continuous autofocus to freeze the action.
  • Get a camera with a silent shutter speed.
  • Follow the rule of thirds.
  • Incorporate the environment in your pictures and observe the surroundings.
  • Start with wildlife parks as a beginner.
  • Find a spot to wait for the action to happen.
  • Don’t be afraid to shoot in bad weather because bad weather creates dramatic pictures.
  • Stay calm, and try not to scare the animals.
  • Wildlife photography will help you develop a passion for nature.
  • Practice, practice, practice to improve your photography skills.

Final thoughts

When you get into wildlife photography, don’t forget that you need a significant amount of passion. It takes time to capture animals from different angles, and also to master this genre of photography.

This hobby will not just make you a better photographer, it will also help you make a career out of it and show people your skills.

Share your thoughts, your vision, and your story with people that can see something in you. Get inspired by others, find out wildlife photography tips, and practice.

Andreea Popa

Andreea is a blog manager at WPChill who spends most of her days writing and "polishing" articles. When she isn't writing, she's in the heart of the mountains, looking for peace and inspiration.

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