A wildlife photographer is a visual artist specializing in photographing animals in their natural habitats. The main objective of a wildlife photographer is to use creativity and expertise to capture and share images of wildlife in nature. Like other types of photographers, professionals focused on wildlife combine technical skills with specific knowledge of their subjects and the environments they photograph.
Wildlife photographers may work full-time for a publication, on a contract basis for an agency, or as an independent artist. The majority of these professionals operate as self-employed freelancers on an individual project basis. If you have the desire to work in this dynamic field, receiving hands-on training in photography and wildlife observation can help you advance your career goals.
To become a wildlife photographer, an individual should develop professional skills and relevant knowledge through opportunities like:
While most wildlife photographers rely on digital technology, some prefer traditional silver-halide film cameras. Depending on their preferred method of photography or specific project requirements, a wildlife photographer needs expertise on operating one or both kinds of cameras. Individuals in this profession should also know how to use various lenses, lights and filters, as well as photo editing software or film processing techniques.
The wildlife photographer records, preserves and distributes images of wild animals in their natural surroundings. To achieve professional success, wildlife photographers must understand their animal subjects and the outdoor habitats in which they live. They should know how to safely locate and observe wildlife without endangering themselves, the animals or the environment. Animals and their natural surroundings are often unpredictable, so wildlife photographers should be patient and resourceful. For their work to reach its intended audience, wildlife photographers frequently collaborate with individuals from other industries, including publishing, advertising, art and entertainment. They may work with professionals like editors, writers, travel and tourism guides, art gallery curators, and licensing or account representatives.
The wildlife photographer can work with a range of different businesses, such as:
Some wildlife photographers concentrate on specific environments or animal species, such as birds and insects in tropical climates, or bears and wolves in mountainous settings.
The continued development of internet technology and mobile commerce should make it easier for freelance wildlife photographers to connect with prospective employers and share their work digitally.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top percentage of wildlife photographs earned annual salaries of more than $62,430.