How To Become a Wildlife Photographer

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A person who wants to become a wildlife photographer must know how to operate professional-quality photographic equipment, but he or she must also have a basic understanding of animal behavior. Since wildlife photographers attempt to capture images of animals in their natural habitats, they must be comfortable working around wild animals on a regular basis. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the number of available positions for all photographers, including wildlife photographers, is expected to increase by 4 percent over the next decade.[1]

Wikimedia Commons: Steve Hillibrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Education High school diploma[1]
Starting pay $17,514[1]
Median pay $28,490[1]
10 yr growth Slower than average: 4%[1]
Related professions Photographer, zoologist
Author Selena Robinson

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Wildlife Photographer Job Overview

A wildlife photographer takes pictures of wild animals and their environments. These pictures may appear in wildlife magazines, scientific journals, college textbooks, and promotional materials for non-profit organizations. Wildlife photographers may also display their work online by submitting it to companies that feature animals such as National Geographic. Since these photographers try to capture the natural behavior of animals, they often work outdoors in uncomfortable temperatures. They also need patience so that they can stay in position long enough to catch a good shot.[2]

National Geographic Photography Jobs

National Geographic often features the work of established wildlife photographers in its magazines and on its website. Photographers who want to work for National Geographic must demonstrate exceptional photographic ability, which includes a knowledge of how to use editing software and lighting to enhance a picture. The company offers a select number of internship opportunities for students each year, which can give an aspiring wildlife photographer the chance to work with National Geographic on a trial basis.[3]

Wildlife Photographer Education

In many cases, wildlife photographers do not need to obtain a formal education beyond high school. This is especially true for photographers who pursue the field as a hobby or a side project. Professional wildlife photographers, though, may decide to take additional courses after high school so that they can enhance their photography and photo editing skills. Taking a workshop in photo editing or advanced nature photography may help a new wildlife photographer develop professional skills.[4]

Wildlife Photographer Training

While there are few formal training programs for wildlife photographers, individuals can make use of training resources to improve their skills and gain recognition for their work. Donating images to wildlife conservation groups can give new photographers a chance to distribute their pictures and develop a reputation in the industry. Entering photography competitions such as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition can also help photographers to let people see their work.[5]

Wildlife Photography Career Tips

Interview with a veteran wildlife photographer

Also See: How to Become a Photographer, How to Become a Zoologist, How to Become a Zookeeper, How to Become a Still Photographer, How to Become a Veterinarian


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