With the advent and the rampant popularity of the digital camera and smartphones in the last decade, almost everyone is now becoming a photographer with at least some photos under their belt.

People are now diversifying into the world of wildlife as there are now highly sought for in today's world. Wildlife photographers are skilful and knowledgeable in navigating the natural habitat of animals in the wild.

These professionals are expected to have a working knowledge of the animals they will encounter and the habitat where they are expected to work. Becoming a wildlife photographer requires a lot of work, but it allows one to visit exotic locations and meet fun and friendly animals, likewise the unfriendly ones.

As a wildlife photographer, you might have a hard time communicating with the animals, but to do well in this niche, you need to have love and respect for the animals. In wildlife photography, nature dictates everything since shooting in the natural environment is vastly different from shooting in a photo studio.

This guide will show you all you need to know about becoming a professional animal photographer.

Animal Life
The Life and Behavior of Wildlife. Source: Pinterest Image

Important Questions to Ask Before Becoming a Wildlife Photographer

Going into animal photography business involves much more than just taking part in photography classes or attending photography schools. Considering the costs of enrolling in a professional photography course and the cost of equipment and initial investment to be incurred in this career path, it is expedient to think properly before getting involved. Some important factors one needs to consider before going full blast into this niche of photography should include

  • How will you get to find your clients and make money to cover your overhead cost?
  • How will you promote the business in other to gets quality clients (social media or word-of-mouth advertisements?
  • Compiling invoices and drafting quotes for prospective clients
  • Cost to cover for the insurance of software, supplies, equipment, and others

Other functions that every professional photographer must undertake in the business include retouching and editing images captured, delivering the finished images, and receiving payments for the services rendered.

But then you need to answer some very important questions as a future animal photographer else you lose steam in the long run and end up running back to your mommy! It is funny how people who felt they had a passion for wildlife ends up absconding from the job.

Some of the questions to answer before agreeing to become a professional animal photographer includes

  • Are you patient enough to work with unpredictable animals and weather?
  • Do you possess the necessary skills to work and communicate with animals?
  • Are you fully convinced that animal photography is your calling and will satisfy your drive and passion?
  • Do you have the needed props and equipment?

All these are things you need to settle with yourself and understand that in lunching out as a wildlife photographer, your client base is likely to be small compared to other niches such as wedding photography, portraiture, or photojournalism.

It's a bit difficult most times, making a decent living in Nigeria as an animal photographer since your target is strictly on individuals that their businesses are mainly animals.

This target market includes veterinarian doctors, pet stores, magazines that focus on nature and animals, travel agencies that promote wildlife tours, and individuals that keep a portrait of their pets at home.

It's also expedient that you prepare a business plan stating all the cost, expenses, and monthly or yearly projection to determine if the business will be able to cover your bills.

What it takes to become proficient as an animal photography

As much as there is no compelling law for one to acquire any degree or diploma before they can become professional photographers in Nigeria, it is recommended that one should get at least some certification from some reputable photography schools in Nigeria in other to build credibility.

With that out of the way, one can specialize in different areas of animal photography, such as

  • Commercial Photography: As an animal photographer, you can target pet stores, travel agencies that focus on wildlife tours, and wildlife magazines.
  • Portraiture: In Nigeria presently, this area of photography has not been fully tapped. It involves snapping portraits of people's pets. Here, you either invites your clients to your studio with their pet for the photography session, or you go to their home to capture the animal in their familiar environment. This could be you capturing a fish in an aquarium or a pound or an animal in action (Chasing a Ball).
  • Night Photography: In a situation where a wildlife magazine contracts you to capture the nightlife of animals in the wild or stray dogs terrorizing a community or village, there is a need to learn how to reconfigure your lenses while staying hidden enough not to be spotted by the marauding animals. Being too conspicuous will make these animals run away and hide.

Imaging and capturing animals in the wild can be scary and dangerous as some of these animals can be a bit unpredictable and unsociable while in the wild. It requires the ingenuity of the professional photographer to transverse this terrine.

Animals in the wild
The nightlife of animals in the wild. Source: Pinterest Image

Essential Rules to Follow As an Animal Photographer

To do well as an animal photographer, there is a need to follow some rules since the animals can be elusive, fast-moving, and unpredictable. These are some guidelines you need to follow in other to increase your chances of capturing that golden moment shot.

Learn About Your Subject

The aim of shooting wildlife is to capture the animal’s unusual behaviour and emotion. To achieve this, there is a need for you to carry out intensive research to understand the behavioural traits of the animal you are shooting. This research is also important because it helps you to know the kind of equipment and protective gear to go out with while shooting. Some of the information to keep handy includes knowing what the animal eats, the type of environment they live in, whether there are nocturnal or diurnal? And are the animal friendly or a loner. All this information are very necessary before you step out to take the first shot.

Patience

This is another vital requirement for any wildlife photographer that wishes to be successful in this trade. The rule of thumb is that the most patient photographer captures the best moments of the animals. For those who are naturally patient, that is a good one; if not, you need to train yourself to inculcate the habit. Prey animals such as those in the cat family are a master of camouflage; therefore, it's also essential to have great eyes for observation in other to spot them even when they are still partially hidden.

Make use of a Telephoto Lens.

Unless you are very patient, a great stalker with a good observation ability, getting closer to a subject can be quite challenging and risky. To conquer this shortcoming, you can invest in a telephoto lens that can be used to capture the action from a far distance. Always remember to shoot wide and to incorporate a background in certain shots.

Visualize the image you intend to capture

Envisaging the type of images you wish to capture will save you from unnecessary time waste, such as changing location and backdrop after setting up in another place.

Focus on the eyes

The eyes of the subject often invoke emotion when capturing wildlife. Ensure that the eyes are the main focal point when capturing the animals as it makes the shot more powerful. Therefore, the eyes must be super sharp and focused when you are editing and retouching the pictures.

Learn to be invisible

Learn the skill of how to become invisible when photographing animals in their habitat. To do well in this field, you must become a master in camouflaging. While you can use food to lure your subjects in other to get a closer shot, a great animal photographer should also know how to blend in perfectly.

Don't Overstretch your Luck.

Make sure that you are conscious of your environment at all times when in the wild. Dead men don't tell stories.  To avoid becoming prey to these animals or destroying your expensive equipment while trying to capture that elusive image in the dead of the night or very dangerous terrain, it is better to abort the shot and shot elsewhere or in a more agreeable location.

Be ready at all times.

Get your camera and other equipment ready at all times while shooting in the wild so as not to panic when they make a surprise appearance or do something unique. There should always be a balance between the attention been paid to your camera and your environment.

Zoom camera lens
Telephoto Lens for Far Shot. Source: iStock Image

Aspiring to become a wildlife photographer

Going into this line of photography can be competitive since established professionals already have most clients, studios, portfolios, and reputations that can be taken to the bank. As a beginner going against these venerable names whose work in wildlife has won so many awards, there is a need to develop oneself very well by attending tutorials and wildlife photography conferences.

The more recognition you gain in this photography niche, the higher the fee you are expected to command. But remember that before you will be able to command this popularity, all-expense-paid trips, and million naira contracts, you need to have paid your dues.

This is the bitter truth about this line of business, and we are not saying this to discourage you but to prepare your mind for what you are going to encounter on your road to greatness.

You can look up some popular animal photographers in Nigeria on Superprof today to connect and engage with them. Some popular wildlife photographers in Nigeria includes

Micheal has traveled to different parts of Nigeria rainforest and swamps, capturing some unique moments of animals in the wild and zoo. He is a well-decorated photographer in Nigeria and has received so many awards for his contribution to the world of animal photography.

Other popular Nigeria wildlife photographers such as Okoye and Olowole are non-discriminatory in their shot of wildlife as they capture birds, insects, mammals. Amphibians and reptiles.

Dog
An Image of a Stray Dog Captured by a professional Animal Photographer. Source: Pinterest Image

Summary 

The love for animals does not guarantee that you will do well as an animal photographer or huge client base in wildlife magazines or popular wildlife tourist agencies in Nigeria. Be sure of the decision you are making before starting as a wildlife photographer.

Take photography training and photography courses in a formal setting to understand wildlife photography basics if you ever intend to set up your studio and solicit for great clients.

Join photography classes in Nigeria or society is also a good idea in networking with other like-minded people.

Finally, endeavour to develop some great skills such as patience, keen observation ability, and mastery in camouflaging if you will be successful in the art of animal photography.

For more photography courses in Nigeria and to learn photography, visit Superprof.

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Achara

I am a professional Freelance Content writer with a Bachelors Degree in Business Management and a Masters Degree in Strategic Management. I am a member of several international organizations, including ISMN and NIM. I have a strong flair for writing as a lecturer. I utilize these skills to ensure my contents meet the global standard.