At some point or the other during your photography career, you probably picked up a camera because you wanted to be a wildlife photographer. And there are very few people who don’t. The allure of the jungles is something most of us can relate to.
In this article, we’ll talk about what it takes to be a wildlife photographer. This article will not be so much about technicality as it will be about ethics and behavior. Wildlife photography (especially in India) is at a confusing stage where some of it is actually doing wildlife more harm than good. But I digress.
Know Thy Subject:
I cannot stress this enough; this is the most important thing you need to know when going out on field. To be a wildlife photographer, you have to know your wildlife. Each and every living being in the jungle has its own quirks, its own behaviour, its own habits. Too many aspiring wildlife photographers simply head out into the field with little to no background knowledge and end up coming back disappointed or worse, injured. So when I say you would do well to read up before you even pick up the camera, it’s best that you do. Most people in the field are usually conservationists who are also photographers. Some are photographers who turn into conservationists. Yet more simply need a few trophy shots to show their friends on Facebook.
Know Thy Ethics:
The next most important topic: Wildlife photographers have come under fire a lot of times in the past due to unethical practices; either by accident or deliberately. A lot of photographers bait animals, imitate their calls, chase them out of hiding..sounds familiar? That’s what hunters used to do back in the day to suss targets out.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people who invest in high-end photography gear, wildlife photography is sometimes seen as an ideal method to get returns on investment, and they will do most anything to ensure their costs are met. Then there’s the trophy hunters we spoke about earlier: Also willing to spend as much time and money as possible to ensure they get that action shot.
In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that some species are given government protection from the general public because such seek-and-chase photography has interfered with their breeding habits (like the Great Indian Bustard).
Know Thy Equipment:
Wildlife photography is one of those areas where equipment finally starts to matter. Big wide zoom lenses are the most important factor since what you’re capturing will more likely than not be far away from you. And for the better part of your photography career, you’ll need to learn to shoot in Manual, especially wildlife. So a camera with manual control and long zoom is essential (read our previous guides to find out what sort of camera to buy).
DSLRs of course, are the best option here, but a good DSLR and telephoto lens will set you back by a couple of lakhs. So figure out how much you really love wildlife.
Ideally, you need a fast DSLR: One that has great burst mode (because that’s what you’ll be using most), great build quality (especially if you go around the jungles on foot) and great RAW handling.