Level up with an industry relevant online course for as little as $25 per week

5 ways to tell whether wildlife photography is for you

So you’re interested in photography, but have you ever wondered whether specialising in wildlife photography could be the perfect pathway for you?

Whilst the average salary for photographers in New Zealand comes in at around $54,000, anyone combing through career sites for wildlife photography jobs will know it’s not really about the money. It’s the love of animals, the appreciation of our beautiful natural world and a thirst for adventure.

Yet how can you be confident this is truly the career path for you? Luckily, we’ve outlined here 5 key elements to help you decide whether wildlife photography is for you. 

You’re ready to make the investment

Whilst the world of wildlife photography in New Zealand is beautiful, stimulating, exciting and interesting, you first and foremost need to be prepared to make a notable personal investment to get the most out of this industry.

For instance, there may be a degree of money involved in acquiring the right equipment – think high-quality DSLR, range of lenses, tripod, carry cases, cleaning kits etc. etc. – but not only that, but there may also be a certain cost of travelling to more remote locations or even overseas to where your chosen wildlife are based. 

Hand in hand with that, committing your time is a huge part of being a successful wildlife photographer. To expand, there’s indeed the time it takes to travel to these various locations (which is a non-issue if you love to travel, which the majority of wildlife photographers do!) but when it comes to actually completing your photography project… that’ll assuredly take time too.  

One reason why influential wildlife photographers are so widely celebrated is that it’s obvious how much effort and energy is required to grab even a single shot of wildlife. In 2019, Andrea Moreno interviewed wildlife photographer Graeme Green who said:

“…for any chance of standing out from the crowd, there has to be something striking and different in your pictures.

Taking your time is the best way to achieve that. A lot of people hurry through a wildlife location with their cameras, trying to take quick snaps of everything they see. A photo where you’ve taken your time and thought about what you want to achieve, including your position, the light and the animal behaviour, will always result in a better picture. One outstanding shot is worth more than 1000 hurriedly taken, clumsy snaps.

Yet if you’re up for the challenge and invigorated to make an investment in developing your wildlife photography skills – especially in a personal capacity – then that’s a fantastic foundation for your professional growth.  

You’re prepared to work at your craft

As the saying goes for TV, never work with children or animals. And the reason for this is that they’re both unpredictable, animals particularly so.

Wildlife photography is a complex art form and can be frequently challenging. After all, you’ve got moving targets to capture with your camera, adding an extra level of difficulty to A) finding the animals in the first place, B) setting yourself up in the perfect position and C) ensuring you have the best lighting/angle/focus so you don’t miss that perfect shot. 

This style of photography is not something that can be necessarily mastered overnight and requires considerable amounts of practice. Because the more you work at it, the more exposure you’ll have to not only specific types of animal behaviour but also to expert techniques and skills. 

One of Alison Langevad’s own wildlife photography tips include “Seek great light and be creative in your approach.” whilst Sudhir Shivaram says “The image should convey a story and a message.” 

Yet through working at your craft, as you evolve as a photographer you can also discover what kind of wildlife photography style is uniquely yours. Like a fingerprint, each artist has their signature style, and this will be your opportunity to discover yours. 

Whilst practice will aid your technical skill, it will, more importantly, help you to learn how to photograph wildlife with emotion – to tell a story through your imagery and bring these animals to life, rather than simply snapping something flat and unimaginative.

If you’re ready to continue developing your prowess, from beginner to intermediate to pro, then that is the next vital element to decide whether wildlife photography is for you.

You’re excited to go the extra mile

By this, we mean you’re excited to do the extra studies – tying very much into our last point. Because as a wildlife photographer you’re not just taking a photo of a pretty animal and calling it a day. 

You have to be up to speed with all the science and psychology of the animals too, understanding everything from their habitats, their behaviours, to the steps of establishing a respectful relationship when encroaching on their territory.

Extra studies can, indeed, entail reading up on all these elements. But it can also mean completing a specialised course – like our very own Wildlife Photography Certificate – in order to master those expert-level topics. Any online wildlife photography course worth completing will take you deeper into professional units of study, diving beyond the surface level knowledge to help you comprehensively understand all varieties of animals, such as vertebrate taxonomy, ectotherms, marsupials, primates etc. etc.

Not only that, but you also have to develop an advanced technical ability too, i.e. a thorough understanding of how to handle your tools to achieve the best quality results possible. For instance, you need to be aware of what capabilities your tools offer and be ready to adapt your photography style accordingly; you need to be able to anticipate and react to an animal’s behaviour whilst simultaneously adjusting your technology-use to match this.

Here’s an example to illustrate what we mean… your camera may have a slower or faster shutter speed than other DSLR models, or perhaps your camera lens may offer a certain quality and sharpness of image capture at specific distances. If you’re unaware of what parameters you’re working within, in all likelihood you’re going to produce photos which fail to live up to their full potential.

If you’re eager to throw yourself into these extra studies and complete the additional training, that’ll again be a huge advantage if you choose to specialise in wildlife photography.

You’re a special kind of person

As we mentioned before, animals can be unpredictable. In other words – they don’t always play ball. Wildlife doesn’t care if you woke up at the crack of dawn to grab a snap of them as a beautiful rosy sunrise burst across the sky… they’re going to carry on as they always have. Which means there are going to be occasions where you may be frustrated or disappointed by your lack of results.

However, if you’re the kind of person who is able to adopt that inner-resilience, who is patient and determined and happy to take their time to capture that perfect picture – wildlife photography can be an ideal match for you.

(It’s as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.)

Moreover, you need to not only be resilient, but you also need to be a respectful and conscientious kind of individual. When photographing wildlife, you’re entering their terrain. So you need to be someone who is prepared to adjust your behaviour, to be quiet and calm, to ensure you make the least negative impact on the world around you.

Most of all, you need to be the kind of person with a strong focus and attention to detail. Especially if you’re wishing to capture snaps of smaller critters, even the most minute signals and signs can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful shoot.

Cultivating a heightened awareness of your environment will help with identifying animals that are prone to camouflaging or hiding, plus it will ensure you remain safe and secure in your chosen positions. Maintaining your focus for such extended periods of time may be a challenge, but it’ll be worthwhile for that spectacular snap!

This isn’t a half-hearted hobby, but a true passion

Whilst anyone can dabble in photography, wildlife photography is a whole other beast (excuse the pun, we couldn’t resist!)

What we mean by this is that the kind of people who truly thrive in the world of wildlife photography are those who are ready to pursue this art form with purpose and are prepared to incorporate it into their life in a meaningful way. 

A career as a wildlife photographer will include taking photos of wildlife, obviously, but that’s really only the beginning of your role and responsibilities.

You could be capturing photos for magazines, websites, research institutions, entertainment platforms… all kinds of clients in all kinds of industries.

You may be briefed to photograph animals in their natural habits, stripped of their natural habits, eating and feeding, bathing, sleeping, hunting, fighting, hibernating, grooming – anything and everything!

You’ll also have to be aware of the laws, as certain areas may have specific restrictions in place, so it’ll be your responsibility to have knowledge of and adhere to these regulations. 

Most important of all, however, is to be ethical. As a wildlife photographer, your priority should always remain the wellbeing and care of wildlife and their natural environments. It is key that you are prepared to help protect the rights of the wildlife, caring for their quality of life without invading or interrupting their space.  

You should never attempt to capture or bait an animal in order to get your photograph. No photo is worth causing the wildlife any distress.   

So those are the key elements you need to consider, to decide whether wildlife photography is for you. Now that you’re ‘in the know’, make sure to check out our Wildlife Photography Certificate – as it could be your very first step to achieving your dream career.

There’s a big wide wild world out there, and it’s waiting for you to capture it.


Need help?

Ask us about our courses, or get help with your existing course

Are you a Learning Online student?

Have a question about your course?

Check out our Help desk. We cover topics like;


Enrol now!

Fill in the form below and one of our career advisors will get in touch

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.