How to be a Responsible Wildlife Photographer And Promote Ethical Conservation Photography

Wild animals are a source of inspiration for wildlife photographers, but how can we photograph wildlife responsibly?

Photographers venture out with a camera to photograph animals in their natural surroundings, and every photographer should strive to prioritize the well-being of animals.

However, not every animal photographer is respectful of the animals they photograph.

Furthermore, modern society’s disconnection from nature poses a threat in the form of a culture of indifference.

Photo by Git Stephen Gitau on

How do Wildlife Photographers Harm Animals and Natural Environments?

Here are some of the more common ways that photographers, who are not necessarily wildlife experts, may harm animals:

  • They spend a lot of time waiting for the right moment, especially for images where an animal looks directly at the camera or interacts with another species in a friendly and cute way.
  • They use bait to lure animals closer, so they don’t have to use a super long lens to take the image. Bait can be food or something else that an animal would find interesting, like a toy or object that makes noises that may attract the animal under false pretenses.
  • They may crowd an animal when many other photographers are trying to get the same photo of an animal or a group of animals. This may stress the animal and cause it to become dangerous and volatile.
A Cheetah sleeping under the trees on a hot day. Conservation photographers should be respectful of the habits and habitats of wild animals at all times. Photo by Crowpix Media.
  • They may chase or provoke a wild animal to get an exciting photograph. Tracking an animal until it is exhausted is stressful and may cause it to become aggressive should it feel threatened.
  • If you are using flash photography when photographing wildlife, remember that a flash can temporarily blind animals not accustomed to such lighting. Be wary about using the flash and ensure you are not harming the animal.
  • They may be tempted to go off-road with a 4 x 4 vehicle over naturally sensitive habitats such as grass banks, sandbanks, and salt flats.

Your Perfect Shot Can Harm Animals

In wildlife photography, you’re trying to capture a moment in time that shows animals in their natural environment, but this often comes with the challenge of trying to get shots without causing harm to the animals involved.

Nature and wildlife photography competitiveness promote the idea that the winning photographer is the best.

But when a standard of perfection is applied to images of animals and nature, it encourages photographers to behave in ways that can be harmful.

Marabou Stork perches on the branches of a dead tree in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Conservation and wildlife photographers should not harm animals when trying to get the perfect shot. Photo by Crowpix Media.

A critical thing that aspiring wildlife photographers should know is that animals can be harmed to get the perfect shot.

While there are many examples of this, I’ll list three: 

  • stressing an animal out.
  • destroying natural habitats for a more precise angle.
  • putting yourself in danger just for a better view. 

How Can a Wildlife Photographer be More Responsible?

Fortunately, there are some ways to avoid harming animals when taking pictures.

Wildlife photographers can have a powerful impact.

Photographers now have unprecedented access to resources and opportunities to locate animal subjects.

Like any other animal photography, the most ethical way to photograph wildlife depends on the circumstances and location.

For example, you can go on photo safaris with reputable companies that care about conserving local wildlife and their habitats.

Photo by Gerbert Voortman on

Many wildlife photographers take long photo tours, often in national parks or other protected areas, where they harm or even kill animals while photographing.

Safari tours are a great way to get into wildlife photography.

However, there are always tradeoffs and challenges, like most things.

One of the biggest challenges for a wildlife photographer is knowing when to stop shooting and when to let the animal be.

Think About Animals as Subjects Rather Than Objects

If you want your photography to do justice to the animal world, it’s essential to consider animals as subjects rather than objects.

The best way to do this is by considering the animal’s welfare before getting your camera out.

While you can make a comfortable living as a wildlife photographer, you’ll quickly realize that there is a solid drive to create the perfect photo.

Treat wild animals as subjects, not objects. Hyena pups rest under a car along the road in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by Crowpix Media.

The aim to create the ideal image isn’t necessarily bad, but it can sometimes lead to photographers forgetting the importance of respecting nature while photographing it.

You’ll find that many wildlife photography guides and workshops focus on getting close (or closer) to wildlife.

If you don’t consider the natural behavior of animals in their habitats, you are just being selfish.

Wildlife Photographers Should Consider Nature Conservation

Photography is an art form and can also be a form of nature conservation. Try to minimize your impact on the animal and the natural habitat while taking photos.

One of the most critical parts of wildlife photography is ensuring you’re not harming animals or habitats.

Many people think they can shoot wildlife photos without disturbing the animals, but that isn’t the case.

An African Elephant makes its way through the bush in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Photo by Crowpix Media.

You need to be aware of how your actions affect the animals in your photos, sometimes making difficult decisions about where to focus your attention.

Wildlife photography can be a rewarding way to capture nature’s beauty and share it with others, but it can also be a powerful way to protect wildlife and habitat.

Don’t only think of yourself as a photographer. Consider nature conservation as part of the exercise when being a nature photographer.

In Conclusion

Wild animals and nature itself are confronting unprecedented dangers.

In recent decades, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians have suffered catastrophic declines.

Furthermore, modern society’s disconnection from nature poses a threat in the form of a culture of indifference.

We live in a virtual world, glued to our devices rather than being outside, and as a result, we have lost our innate connection with nature.

As wildlife photographers, we must adhere to the strictest safety guidelines that respect animals and their natural environment.

Before pushing the shutter button, think about your presence’s effect on the animal in front of you.

Let’s aim to preserve and conserve the beauty of mother nature and all her creatures.

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