With so many natural species at risk in the world today, how can photographers help the fight to save our natural heritage as conservation photographers?
Let’s start by looking closer at what conservation photography is.
What is Conservation Photography About?
If you have an existing passion for wildlife photography, then conservation photography could be a natural addition that will add purpose to your wildlife photography.
You can make an impact on conservation with your photography skills and images.
Visuals have immense power to tell a story and create change for conservation issues.
Conservation photography gives wildlife photography a “purpose” and a “why.”
What sets conservation photography apart from other forms of photography is the purpose for shooting images and what you, as a conservation photographer, do with those images.
There are no limitations to how you can craft your conservation photography efforts.
You could employ a photojournalism style, work alongside conservationists documenting their work, or possibly do animal portraits, even fine art.
The options are endless.
The goal is to put your images to work for conservation.
What Does it Mean To Put Your Images to Work For Conservation?
Putting your images to work for conservation typically means advocating for laws that protect endangered species or places, or possibly as a form of protest against development and construction that could result in adverse environmental impact, and raising awareness to bring about actions for conservation efforts.
Conservation photography can help shift the opinion and beliefs of the public about conservation and environmental issues to change people’s behaviour regarding conservation issues.
An example could be an issue such as plastic pollution and how plastic pollution impacts the environment, people, and animals both locally and globally.
Visuals can be fundamental to driving change around critical conservation issues.
Conservation photography does not need to be utilized for major international conservation problems.
Still, it can apply to more subtle conservation issues in your local neighbourhood or nearby areas.
Conservation issues happen everywhere and do not always involve travelling to far-flung places.
Conservation Photography is Increasingly Important
You might be wondering how wildlife photographers can help conservation efforts.
Conservation is the practice of protecting natural resources, meaning that it’s a big part of your job if you’re a wildlife photographer.
When you take photos of animals, you’ll probably want to post them on social media and sell them; this helps conservation groups by providing them with images they can use to promote their work and raise awareness (and money).
If you’ve ever seen photos from the National Geographic Instagram feed, those are examples of images that raise awareness for conservation efforts.
They catch the viewer’s eye and make you think about important issues like climate change, habitat loss, and species extinction.
You can also publish photo essays in magazines or newspapers that spread information about these causes.
Another way to help conservation is to donate your work directly to organizations that need it.
Some photographers volunteer as field biologists for nonprofits or government agencies; others commit to donating all proceeds from wildlife photography sales to specific organizations.
Conservation Photography is a Pleasant Challenge
Conservation photography can be a very challenging career path.
There are a few considerations to keep in mind.
- Safety is an issue for conservation photographers. Although many photographers prefer to shoot animals in the wild, this puts them in precarious situations. Snakes and other reptiles can be extremely dangerous, as can spiders and scorpions.
- Many mammals can attack humans, and some are large enough to do serious harm or even kill people. Some more giant sea creatures, such as sharks or whales, could also be life-threatening to a human who gets too close. For these reasons alone, any photographer must know how to safely around potentially hazardous animals before photographing them in their natural habitat.
- Expense is another consideration for wildlife photographers. For professional-quality photos taken at a high resolution with minimal noise and graininess (if you want your photos printed poster size), you’ll need to invest in an expensive camera body like an APS-C DSLR. A good lens, such as a telephoto zoom lens, can up-close detail without sacrificing image quality; a 100-400mm focal length might do nicely depending on what type of shots they plan to take most frequently.
To be a Successful Conservation Photographer Practice Patience
Conservation photography is a job for the patient.
Patience is required both technically and non-technically.
While waiting for the best photo, you may have to deal with inclement weather, wait for a subject to emerge from its den or cave, or watch for hours as an elephant pack moves across the African savanna.
It can take years to get one shot that you’re thrilled about.
It takes patience and diligence to wait in the right place at the right time within the right light.
It also takes patience to learn how your camera works and reacts in different situations – but it’s worth it.
The more knowledgeable you are about your equipment and your craft, the better you’ll be able to capture those once-in-a-lifetime images.
Conservation Photography is Demanding But Can be Rewarding
Conservation photography can be financially lucrative, but to achieve success, you’ll need to:
- Work hard.
- Be patient.
- Travel as much as possible.
- Do a lot of research to know where and when to go for the best shots.
- Work in conditions such as cold weather or at high altitudes while staying warm, hydrated, and healthy enough to take your shots.
How to Earn Money From Conservation Photography
As a conservation photographer, you will have many opportunities to find work in many areas, including:
- Magazines and newspapers
- Websites and blogs
- Other publications and content providers
- Zoos, aquariums, aviaries, animal shelters, rescue organizations, and other wildlife-centred organizations
- Conservation groups
There are a variety of ways to earn money through conservation photography:
- Commissioned Work For Conservation
You can also offer your services directly to magazines, newspapers, and websites to take photos on specific assignments.
Some publications have freelance photographers on call, while others might prefer to hire one when they need a particular shot.
The advantage of doing commissioned work is that you get paid more than selling stock images!
For example, National Geographic photographers make $600 per day while working on an assignment (plus travel expenses).
The downside is that unless you’re famous or well-known in the industry, you’ll likely have competition for projects (and could be waiting a long time before getting any).
Promoting yourself and building relationships with editors who may give you assignments is essential.
Doing photography workshops is a great way to earn money through wildlife photography.
If you want to share your knowledge and passion for wildlife photography with others (especially if you live in a prime location), consider offering workshops and tours where people can go out into the field with experts and learn from them directly.
It’s a great way to share your knowledge and bring in additional income!
Note: if you plan on running workshops or tours in some national parks around North America, then it’s essential to know that there may be restrictions on how much money people can make from them; be sure to check with staff at each park before offering these services!
You can offer your services to people of all ages and levels of experience.
These can be group workshops or one-on-one sessions.
You can do workshops for newbies and people who have some photography experience but want to improve their skills further.
If you have the talent to write well, you can earn money through wildlife photography by reaching out to magazines and writing articles with your photographs.
Writing articles can be an excellent way to promote yourself as a photographer.
If you are both excellent at photography and good at writing, you might be able to earn enough to sustain yourself financially.
Many conservation photographers are trying to make a living from the trade; some have made a good living.
I believe it both crucial to remember the role of nature conservation while earning an income from wild animals.
As photographers, we can bring about awareness of the plight of wild animals, especially endangered animals like the rhino, but we should also respect nature.
We must strive to remain cognisant that we are in their habitat when taking photos.
Wild animals do not have a voice; we should not abuse this fact as photographers and nature conservationists.
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