Wildlife Photographer Schools and Training Programs
Prospective wildlife photographers may find a class in this specialty through a certificate or degree program in general photography. Read on for information on wildlife photography training, equipment and career opportunities.
What You Need to Know
Wildlife photography is an ideal career choice for someone looking to marry an interest in the science of nature with the art of photography. While programs devoted exclusively to wildlife photography generally don't exist, an aspiring wildlife photographer should enroll in photography classes and may also opt to take science electives such as animal behavior.
|Degrees||Undergraduate degrees in photography, photojournalism or wildlife conservation with a minor in photography|
|Training Options||Internships at wildlife organizations, working as an assistant to a photographer, certificates in digital photography or outdoor photography|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$32,490 annually for all photographers|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, San Francisco State University
What Should I Look for in a School?
Look for a school that offers a degree or certificate program in photography, with a class in wildlife photography as an elective. Some community colleges offer non-credit wildlife photography classes as well. Online courses are rare, but they do exist. If you'd like to get out of the classroom and into the field, look for schools located in rural areas or near national parks. In more urban areas, field studies might involve trips to a nearby zoo. The following schools may offer wildlife photographer training programs:
- The University of Texas at Arlington
- Lord Fairfax Community College (Multiple locations in VA)
- San Francisco State University (CA)
- Hagerstown Community College (MD)
- North Idaho College (Coeur d'Alene, ID)
What Kinds of Courses Should I Take?
You should learn to use a wide range of equipment, such as macro lenses, and study how they allow you to take extreme close-ups of subjects in nature. Telephoto lenses allow you to capture animals too elusive or dangerous to approach. Underwater cameras allow you to photograph marine life. You should also learn techniques for processing, storing and marketing your images. Some of the following topics may also be required:
- Color theory
- Digital imaging programs
What Equipment Will I Need?
You'll need a good camera, plus such accessories as lenses, media storage cards, tripods, batteries and chargers. A computer with digital imaging software may be necessary, or you may be able to use the school's computer lab. For field trips, appropriate clothing and footwear, sunscreen and insect repellent, food, water and camping gear may be recommended.
Where Do Professional Wildlife Photographers Work?
If you want to make wildlife photography a full-time career, you could start your own business by marketing your wildlife photos to various agencies and publications. You could exhibit your work at festivals and in galleries. You could also work directly for a publication specializing in nature, conservation, ecology or animals. Combining photography with other job skills widens your career possibilities. As a photojournalist, for example, you'd not only take pictures, but you'd also write articles to accompany them. As a conservation officer or national park ranger, taking wildlife photos would be just one aspect of your job.
What Do Wildlife Photographers Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most photographers earned $19,400-$75,080 in 2017. Photographers with salaried jobs tended to earn more than freelancers. If you find work as a salaried photographer, you'd be more likely to be employed full-time, and you wouldn't necessarily have the expense of purchasing your own equipment and supplies.