Wildlife photography is a very competitive field and very few professionals live in the lap of luxury. Therefore it’s best to get your career off the ground and establish links with publications and/or agencies. After this you can skip off into the sunset with your camera gear in hand.
Some tips that might come in handy if your dream is to become a professional wildlife photographer:
Technical aspects and photography clubs
Your chances of success are considerably improved if you are technically competent. There are a range of courses available. Alternatively, you could join a photography club. There’s bound to be one in your area and they often invite professionals in to speak about their work and review yours. This is a great opportunity to network and get honest feedback.
Keeping a portfolio
Keep a portfolio of your work to show to people. Edit it brutally so that you only include the very best shots. Ask friends to help you choose if necessary – your personal attachment to particular images may influence your judgement. Showcase the breadth of your work – different subjects and camera techniques, close-ups and in its environment, etc.
Competitions and donations
Enter competitions – being able to say you won an award might make an editor, who may otherwise delete your email, take a glance. Get your images seen by donating them to local conservation groups for their websites and member magazines. Don’t be mean, let them use them for free – it’s a great way to get published and your name known.
Keep up to date with the work of professionals
You can learn a lot by studying, but not copying, the work of others. Try to attend workshops as well.
Exibitions and magazines
Visit wildlife photography exhibitions and festivals to see the standard you should aspire to. Buy photography magazines to see if they have dedicated reader sections you can submit your photos to.
If your work is of an equal standard to the professional work published in a magazine – or you have something new to offer – try sending a low res jpg and brief description to the picture researcher of the magazine.
Send a polite follow-up if you do not hear anything within a month, but do not harass them. Simply accept that, on this occasion, you did not have what they were looking for and try again another time, if you do not hear anything back.
Take the chance, approach an agency
It is extremely difficult to make a living out of wildlife photography alone. Some professionals supplement their income with commercial photography (such as weddings, etc).
Many photographers usually work on a freelance basis, selling their work directly to publications, or using an agency to market their work on their behalf. If you have built up an extensive body of excellent work and need some help to promote it, why not approach an agency?