For aspiring wildlife photographers, a photography class is a great way to familiarize yourself with your camera — but it’s even more important to familiarize yourself with your subject matter. Before you set foot in the wilderness, you should be knowledgeable about the animals you want to photograph: What do they eat? What are their natural predators? Where and when do they migrate? Knowing the habits and behaviors of the wildlife can help you find the best spot for a great picture while avoiding any missteps that could put you or the animals in harm’s way.
“You need to understand the animal before you photograph them,” says Alaskan wildlife photographer Jeff Schultz. “For beginners who want to photograph animals, I’d recommend they start by going to a zoo or some other controlled environment, just so they can get that practice.”
Once you start building a portfolio, you can share your photos online, sell them to magazines and news organizations, or enter them in nature photography competitions. Placing well in a prestigious competition, such as the London Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest, can increase your exposure by putting your photography in front of an audience of millions.