If you’re serious about pursuing wildlife photography as a career, consider getting some field experience during an internship 

Spending days out in a forest, or the African savannah, or the Amazon jungle, waiting for the perfect opportunity to photograph animals in their natural habitat – this is how some people earn their living. Yes, wildlife photography really is a career, and while it has its challenges, it’s a damn exciting one. If you can picture yourself as a wildlife photographer (no pun intended), and would like to explore this field and its opportunities, then a good way to start is to get some practical experience, build a strong portfolio of wildlife images, and learn from a seasoned professional. Here’s all you need to know about doing a wildlife photography internship abroad. 

-By Adya Jalan, images by Mark Fernley and Lucia Griggi 

Wildlife photography is, no doubt, an exciting career choice. As a wildlife photographer, you’ll travel, you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful scenery, and you’ll spend a lot of time observing – and capturing – incredible animal behaviour. It’s varied, creative, and potentially very adventurous. But, as with many off-the-beaten-path careers, making it as a wildlife photographer isn’t necessarily easy. It’s a competitive field, and besides the fact that you’ll need to be an exceptional photographer, you’ll also need some entrepreneurial skills to make it work financially. 

To find out how to successfully launch and approach a career as a wildlife photographer – and to gauge whether wildlife photography really is the right choice for you, you might want to embark on a wildlife photography internship. This will allow you to improve your skills, explore this field, and get some practical experience. In this blog, we’re highlighting several aspects of wildlife photography internships; the benefits of doing it, how to find the right internship opportunity, few tips to prepare for your internship and potential projects you could be involved in. 

 5 Benefits of doing a wildlife photography internship 

  • Learn all aspects of wildlife photography. Whether you are a professional or a beginner, photography internships will really help you delve deep into the experience of wildlife photography. During your trip you are immediately implementing the skills you are learning by practising in the field. Learn what it takes to be a wildlife photographer, experience the behind the scene work and the challenges one can potentially face in the wild. This gives you a chance to develop unique photography related technical skills. 
  • Improve your photography skills. Besides being able to create a stunning portfolio of images, the main learning outcome of a wildlife photography internship is to improve your photography skills. You will get numerous photographic opportunities during your internship and learn technical skills like close-up photography, night photography and various videography techniques. Getting guidance and tutoring from a professional photographer will allow you to develop these skills and make the most out of an internship experience. 
  • Have a unique travel experience. An internship abroad also ensures that you are being able to experience a new destination with a unique perspective. Your focus being wildlife will enable you to encounter unique species and learn the unique ways to search for the best wildlife sightings. Be it going out on the field during the optimum times of the day when natural light is at its best or ethically predicting wildlife behaviour to be prepped and ready for the perfect shot. Overall, you get to experience the beauty of nature and the splendour of the wild.
  • Contribute to conservation work. In many wildlife internships abroad, there will be a conservation element. Apart from learning about the technical photography skills, you might have the chance to learn about conservation issues and will have the opportunity to assist some wildlife conservation initiatives hands-on. Moreover, you will gain a thorough understanding of how wildlife photography can be used for conservation purposes. 
  • Increase employability in the future. The photography field can be very competitive and sometimes, the competition can make it harder to get work within the field. A wildlife photography internship will allow you to bridge this gap by gaining serious photography skills and building a beautiful collection of images. Besides, the professional work experience you will receive, while getting involved in conservation initiatives, will add uniquely to your resume making you stand out to employers. 

How to find the right wildlife photography internship abroad

  • Pick a destination that fits your focus of choice. As a wildlife photographer, the destination you choose is a major contributory factor in the development of your skills and portfolio. It should best reflect what you are looking for and should be used to your maximum advantage. You may choose to photograph the sought-after Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffalos) in African parks or delve into the Amazon Rainforest where you can see exciting animals while exploring the dense jungle. 
  • Find out what you’ll be getting out of the internship. Every internship is unique and has different aspects to it. Thus, it is imperative that you carefully read the learning outcomes of and learn what their mission is to make sure that it aligns with your objective. Whether your focus is fully on wildlife photography or you also want to be a part of conservation activities, being well read about the opportunity will help optimise and achieve your goals.
  • Research the supervising photographers and organisation. Internships should enable you to gain professional guidance from the best photographers in order to build your skills and resume. Thus, read about the supervisors and their achievements to see if they are the right mentor for you. You should also be able to resonate with the overall goals of the organisation you are interning for. The best ways to research include reaching out to past interns and reading blogs or articles on the organisation websites. 

A few tips to prepare for your photography internship abroad

  • Sort out your accommodation. Whether you are booking your accommodation directly with the organisation or by yourself, make sure that you pick the right place to stay and you get convenient access to the photography areas. Organising flights and accommodation on time can avoid confusions and ensure that you are fully focussed on learning and achieving your goals. 
  • Research about your destination. Familiarise yourself with the culture, language and norms of the local area you’ll be visiting. Learning a few language basics can strengthen communication with locals and employers. Researching photographic highlights around the area in advance will make sure that you make the most out of your experience.
  • Bring the right equipment. Carrying with you the appropriate camera and lenses will ensure that you are utilising the experience to the fullest and going home with a wonderful portfolio. You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a nature reserve with the wrong lenses for the scenario. Ask your supervisors in advance as they will best know which equipment is most suitable. 

Wildlife Photography Internships abroad that may help you kickstart your career

Here are the two wildlife photography internships we offer at Penda Photo Tours, that you may be potentially interested in!

Wildlife Photography Internship, South Africa 

Wildlife Photography Internship, Amazon Rainforest

Get inspired by reading our blog about 5 powerful wildlife conservation projects that use photography as a tool to raise awareness! 

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