Do you want to work as a conservation photographer?
- Read about the most important info you need to decide on following this career.
- Follow the 7 points below and search for a tertiary institution near you for future studies. If you already are graduated, you may also search through our list of Jobs in the main menu.
- If you want to PLAN the way you need to prepare, then join our community in step 8 where you will learn everything, while chatting with other potential photographers and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!
UPDATED: 24 August 2020
1. What is a conservation photographer?
A conservation photographer combines the skills of nature or wildlife photography with the advancement of conservation causes. This means that they don’t just take pictures to show of the beauty of nature, and their skills, but to fight for good causes to help save certain species.
They need to use their storytelling and journalism skills to tell a story about the animals.
Also known as:
- Wildlife Photojournalist
2. What do they do?
Media / Wildlife Conservation / Marine Conservation
Conservation photographers are, in short, wildlife photojournalists that direct their careers towards making a difference in the protection of animals and nature.
- Discuss brief with clients, or raise funds for own project
- Research the story and make necessary travel arrangements
- Prepare the necessary equipment to use
- Set up camp and the equipment at the sight
- Take the photos
- Develop the photos
- Present the photos to clients, or prepare own exhibition
- Create and add new work to a portfolio
- Administration and filing
Where they work:
Conservation photographers spend most of their working hours outdoors, sometimes deep in the wilderness. They also have a studio, and in most cases also a darkroom to process the photos.
Places of Employment –
Most conservation photographers will start out to work for places such as conservation organizations (NGOs), documentary producers and campaign organizers, as well as governments. With experience they may also work freelance (self employed).
On average the income per year is around $62,000. This will depend on the type of contract and sponsorship, as well as from country to country.
The most difficult part is to get funding for independent projects. They also need to travel extensively and have an excellent knowledge of both their equipment, and the species they want to work with. The working conditions can get tough and dangerous.
Future growth and Possibilities:
The industry is set to grow around 6% per year. Work with species at risk (red listed species) is some of the most important projects for the future.
3. Which Skills are required?
The skills required for a career as a conservation photographer can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Decision making
- Problem Solving
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationship
- Good business knowledge
- Good photographic skills
- Basic customer service skills
- Excellent health and physical fitness
- Excellent computer literacy (editing software)
4. Which Subjects must I have at School?
The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.
OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!
5. What will I need to Study?
The minimum requirements to become a Conservation Photographer is a College diploma, or even a Bachelor’s degree. Short Courses are essential, especially when you do make use of computer software for editing.
A diploma or degree in photography.
Additional Courses –
Focus on courses in forestry, agronomy, agricultural science, biology, conservation or environmental science.
Short Courses –
There are thousands of really good short courses, especially ones that can be taken online.
The duration of College and Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 3 or 4 years. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.
Possible Career Preparation Paths:
If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.
Why is planning important?
To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.
Possible Combined Career Paths:
It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.
Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):
Stepping Stone Career:
Being a conservation photographer can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).
You can begin as an intern photographer after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.
Some of the possible paths:
Training and apprenticeship:
Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a cartoonist will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.
In some cases entry level positions (or junior photographer) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.
Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior photographer.
Join the Conservation Photographers Group in STEP 8 to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!
Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:
6. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations
Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.
Although not required by law, certifications may help workers establish their credentials and enhance their skills.
Learn more about requirements by joining OZT in STEP 8.
7. Where can I study further?
All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.
See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards photography.
8. Join the OZT community
Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a conservation photographer.
Members of the Platform have special access to:
- Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
- Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
- Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
- Make friends around the world and share knowledge
- Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!
If you have decided on being a Conservation Photographer, and want to join our Community, or are already a member, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.
If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.
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