You have probably admired photographs before, either online or in magazines, of beautiful eagles, tigers, panda bears, and other wildlife. You may even have taken photographs of rare and exotic wildlife yourself! But what you might not have realized in the past is that the photographs that you see (or take yourself) of animals can actually help with conservation efforts, both on a local, national, and international scale. And now with the advent of social media, it’s even easier than ever for photographers to raise awareness of precious wildlife species and stimulate enthusiasm among viewers to save unique species and their habitats.
Wildlife photography really started to gain traction in the 1990s when it emerged as a hobby of safari adventurers. The photographs they took documented the stunning wildlife, and it also revealed the human-imposed threats that the animals faced. Since most of the photographers were not scientists themselves, nor were they in a position to single-handedly prompt change or stop illegal activities, they used the power of their photography to help wild animals and places get the attention, and in turn the protection, that they deserved. Today, wildlife photography is still just as powerful in prompting positive change among wildlife enthusiasts around the world. Whether you’re an aspiring wildlife photographer or you’re curious about the connection between photography and wildlife, here are some things to note about the connection between the two.
One of the biggest benefits of wildlife photography is that it serves as a method to educate others about the beauty and vulnerability of plants and animals around the world. Sometimes, people aren’t even aware that certain species exist. But that’s just where wildlife photography plays an important role. A wildlife photographer can journey into a vast desert, dive to the ocean floor, and trek into a jungle to document the existence of species and provide the public with information about them and the importance of saving them. Essentially, wildlife photographers serve as both digital artists and conservationists by bringing to light special places and animals that most people would never have known existed before, and therefore wouldn’t have considered making an effort to save. Japan, India, Mongolia, and South Africa are just a few places where wildlife photographers have successfully captured the beauty of native species and furthered conservation efforts.
In addition to just showing pretty pictures of exotic plants and animals, wildlife photographers are credited with sparking passion among viewers to actually take steps to help conserve fragile habitats and ecosystems. The plight of the Bengal tiger and the Black rhinoceros, for instance, have been well documented through photography and video. Wildlife photographers and filmmakers have played a key role in raising awareness of these species. Today, the Bengal tiger remains one of the most iconic species in the world. If people had not been exposed to beautiful photographs of the animals, the tigers may very well be extinct by now. Sadly, of course, some species have become extinct over time, and more will face extinction in the future. But if people mobilize behind efforts to protect species before it’s too late, conservation efforts will be greatly facilitated.
While everyone appreciates the face value of an aesthetically pleasing plant, animal, or place, wildlife photography is also credited with uncovering some of the less savoury aspects of places, too. Photography, for instance, can capture the grave condition of a zoo or facility where animals are kept. Photographers can also document habitat destruction, such as pollution or deforestation, that threatens the existence of wildlife in the area. Therefore, photography serves as an important mechanism to show people that wildlife cannot survive if the surrounding environment is not conducive to healthy living. So in addition to showing the beauty of wild and native species, wildlife photography can also uncover detrimental conditions. This, in turn, makes people aware of the larger issues facing the survival of wildlife in the area, which then prompts support for more widespread conservation efforts in the future. In some areas, wildlife photography has helped to bring issues like illegal poaching to light, which in turn has prompted a crackdown by law enforcement to successfully end harmful practices. Similarly, wildlife photography has also shown nearby garbage and litter, which has sparked local clean-up efforts to restore habitats to their natural beauty.
The good thing about wildlife photography is that it can be pursued either as a profession or a hobby. Whether you’re in it to make a living or just raise awareness, you can do your part to help out. Wildlife photography classes are offered in many places, especially in colleges and graduate schools. Photography is a relatively popular field, which means that you’ll be able to find photography programs around the world. Sometimes, people become wildlife photographers after starting in another related area, such as biology, art, and even park management. Park rangers, artists, and ecologists are some examples of professionals who have taught themselves the artistic and technical aspects to create successful wildlife photography.
When you look at a stunning picture of an endangered animal, chances are good that you’re inspired to do something to help. Fortunately, both photographers and citizens can take action to conserve special animals and places based on photography. If you are concerned about the environment, helping to protect critical habitats, or documenting those areas yourself, photography is a great way to start making a difference.