Video: The top 10 traits of the best wildlife photographers


posted Monday, August 15, 2022 at 1:30 PM EDT


During wildlife photographer Steve Perry's decades-long career, he's watched and learned from many talented wildlife photographers. Using his years of experience, Perry has created a list of the top 10 traits he's observed in the world's best wildlife photographers. You can incorporate these traits into your photography to improve your wildlife photo skills.

The first trait should be easy for most wildlife photographers, loving your subject. You likely aren't interested in wildlife photography if you're not passionate about wildlife and nature. Perry says, "The best wildlife photographers really love their subjects. They're passionate about them, excited to see them, and if they didn't have their camera, they'd be there anyway." For Perry, photography is secondary to enjoying being outside and observing wildlife. His love for wildlife is immediately evident when you look at his work. When you truly enjoy your subject, that level of care and passion shows through in your work.

While loving what you do makes it easier to capture amazing shots, great wildlife photographers know that there's always a better shot. This trait, the second on Perry's list, means the best wildlife photographers are never content with their portfolio and are always looking for ways to improve the quality of their work. Even if you have an incredible photo of a specific animal, that doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels. The more time spent in the field and the more you learn about an animal, the more opportunity you'll have to take an even better image. This is perhaps even more important when considering common species. As Perry says, "Ordinary subjects require extraordinary photos." Photographing common subjects is a great way to improve your technical and creative skills.

The third trait should come as no surprise, great wildlife photographers are tenacious. Successful wildlife photographers are determined and persistent. If there's an opportunity for a good shot, great wildlife photographers will be there sticking it out. Wildlife photography requires patience and luck. No matter how talented you are or what gear you have, you can't overcome the fact that wildlife subjects are unpredictable and sometimes have no interest in coming anywhere near you. Great wildlife photographers get up early, stay out late and endure harsh conditions to get amazing photos.

Patience is an important trait in photography in general. The fourth trait on Perry's list goes a bit further than just "patience," though, Perry says, "intelligently patient." Intelligent patience means recognizing when you have a chance for success and waiting it out, but not sitting around in a situation that is very unlikely to produce great images. Your time is better spent waiting for situations you have reason to believe could be productive, rather than waiting in areas where you're not even sure there is wildlife at all. You don't want to give up on a situation that could work out, but you don't want to waste valuable time on a lost cause. "The best wildlife photographers I know are very good at telling these two apart," says Perry.

To see the other six traits, watch Perry's full video above. How many of these traits do you possess? Do you think that you'll be able to improve your skills as a wildlife photographer by improving on the traits described in the video?

For more from Steve Perry, visit his YouTube channel and website. You'll find great educational resources and information about Perry's workshops on his website.

(Via Steve Perry / Backcountry Gallery