It is relatively easy to become good at nature photography, but it is extremely difficult to make a living on it. Do not let that deter you though. If you love the outdoors and love photography, there are many ways to make at least a little side income with these two passions. Use the guide below to help you find your most important pieces of equipment—your camera and your lens.
Purchase A Camera
There are many dSLR cameras on the market today, so where do you start? Honestly, it does not matter that much. Some cameras are supposedly better at portraits than they are at landscapes, and some cameras tend to have more “brilliant” colors than others. In this digital age though, photo editing and color correcting on the computer means that these flaws can be fixed rather easily. This makes it fairly difficult to compare cameras within the same class. Instead, you must determine what class of camera you need to purchase for your budding business.
Depending on who you ask, there are roughly for different classes of dSLR cameras—the entry level, the mid-range, the prosumer, and the professional. Chances are, if you are first starting out a photography business as a hobby, then you will probably want to purchase a mid-range or prosumer camera at the most. The world of nature photography is extremely difficult to become successful in, so unless you have a lot of extra money lying around, at first try to invest conservatively in your camera and camera equipment.
To help you decide on your camera class, you should first determine how large your want to print your photos. Most dSLR cameras will create good 8 x 10 and 11 x 14 prints, but if you want to print out anything larger than those sizes, you may want to look at a higher class of camera. Entry-level dSLRs are generally in the 8 to 12 megapixel range, which will give you adequate resolution for 8 x 10 prints. You could create prints larger than the 8 x 10, but the quality of your photo will quickly begin to decrease as you increase your print size. If you want to print your photos at good quality at sizes larger than 16 x 20, you get at minimum a prosumer camera.
If you are just starting out in nature photography, do not immediately purchase a higher end camera that will cost you in excess of $2000. You can easily get by with a mid-range camera, but you obviously should not sell any prints above a certain size.
Nature and wildlife photographers will also want to look for a camera that has a high frame rate. Cameras with high frame rates are available in all classes and price ranges. In fact, some mid-range cameras can shoot up to seven frames per second. With seven frames shot in a second, you are bound to capture a fabulous photo of a bird or other animal.
Wildlife photographers should also consider shutter noise. If you are close to an animal, the sound of the click of your shutter may scare them away. Shutter noise varies from camera to camera and brand to brand so make sure to read some reviews before you spend a couple hundred if not thousands of dollars on a new camera.
- A mid-range dSLR camera is good for those first starting out in nature photography.
- Consider the maximum sized print you will want to create with your camera. Some entry-level camera only produce high level prints up 11 x 14.
- Wildlife photographers should search for a camera with a high frame rate and with little shutter noise.
As a nature and wildlife photographer, you will want to consider purchasing a number of lenses. The first piece of glass that you should include in your camera bag is a good all around lens at a range of about 24mm to 70mm. A lens of this range will give you a number of options when shooting landscapes, rivers, lakes, or whatever “natural” feature you want to capture.
If you like to shoot flowers, you will definitely need to purchase a macro lens for your camera. Many of the more common macro lenses are around the 50mm range and do not have zoom capabilities. A good macro lens should also be able to reach a very shallow depth of field at around a 1.2f. With your camera at this low of an f-stop, you will have only a very small portion of the flower in focus. This oftentimes creates very dramatic photographs.
Wildlife photographers should all have a very good zoom lens of at least 70mm to 200mm. If your wildlife photography is a big success, you may want to look into purchasing a lens that will zoom up to 500mm. This mammoth and costly lens will allow you to zoom in very close to wildlife while standing at a safe distance.
All types of nature photographers should consider purchasing lenses that have built in image stabilization. Some dSLR cameras like Sony have image stabilization already built into the camera itself, but the most common cameras including Canon and Nikons must have image stabilization in the lenses. This feature generally allows you to set your camera one stop lower than normal without any noticeable camera shake. Image stabilization will definitely add to the price of your lens but its benefits are priceless for the nature photographer.
- Every nature and wildlife photographer should have a good all-around lens that can zoom in and out at will.
- Photographers who like to shoot flowers definitely need a macro lens with that can reach a shallow depth of field.
- Wildlife photographers need a good zoom lens to safely zoom into the lives of wild animals.
- Nature photographers of all kinds should consider a lens with image stabilization if it is not already built into your camera. It will cost some extra money, but it is well worth the price.