Wildlife Photography Etiquette

Why do we need Wildlife Photography Etiquette?

Wildlife Photography is essential for capturing endangered species, conserving habitats, and taking pictures of places and things that people may not see. The best wildlife photographers capture photographs of animals up close while maintaining their distance and respecting the environment. But how does one do this while not damaging habitats or putting animals in danger? What is the wildlife photography etiquette you should follow while getting the perfect shot?

Wildlife photography has become increasingly popular in recent years, but it is important to remember that with great opportunity comes great responsibility. Learning and observing the proper etiquette when taking photos of wildlife will not only help you get better shots, but will also respect the animals’ behavior and well-being.

Wildlife Photography Etiquette
Sitting Beaver

Respect the Wildlife You’re Photographing.

Above all when out shooting wildlife, respect the animals. Don’t infringe on their space, and try to be mindful of any signs of distress. If an animal looks uncomfortable, it’s best to let them be and give them some space. Particularly for land-based animals like mammals or birds, you should always be aware of the wind direction so your scent does not bother them – avoid blowing smoke towards the animal and do not use flash photography in close quarters.

It’s important to adopt a “no trace” policy if you are shooting in national parks or sanctuaries. This means you should take all of your supplies with you when you leave and leave the environment exactly as you found it. Additionally, never attempt to interact with the animal directly, and be aware of any potential predators in the area while photographing. It’s also smart to research different behavior patterns for the animals so that you can prepare yourself to respect them and know how to keep yourself safe as well.

Observe Local Wildlife Laws and Regulations.

Before heading out to photograph a new area, always look up the local wildlife laws and regulations regarding permits, restricted areas for photography, distance regulations from animals (especially at their nests or breeding grounds), etc. A lot of these laws and regulations exist to protect wildlife from unnecessary disturbance or harm, so it’s important to familiarize oneself with any such rules prior to visiting an area intended for wildlife photography.

It’s also important to be aware of one’s surroundings in order to respect the natural environment. Avoid trampling on native plants or disturbing animal homes (e.g. digging up an animal burrow to get a better angle may lead to the destruction of its home). Be sure to leave enough space between yourself and any animals present, whether they are posing for you or trying to stay out of view. Even if an animal has been habituated over time to humans passing by or taking pictures, it is still best practice not to approach them too closely in order to avoid discomfort or disturbance.

Allow Animals to Choose Their Distance from You.

One of the most important rules of wildlife photography etiquette is honoring an animal’s right to choose its own distance from any people. Respect their space and seek to observe them from a respectful distance. If they come closer, that’s great! But be sure not to follow or chase after them in an effort to get them closer in a photograph. Additionally, avoid attempts to call out to animals or act as if you are trying to direct them in order to get certain images.

Attempting to call out to an animal or lure it in can take away from the authenticity of your photos. It’s more important that the animals be able to act naturally — they will sometimes come closer, while at other times they may decide it is time to move on. In any case, being present enough not to disrupt their lives will result in much better images in both quality and meaning. One way you can achieve this is by preparing as much as possible before arriving at a shoot and having your equipment ready. Little movements like re-positioning your tripod or changing lenses can be disruptive — so simply having your lens already mounted will help greatly.

Keep a Safe and Responsible Distance at All Times.

It’s always best practice to observe wildlife from a respectful distance. As a rule of thumb, be sure not to approach any closer than the animals’ native comfort zone. This might take some research because different species have different comfort zones. Additionally, never attempt to identify or name an animal by its specific species in order to call them closer for a photo – this is dangerous and potentially illegal behavior, as well as ethically wrong.

Always ensure that you are being respectful to the wildlife you are photographing and aim to also respect their habitats. While it might add an interesting backdrop to your photograph, try not to intrude on sensitive areas or cause stress for an animal in its natural environment. Furthermore, avoid using bait or flashes in order for the animal to show up – this unethical behavior will likely cause disruption and can even be illegal in some locations, which carries hefty fines along with it. Keep your distance, stay mindful, and enjoy capturing nature from a safe spot!

Never Feed or Interact with Wildlife in Any Way.

It can be tempting to feed wildlife in order to get closer for a better photo opportunity, but this is unacceptable for both the animal’s safety and yours. From a legal standpoint, it is of the utmost importance that no food items are ever taken into wildlife refuges or conservation areas – this can disrupt natural behaviors, attract dangerous predators, and otherwise upset the entire balance of an ecosystem. Additionally, never try to pet or interact with animals in any way – not only can it cause them unnecessary stress or fear, but some extremely territorial animal species may attack if they feel threatened.

Instead, focus on being a respectful bystander while taking your photos. Use longer lenses or try to get a higher viewpoint if possible to bring both you and the wildlife in view without disturbing them. Remember, by bringing your camera with you, you’re making a pact to be kind to the environment and its inhabitants no matter where your travels take you.

In Conclusion

When getting pictures in the wild, it’s important to remember that you share the space with many animals and organisms. It is crucial to be respectful and remember it is not our home; we are just visiting. While most photographers may know the basic rules and etiquette for capturing photos in the wild, there are many blurry lines regarding how to conduct oneself. 

There is the etiquette when it comes to anything in life; however, it isn’t always clear when it comes to the ethics of wildlife photography. There is a lot to keep in mind when being a Nature photographer. It involves thinking about how our actions affect the animals we photograph and how those actions can affect us. It is all too easy to disturb habitats or frighten wildlife, even unintentionally. 

Wildlife Photography Etiquette
Moose Bull Standing

Ontario Parks has a list of things you should avoid so you can practice wildlife photography etiquette:

  1. Don’t bait or feed animals
  2. Off-trail trampling 
  3. Damaging habitat 
  4. Introducing non-native species 
  5. Following animals 
  6. Using recordings of animal sounds 

Aliyyah Eniath has the perfect rule to live by while taking photos “Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.” Simply put, nature comes first. All wildlife photographers should put animals and the natural environment first and photography second, never mind the circumstances. A wildlife photographer should not interrupt any natural wonders within the natural environment.

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Jardene Photography is an award-winning company based in Calgary, Alberta. We sell fine art nature prints in Alberta Nature photography, including wildlife and landscape photography. You can check out our website for more information. Alternatively, you can browse our shop to see our fine print collection.

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