Wildlife photography is one of the most challenging genres of photography. Firstly, you are photographing animals in their natural habitat and the animals do not follow direction.
Inspiration for wildlife photography can come from your local area, the garden, urban locations as well as countryside and coastal. You might choose to fill the frame with the head of a majestic lion, capture the abstract shapes of a starling murmuration, or show an urban fox in an inner-city context.
Research, patience, timing as well as technical excellence will be the deciding factor between an average shot and an outstanding one. But remember, the priority for wildlife photography is the animal and safety.
Below are a selection of photographs that demonstrate the very best of wildlife photography…
The best wildlife and animal photos
Creation by Laurent Ballesta
Laurent Ballesta’s photograph Creation, captures camouflage groupers exiting their cloud of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia. Every year, for five years, Laurent and his team returned to this lagoon, diving day and night so as not to miss the annual spawning that only takes place around the full moon in July. After dark, they were joined by hundreds of grey reef sharks, hunting the groupers in packs. Overfishing threatens this vulnerable species, but here the fish are protected within a special biosphere reserve.
The image reveals a magical hidden underwater world and fascinating animal behaviour that very few have witnessed. It took the Grand Title Prize at Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021, as well as winning the Underwater category.
Raw Moment by Lara Jackson
Lara Jackson’s portrait of a fierce lioness was taken in the summer of 2020 whilst on a safari tour in the Serengeti National Park to document wildlife in the absence of tourists with Asilia Africa. Lara managed to capture the moment a young lioness single-handedly took down a fully grown wildebeest and looked up mid-meal.
An incredibly powerful image that was deservedly Highly Commended in the Animal Portraits category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021.
Dome Home by Vidyun R Hebbar
Ten-year old Vidyun R Hebbar was awarded the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021 for his colourful image, Dome home, of a tent spider as a tuk-tuk passes by.
The picture is perfectly framed, the focus is spot on. A reminder that wildlife also includes the small creatures around us.
Date Night by Andrew Interisano
Andrew Interisano was named the overall winner of Picfair’s Urban Wildlife Photography Awards earlier this year with his image of two Coyotes on a dimly lit street in Ontario, Canada. The composition and mood really stand out, with a sense of eeriness from the coyote with glowing eyes in the dark.
Interisano explained the story behind his image, ‘I thought it was my car that had caught their attention as I rounded the corner, and maybe it had at first, but as I rolled down the window I heard it was another group of howling coyotes that had piqued their interest. I parked, turned the engine off, and frantically went to work with the camera… however, in the rush of that moment I was soon compelled to put my camera down and soak in the scene.
As urban centres become more environmentally sound and welcoming to wildlife, it’s increasingly imperative that they and individuals take responsibility when it comes to the education on ethical coexistence with urban wildlife.
These altercations usually happen because the coyotes are being fed, either directly or indirectly by humans, which encourages and increases their proximity tolerance to people, thus bludgeoning the door open for these creatures to be unjustly demonised. It’s no easy feat, but I believe this can all be mitigated through ethical urban planning, public outreach and education, and stricter enforcement of wildlife feeding laws.’
Reflection by Majed Ali
Majed Ali trekked for four hours to meet Kibande, an almost-40- year-old mountain gorilla. ‘The more we climbed, the hotter and more humid it got,’ Ali recalls. As cooling rain began to fall, Kibande remained in the open, seeming to enjoy the shower. Ali won the Animal Portraits category of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2021.
Great White Split by Matty Smith
Matty Smith was crowned British Underwater Photographer of the Year 2022 with an impressive image of a Great White shark that he shot at the North Neptune Islands off Australia. The picture was shot in natural lighting with a Nikon Z 6 II (in Aquatica housing) with a Nikkor 14-24mm F2.8 S Series lens. The exposure was 1/1000sec at f/8, ISo 2800.
Smith revealed, ‘I had wanted to shoot a charismatic over/under [water] portrait of a great white shark for a couple of years. Some techniques I had previously tried failed terribly, so this time I designed and constructed my own carbon pole and remote trigger. This enabled me to safely lower my camera and housing into the water with my own 12” split shot dome port attached. Surprisingly the sharks were instantly attracted to the camera with no extra bait needed, in fact it was a battle to stop them biting the dome port! We had wonderfully calm seas and nice evening side lighting for this naturally lit image.’
Dancing with the Giants of the Night by Rafael Fernandez Caballero
Rafael Fernandez Caballero’s photograph of five whale sharks feeding together at night, in the waters off the Maldives, won the Underwater Photographer of the Year (UPY) 2022 title.
The winning photograph captures a unique ocean event, taken in demanding photographic conditions, and it also won the Wide-Angle category of UPY 2022. It features five whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, feeding together on nocturnal plankton that have been concentrated in the lights of a boat.
Fernandez explained, ‘It was already incredible when one whale shark came to our boat. But more and more kept arriving. In the ocean magic can always happen. But when magic happens all together, you only can think you’re dreaming. This was the case of that night in Maldives.
At the beginning of the night one whale shark came to the light of our boat BlueForce One, we jumped in the water and then another whale shark came. We were so happy when, a couple of hours later, out of the blue, madness happened and whale sharks started to come in big numbers. I was together with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe what we were seeing. We counted, at the same time, 11 whale sharks surrounding us. It was a unique moment that no one there had thought it could even be possible. Magic happens in the ocean every day, but if we don’t protect the oceans and sharks, these moments will soon be a thing of the past.’
The image was shot in the Ari Atoll off the Maldives with a Nikon Z 7 II and an 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E ED Fisheye Nikkor AF-S lens. The exposure was 1/80sec at f/4.2, ISO 5000. Lighting was with a One OrcaTorch D950V and the equipment was in Isotta Z7II/Z6II housing.
After the Storm by Jayne Bond
Jayne Bond won our Natural World round of Amateur Photographer of the Year in 2021.
Guest judge Ross Hoddinott said: ‘This is such a beautifully captured image. The soft, warm light spotlighting the seal pup is gorgeous, while the low viewpoint is intimate and inviting. The subject simply ‘pops’ from its surroundings thanks to the shallow zone of focus, and the seal’s whiskers are so sharp that it seems you could reach out and touch them.
I love the way this image highlights the harsh conditions these young animals have to contend with so early in their lives. The strong wind has partially covered this resting pup with sand and when you look at this shot, you can practically hear the wind whistling past and feel the sand and sea spray on your face.’
Jayne Bond shares how she took her award-winning wildlife shot here.
Coexistence by Shubhodeep Roy
Shubhodeep Roy was the winner of our Young APOY 2021 Natural World round.
If any image demonstrates that wildlife photography doesn’t have to be about frame-filling animal portraits in colour, it’s this one, which was overwhelmingly popular with the APOY judges.
The humble pigeon is just as valid a subject as any glamorous – or more beautiful – creature. There’s a lot that can be read into this image, with the outstretched wings of the bird and its shadow symbolic of any number of things. The line of wires is a hugely important part of the composition, too. It’s clever, interesting, and full of drama.
The Embrace by Sergey Gorshkov
Sergey Gorshkov was the overall winner of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2020 with this impressive photograph of a Siberian tiger. The winning shot was not just hours in the making, but the best part of a year. Determined to capture a picture of the totem symbol of his Siberian homeland, the Siberian tiger (now regarded as the same subspecies as the Bengal tiger), Gorshkov decided to lay a camera trap.
In order to know where to place it, he scoured the forest for signs, focusing on trees along regular routes where tigers might have left ‘messages’ – scent, hairs, urine or scratch marks. The first camera trap was installed in January 2019, but it wasn’t until November that this image of a magnificent tigress was taken.
Lagoon Dreaming by Joanna Smart
Joanna Smart came third place in the Natural World category of our Amateur Photographer of the Year competition in 2020 with this underwater beauty. She said, ‘The lagoon of Lady Elliot Island, Australia, is home too many creatures. The friendly sea turtles enjoy taking a nap in the warm lagoon waters of a morning. This individual had just woken up from a sleep and posed for a photo before heading off to eat.’
Arctic Scavenger by Lucy Monckton
Lucy Monckton’s beautifully timed image of an Arctic fox came second in our Young APOY 2021 Natural World round. Lucy was one of our joint overall Young APOY winners and this is her highest placed image.
Find out more about her photography here: Behind the scenes with our first ever Young Amateur Photographer of the Year winners!
Interlocking Horns by Jacob Rheams
Jacob Rheams’ photograph of two rhinos interlocking horns in South Africa came fifth place in our Natural World round of Young APOY 2021. There are multiple narratives that can be interpreted within this photograph which are emphasised further by the black and white conversion, lending to its success. The first being a sense of intimacy as the rhinos seemingly embrace. Another being of power and intimidation as the two size up.
Anger Management by Scott Wilson
Scott Wilson’s Anger Management is a dramatic black and white photograph of a wild mustang stallion. Bowing its head as it kicks up a dust storm in northwest Colorado, USA. A fantastic example of capturing mood and aggression within animal behaviour.
The Fox’s Tale by Milan Radisics
Milan Radisics was a finalist in the Professional category of the 2022 Sony World Photography Awards. Radisics explained, ‘Roxy stares at the camera from the base of a moss-covered linden tree. The fox is hiding behind the tree observing my window and trying to decide whether it’s safe. When we first became acquainted, any sudden movement would make the fox rush to a corner of the courtyard to hide behind the bushes. Learning from this, I stayed behind the window to follow Roxy’s undisturbed behaviour.’
Need some guidance on how to take better wildlife and animal photos?
See our beginners guide to wildlife photography here. Plus, our tips on creating black and white wildlife photos and how to capture great bird shots in your own garden.
Get hands-on and improve your wildlife photography skills by joining us on one of our wildlife photography holidays!