Baby animals of just about every species make for photogenic subjects. Explore the tricks of wildlife photography with tips from five pro photographers as they share their favorite images of baby animals.
In the last four decades, threats like climate change, deforestation, poaching, and more have literally cut our planet’s wildlife population in half. The numbers are staggering: one in every eight bird species now faces the possibility of extinction, and that number jumps to more than 60% when we look at primates. But, thanks to the efforts of a few dedicated communities and individuals, there is hope for a better future. Amongst all the stories of destruction, there are also tales of species brought back from the brink of disaster.
We can find that hope reflected in the faces of baby animals. The fact that some of these individuals were even born speaks to the resilience of nature and the possibility of positive change. Despite the challenges facing wildlife today, infant animals remind us of the importance of protecting and conserving these species for generations to come. We reached out to five wildlife photographers to gain insight into ethically documenting some of the world’s most extraordinary creatures. Read on to learn more.
1. “Don’t make the animals feel uncomfortable just because you want to have a nice shot.”
Image by Simon Eeman. Gear: Canon EOS 70D camera, Canon EF 400mm f/2.8l IS II USM lens. Settings: Exposure 1/320 sec; f2.8; ISO 800.
What’s the story behind this photo?
I was very lucky when taking this picture. I was working for a lodge in the Kruger National Park and had stayed back at camp while the guests had gone on a game drive. While preparing everything for the return of the guests, I noticed something on some rocks fifty meters from camp. I immediately saw it was a leopard, but I first thought it had caught something and was feeding.
So, I grabbed my camera and drove to the leopard, and that’s when I saw she wasn’t feeding on something but that she was feeding her two cubs! I was all by myself for over an hour just watching the two cubs feed and play. They were so relaxed; it was just amazing. When it started to get dark, the mother decided it was time for the cubs to go to sleep, so she picked them up and carried them to a cave in the rock formation. That is when I took this picture.
Image by Simon Eeman.
The most important rule or tip I can give anyone when photographing wild animals, and certainly baby animals, is to always give them the right of way. You are in their habitat, and you need to adapt to them! Don’t make the animals feel uncomfortable just because you want to have a nice shot.
This rule gets even more important when photographing baby animals, as their families will be extra protective over them and they can get aggressive. With bigger animals like elephants, buffalo, or rhinos, you will not only put yourself in danger but also the animals themselves, as they will be labeled by the park as problem animals, and they might be taken out for this reason.
Once you have made sure you gave the animal enough space, you have to have patience. If you have enough patience, you can have the most wonderful sightings with baby animals in the wild. As they are new, they are still discovering their surroundings, and they can be so funny to watch. You can watch them play for hours. Baby elephants chasing birds or thinking they are big already and trying to chase the car—that’s just nature at its best. Just don’t forget to put your camera down every now and then and just enjoy the sighting.
2. “Move slowly as you approach your subject, and keep as quiet as possible.”
Image by Four Oaks. Gear: Canon EOS-5D Mark III camera, EF100-400mm Mk II IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 400mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f5.6; ISO 800.
What’s the story behind this photo?
I am a frequent visitor to Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth in South Africa. This photo was taken late one afternoon on a loop not too far from the exit gate. I stopped on the side of the road when I noticed a herd of elephants in the distance slowly moving towards me. It didn’t take long before they were surrounding my car but keeping a safe distance. They were very relaxed, and this little baby come out from beneath the protection of its mother as if to say hello to me!