Making a Noise About your Photography

Johan van Zyl All Authors, Johan 8 Comments

Often the use of the word “Professional Wildlife Photographer” is misunderstood or misused.

See a lot of people see the images on social media by various Guides who either work at lodges, or lead Photographic Safaris all over Africa.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I know of very few guys who make their living purely from taking wildlife images.  There are some Landscape Photographers and Lodge photographers maybe, but wildlife, not many.

Recently I was at a Lodge and a sensitive subject came up… (this might ruffle a few feathers).

The lodge discussed to get images from their Guides, to use as potential marketing material for websites and maybe brochures.  The big debate came when the guides asked to get paid for their images…  Really?  First of all, your main job (I’m talking guides here or rangers as some would call) is to give your clients a memorable safari, not create your own images, so why now do you want to get paid for something that isn’t your job?  Now I am all for Guides taking images, absolutely!  I never go on drive without my camera, but I think it’s a bit “cocky” to now want to get paid for your images.  If it’s a massive billboard in Johannesburg that’s a different story.  What is wrong with getting credits for it?  Having your name on the brochure or website, why wouldn’t you want to do it?

It baffles me how some people want to charge top dollar for every image they create.

I have no problem with selling canvas prints off websites etc, but to want to charge for every small article that goes in a magazine, every photo on a flyer, every photo on a brochure… NO, unless that’s what you make your living off.


WOW!! Look it’s Pangolin you must be an amazing photographer!!  No, fact is, I had a good tracker and was lucky to see this.  Nothing technical about the image, just a great subject, anyone could have captured an image like this.

Social media can give you a false perception.  People that live out in the bush everyday or leading safaris to the most amazing destinations, posting incredible images, because they have the opportunity, it doesn’t make them amazing professional photographers.  I’m privileged to travel to incredible destinations and see mind-blowing things, I photograph what is in front of me.  Does that make me an incredible photographer?

Absolutely not!!

It makes me a very lucky person, but the fact of the matter is, anyone who was in my position with a digital camera, could have taken that image.


Amazing sighting, nothing technical…  I was just lucky to be there.

Yes I fully agree there are some technical aspects that are harder to master like slow shutter speeds etc. but getting a sharp, clear image…  Anyone can do it, with practice your success rate just gets higher.  You can buy your first DSLR and go on your first safari, see a Leopard make a kill, and go away with incredible images.  Anyone can it!  A lot of people knock themselves and say wow look at so and so’s images…  We get to travel, personally I still believe that’s the main difference.  You can only photograph what is in front of you.


Crossings in the Mara, images that leave you in awe…  Fact is, they really are NOT that difficult to create.  The subjects do everything for you.

Our job on Safari is very different to what people might think it is.

Yes we do take images, but first and foremost our job is to make sure our clients are comfortable with their camera’s, that they understand some of the technical elements and then to encourage them to try and create something different once they have the images they were after.  Our business is more the “teaching” side of it, than our own photography, we are just lucky to be able to take a few images every now and then.  We are not “Professional Photographers”, we are Photographic Safari Guides.

So to end it off 3 things:

  1. Enjoy your photography.  Create your memories.
  2. The more you travel the more amazing images you will get.
  3. Don’t try and charge people for every single image you create.  Be thankful that they are appreciated.

Till next time.


About the Author

Johan van Zyl


The opportunity of visiting some of the wildest, undisturbed areas and sharing my passion for wildlife, conservation and photography with like minded people is a privilege that I am forever grateful.

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Comments 8

  1. Pingback: Making a Noise About your Photography - Africa Freak

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      Johan van Zyl

      Dead right Dave. I am all for Guides taking images whilst on game drive. This makes the guests feel that the sighting they have is indeed a special one. As long as the Guide in giving his/her clients a memorable safari then all is good. 🙂 Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  2. Vikram Ghanekar

    This one honest article Johan. Absolutely spot. Truthfully, how many “professional” wildlife photographers do actually make a living by selling their images? Must be really really few, possibly less than number of fingers of one hand. Almost all work as professional photographic safari guides. And the team at Wild Eye is certainly among the best!!
    After one safari to Mana Pools with Morkel, I am already looking at 2017 Wild Eye calendar! You guys teach and encourage us to think and not just click. There is no point in taking 1 zillionth Leopard portrait that looks just like one taken by everyone else and his uncle.
    Using your imagination and skills to capture the scene differently is what makes the image.
    And that’s what you guys are good at!

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