If creating stunning wildlife images was easy, everyone would be doing it. Fortunately for all of us, some of the very best wildlife photographers have shared their secrets in some excellent books that will dramatically improve your wildlife photography.
These books won’t turn you into Art Wolfe, Leonard Lee Rue, Arthur Morris, or Larry West overnight, but over time you will see a huge difference in the quality of your wildlife images.
But before we get to them, the first key to great wildlife photography is finding wildlife. Wildlife location books will save you hours of frustration by directing you to the best locations. I introduce you to the best location guides in How to Find Wildlife, The Best Books (link below). Be sure and read that article after you read this one. It is also helpful to have a basic understanding of the principles of great nature photography which is why I wrote The Best “How To” Nature Photography Books.
Some of the books that I link to in this article are out of print. Not to worry, you can still get them from Amazon.com via the links below. These are still some of the “best of the best” books ever written which is why they are in my photography store.
“How To” Wildlife Photography Books
Leonard Lee Rue III is one of the best and most prolific wildlife photographers. His how to books are How to Photograph Animals in the Wild (which is part of the Stackpole series of books). This book is my first choice for photographing wildlife (primarily mammals). Rue also wrote How I Photograph Wildlife and Nature. If you only read one of Rue’s books, get the book in the Stackpole series. More about this series later.
If you are looking for a brief introduction to bird photography, get the booklet Bird Photography: Pure and Simple by Arthur Morris. If you want to seriously pursue bird photography, there are two must read books, The Art of Bird Photography by Arthur Morris and How To Photograph Birds by Larry West (another book in the Stackpole series).
The best series of wildlife photography books by far is the uniformly excellent Stackpole series of “How To” books. They are written by a first class set of photographers and it is one of the best photography series anyone has every produced. If wildlife photography is your thing, start here. How to Photograph Animals in the Wild and How To Photograph Birds have been mentioned already. Other wildlife books in the series are How to Photograph Insects and Spiders by Larry West and How to Photograph Reptiles and Amphibians by Larry West.
The older books in the Stackpole “How To Photograph” series (Birds, Insects and Spiders, Reptiles and Amphibians, Flowers, Animals in the Wild, Underwater), are real treasures and they are now out of print. Grab them while you still find them via the links below.
Other Stackpole Nature Photography Books
The other nature photography books in the series are excellent too. They include How to Photograph Flowers by Heather Angel, How to Photograph Underwater by Norbert Wu, and two location guides by Joseph Lange, Photographer’s Guide to Yellowstone and the Tetons, and Photographer’s Guide to Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona. Lange also wrote How to Photograph Landscapes which is one of my two favorite introductions to landscape photography.
Stackpole also has a new series of nature photography books by Tony Sweet. Fine Art Nature Photography is about camera and lens techniques – what you are doing when taking the picture. I would suggest you read this book first. The emphasis in Fine Art Digital Nature Photography is split between camera techniques (including the filters you use on your lenses) and techniques in the computer. He applies these same techniques to Fine Art Flower Photography, one of the best books on creative flower photography I have ever read. And finally, his book Fine Art Photography: High Dynamic Range will get you started in HDR photography and it is especially recommended if you use Photomatix software from hdrsoft.com. I bought another excellent book by Tony Sweet, Fine Art Photographey: Water, Ice and Fog. If water, ice, and fog are among your favorites subjects, read this book.
“How To” Nature Photography Books With Some Wildlife Sections
Art Wolfe is a world class photographer who is the author of several coffee table books filled with his gorgeous images. He has co-authored two “how to” books about nature photography. They are mostly about nature photography in general but they do include some suggestions for wildlife photography. The New Art of Photographing Nature is the more comprehensive book. The much shorter book is Photography Outdoors: A Field Guide for Travel and Adventure Photographers.
George Lepp’s pair of books, Beyond the Basics, Innovative Techniques for Outdoor/Nature Photography and the follow up book Beyond the Basics II, More Innovative Techniques for Outdoor/Nature Photography, are for photographers who have learned the basics and want to try more advanced nature photography techniques. If you are new to nature and wildlife photography I wouldn’t start out with George’s books. Save them for later when you have mastered the basics. They are well worth finding on the used market (which you can find via the links below to my photography store). There are a few chapters in the both books on photographing wildlife. The first book has chapters on butterfly photography, photographing birds at the nest, and zoo photography. Volume II has chapters on photographing flying bids, working with controlled animals, and photographing mammals in the wild. His books are well written and practical. His latest book is Wildlife Photography: Stories from the Field. Lepp is one of the columnists for Outdoor Photographer magazine, he is a master at photographic technology, and his excellent workshops are in high demand (if have been to his workshops several times). If you have a chance to go to one of Lepp’s workshops, don’t miss it.
If you are looking for just one book that will show you how to master your camera’s controls as well as introduce you to nature and wildlife photography (and a whole lot more), read my book Digital Photography Exposure for Dummies, one of the highest rated photography books at Amazon.com. You can learn more here and order it at Amazon.com.
This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.
If you want to spend a day or a weekend learning how to be a better nature photographer, I do workshops and photo safaris in Colorado and Michigan. A complete list of workshops is at JimDoty.com.