Wildlife Photography portfolio

Anna Phillips Wildlife Photography

Anna Phillips - My history in Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography has always been a massive area of interest to me. Even before I studied or pursued professional photography as a career, animals and wildlife were a real passion. The idea of following wildlife photography professionalyl was a dream.

As much as I enjoyed my photography degree at Staffordshire University, most of the lecturers and fellow students discouraged my interest in wildlife photography as a potential career.

The general consensus of opinion was that professional wildlife photography was an incredibly competitive area to get into, and very difficult to make a career out of. While I found this disheartening, it also gave me further incentive to prove them wrong, and turn my passion into a real career path, regardless of how difficult it might be.

Although I took photographs of wildlife and animals whenever I could, it wasn’t until I moved to South Africa in 2009 to work for an Underwater Photography company, that I started to on a more regular basis.

Mossel Bay is a beautiful part of the world, and anyone with so much as a passing interest in wildlife or animal photography will never find themselves short on potential subjects.

Here, I was only ever a few minutes walk, drive or boat ride away from being among great white sharks, cape fur seals, humpback and southern right whales. An incredibly diverse array of marine species that most photography enthusiasts would give their favourite lens for the opportunity of seeing.

But this also bought with it a real challenge. Firstly in terms of being able to make the most of the opportunities when they occur (capturing photographs of great white sharks breaching is a very different environment to studio work at University). Secondly, from a commercial wildlife photography perspective.

While my job did involve taking photographs, of greater importance was my role in helping the company increase its business.

This is where I started learning about stock photography, and the work involved with getting wildlife photographs featured and selling on the likes of istockphoto.com, getty images, shutterstock and other image libraries. This side of things was never even approached at University, and the learning curve involved was immense.

Fortunately, the company I worked for had a massive wildlife photography stock library (which I was responsible for overhauling) so at the very least we weren’t lacking for content. Even then, it surprised me how much work is involved, and likewise the types of photographs that people were most interested in.

Myself, my colleagues and family loved the pictures of great white sharks breaching through the water, gannets hunting fish, families of whales and dolphins swimming together. However, a high percentage of our customers on these stock photography web sites were more interested in wildlife photography that seemed comparably mundane.

So within two years of university, I’d secured my first job in wildlife photography in another country. My mind was being opened about the commercial environment surrounding animal photography in general, and I was also enjoying taking photographs of animals and marine wildlife in my spare time.

In 2012 I felt I had completed all that was possible at my current post, and we moved further up the coast to a town called Gansbaai, home to Dyer Island and the largest concentration of great white sharks in the world.

While the experience I had amassed in the previous three years was beneficial, I learned, experienced and was required to adapt to more in the following twelve months than in the previous thirty combined.

I was responsible for overhauling their photography portfolio and wildlife stock system, but also made the transition into film and video. I oversaw the video department of Marine Dynamics Shark Tours, the area’s top great white shark cave diving company.

In barely a year I met and worked with teams from National Geographic, The University of Cape Town, while both witnessing and photographing some incredible nature occurences. I also implemented a new video distribution system that saw the company’s customer service emails reduced by 90%.

It was with heavy heart that I moved back to the UK after my time here. It had become clear that to take my wildlife photography and interest in photographing animals to the next level, I needed to start standing on my own two feet. Primarily I wanted to get my own stock library off the ground and focus more attention on building a sustainable business out of my wildlife photographs.

So while I still have a long way to go and the caution shared by my peers at University wasn’t without due cause , I am confident that with hard work, a responsive attitude and clear focus, wildlife photography is something that I will continue to enjoy and support myself through.

Please return to this page in future to see how (and if!) my work in wildlife and animal photography progresses.