Is there any chance at being a pro (or semi-pro) wildlife photographer without an expensive lens?

 I'm afraid I'll never be able to afford a pro-grade lens, as even the "3rd party" 600mm lens' such as Sigma and Tamron cost nearly 1,000 US dollar

9 Answers

  • BriaR
    Lv 7
    1 month ago

    As an amateur wildlife photographer I use gear that cost me around £1800/$2000 - a Canon 70D (6yrs old) and a Sigma 150-600 (4yrs old).  I get many shots that I am really proud of


    When the light levels drop, the max aperture of f/6.3 at 600mm means dropping my shutter speed and even though the Sigma has excellent stabilisation, that only reduces camera shake - it doesn't freeze the subject.

    And again as the light level falls I need to ramp up the ISO to keep a decent shutter speed.  The 70D has OK high ISO performance but there is unacceptable noise increase above around ISO800 that reduces the sharpness of the image.

    Having to use wide aperture to optimise ISO and shutter speed means a compromise on depth of field.  At 600mm this is great to separate subject from background but sometimes it can result in, for example, the head being in focus but not the body.

    The Sigma is a great lens but sometimes the AF is a little sluggish as it hunts around for the sweet spot.  Result is many lost shots.

    I have tumbled and skidded down slopes on my backside a few times so my gear has taken a bit of a battering.  It has survived with a few scuffs but the more it happens the more likely it is to fail.

    Finally, because of the lack of weatherproofing on lens and body everything stops when the rain starts to fall.

    In summary...  

    As an amateur you can tolerate the inconveniences I have listed above but when, as a pro, your livelihood depends on delivering perfect images to a fixed time schedule you can't tolerate that.  You have to be able to work in all conditions and for that you need the top gear - not just lenses, but camera body too.

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  • 2 months ago

    The problem with using shorter focal length lenses is reach. You can get by with a shorter telephoto, I used a 70/75-300 for years. Depending on what the lens it attached to, you can often crop your shots to make up for some of that lack of reach, but that will only get you so far.

    Take a look at the used market, like and the used department at B&H Photo. You can find decent lenses for much less than new cost on both sites. They aren't going to be cheap, but 40 to 60 percent less than new is common. Both have a huge number of long telephotos available for whatever mount you need.

    A year ago I bought a Sigma 150-600 (C), and it makes all the difference the type of shots I do... mostly birding. I bought mine new on sale, but had been looking at those used sights for months. Both models of the Sigma and the Tamron 2nd model (Di II) are very good lenses. My wife was loaned one of the Tamron models from her brother for a few months, and he is still using it.

    But you can look at models like the Bigma (Sigma 50-500) or older Tamron like the 200-400. Sigma 120-400. The long primes are going to cost more, if you wish to go that route. I prefer zooms.

    Save the pennies... you'll be able to get something longer (and almost always better) than a 70-300. I still carry a Nikon AF-P 70-300 VR for when I just don't want to lug around a 4 pound lens. Very good photos, very fast focus, and weighs almost nothing compared to the 150-600.

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  • 2 months ago

    It will be a challenge as wildlife photography generally means a good ranged lens. 

    Look at second hand lenses as most people care about their camera equipment. I've bought tons of second hand stuff. Even if it just ties you over to get a good Lens. I've even asked friends to have a loan of their lenses if that could be an option. 

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  • 2 months ago

    In wildlife photography your subjects are most likely moving and you might need to zoom so a lot of technical things come into play. You can definitely do good with decent lens but don't go overboard with cheap lens as that will definitely bring more frustration.

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  • Sumi
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    A famous wildlife photographer was once asked: "What does it take to be a great wildlife photographer?"  He answered: "A wheelbarrow full of cash."  Wildlife photography is one of the few genres of photography where your gear really, really matters a lot!  If you don't have lenses in the 400-800mm range, you'll never make it as a pro.  But realize that those who do own those $$$ lenses got them late in their career. Renting is really the only feasible option.

    A $1,000 for a lens is nothing.  Wildlife photographers have lenses ranging from $6,000 to $13,000 along with various other lenses.  They easily have $75,000 in cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods and many other pieces of equipment, and this doesn't even include their computer and storage systems.

    You will eventually be able to afford these lenses.  As your work improves with what you have, you're likely to get better paying jobs which will provide you with the necessary disposable income to afford a lens like a 150-600mm which is around $1,000.  With that in your bag, you might be able to get some shots that are worthy of being sold. 

    It's all baby steps.  Unless your last name is Gates or Bezos, nobody just goes out and buys a couple Canon 1Dx or Nikon D5 bodies along with a 300mm f/2.8, 400mm f/2.8, 500 f/4 and 600mm f/4 and an 800mm f/5.6 along with boat-load of other things. like a $1,500 tripod, and a $8,000 computer system.  It all comes bits at a time.

    When you're really good and can justify it, you'll get more expensive lenses.  But for now, use what you have, can buy or rent ( is a good spot) and learn the fundamentals of photography and the specifics of wildlife photography.  A lot of what a great wildlife photographer uses is his/her knowledge of the behavior of the animals being photographed.  So study up.

    • Sir Caustic
      Lv 6
      2 months agoReport

      Note to "Oaktown" - Basically, he means "no".

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  • 2 months ago

    No, but not because of the lens. Photography as an occupation is essentially dead.

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  • 2 months ago

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  • 2 months ago

    Oh, yes. Yes, there is. There's absolutely no doubt about it. Reading through your other questions, you seem to be a highly motivated, risk-taking, extroverted and ambitious guy. You're doing well. Hope this helped.

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  • How much do you think those trips are going to cost to go shoot the wildlife?

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