Over 10 years ago, Jackie Wild started practicing wildlife photography and she has never looked back. It also led her to specialise in guiding wildlife and photographic tours which brings together all the things she loves – wildlife, photography, and people. Also an entrepreneur, she manages a nature-inspired clothing brand.

A Jaguar walks along a sandy area along the rivers in the Pantanal, Brazil

A Jaguar walks along a sandy area along the rivers in the Pantanal, Brazil.

What is your favourite genre to shoot?

Wildlife photography without a doubt!

What gear can you not go without?

If lockdown has taught me anything, it is that you can live without many things! That said, I love my Nikon D850 camera, together with the 400mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. Lately, I also enjoy using the 24-70mm. Add to that my iPhone, Macbook Pro, binoculars, and warm down jacket – those are my essentials!

Wild Boys: Two male lions from Savuti, Botswana.

Wild Boys: Two male lions from Savuti, Botswana.

What motivates you to continue taking pictures?

I’m addicted – I have no choice anymore! I seriously love being in the bush. There is nothing that makes me happier than being in the wild with my camera: Coming back after a day out, sitting around a campfire with nothing but the crackling of a fire and the bush sounds, checking through the images of the day.

And I haven’t even come close to where I’d like to be in photography – the shot list and species list is very long. The anticipation of getting that next best shot also drives me to continue taking photos.

How do you go from concept to action (photographing the subject) and result?

Although I have many ideas of the images that I’d like to capture, in nature it rarely happens that things turn out as planned. For that reason, I’m very flexible in the bush and although there are certain species I prefer to photograph, I will shoot any scene that has potential.

When I encounter a great scene and time is on my side I usually end up taking as many images in as many ways as possible – close-up portraits with a long lens, wider shots, motion blurs, with and without flash, etc. Certain images remain my favourite but it’s great to work a scene and get the most out of it. When you do eventually get one of those scenes that you had always hoped for (which is far and few between) it’s a great joy! Having planned it in your mind, you can then shoot instinctively.

A Hyacinth macaw: It is amazing to see and photograph these spectacular birds in Brazil

A Hyacinth Macaw: It is amazing to see and photograph these spectacular birds in Brazil.

A Skimmer

A Skimmer: One of my favourite birds photographed one morning against a dark background.

What kind of post-production do you do on your photographs and what tools do you use to get to the result?

I use Lightroom Classic for most of my work where I use most of the sliders and tools available in the Develop module. For arty images that require a bit more finesse, I use Photoshop.

Are there any photographers you adore and draw inspiration from?

There are so many local and international wildlife photographers that I admire, almost too many to mention. I’m always in awe of Thomas Vijayan’s work and, for the same reason, also David Lloyd. Both have a very minimalist feeling – the animal is the hero of the shot with nothing else detracting from them. I like their editing styles too.

Locally there are so many: Kirsten Frost has some amazing images and is technically such a great photographer; and Ross Couper has the most incredible portraits and processing style. Then of course my Tusk Safari colleagues have action shots that are pretty much unrivaled. This is, however; something that evolves as I constantly come across new photographers that inspire me.

Hippo: Taken at sunset in my favourite place

Hippo: Taken at sunset in my favourite place – Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe.

For some inspiration for our upcoming photographers, how did you get from being an aspiring photographer to doing it full-time?

I’m not a full-time photographer. I host safaris which is my foremost passion in life and continue to run other businesses on the side as well.

For those wishing to pursue a career in photographic guiding, I’d say that a background in field guiding is advantageous because aside from technical photographic knowledge other skills are equally important – like understanding animal behaviour, guest empathy and creating an enjoyable experience for your guests regardless of the shots you take. Having a good business background is always advantageous in life, even if it’s only to run your own photography business.

Never stop learning – the more you know the better you become, get mentorship from those in your field, watch YouTube videos, join webinars, do online courses, join a few photographic safaris, and practice, practice, practice!

How do you get paid to do what you want to do with your photography?

There are many ways to make money living out your passion. For me it’s two-fold: I host guests on photographic safaris and I sell images. From my guiding days, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed being out in the field and find it absolutely thrilling to help guests get the shots. I really enjoy being with like-minded bush-lovers, so it’s a win-win for me. 

In terms of selling art, I can be my own worst enemy and I’m often very self-critical but sometimes you just need to put yourself out there and promote your work because no one else is going to do it for you. You’re often so worried about what your more experienced peers may think that you limit yourself. That’s the beauty of art though – each person likes something different and it doesn’t matter how long you have or haven’t been at it – someone may like it and be willing to pay for what you’ve done!

Is there a specific message you want to convey with your photographs and how do you get that message across?

I would hope that people see my love for wildlife and nature in the photos I capture. So many people can’t get out to wildlife areas for various reasons and they often comment that they are so happy to see these things through someone else’s eyes. 

If people fall in love with something they end up wanting to take care of it and that’s my greatest hope – to instil a positive feeling towards wildlife so that people do their part in conserving the Earth’s wildlife and natural resources.”

A leopard descends from a tree at sunset.

A leopard descends from a tree at sunset.

Hyena vs leopard

Hyena vs leopard: A standard sighting in the Sabi Sands as hyenas follow leopards around in the hopes of stealing their kills.

What paper(s) do you prefer to print on and why?

After printing on a few different mediums, I’ve found that my favourite is Textured Silk. Thanks, Tammy from Art of Print for introducing me to this one – it is slightly textured and looks good regardless of the image.

Ilford Galerie Prestige Fine Art Textured Silk is a warm-tone paper that offers a 25% cotton and 75% cellulose alternative capable of delivering stunning contrast and sharpness with a large colour gamut. The texture of the paper enhances the organic features found in nature, and it works great for black and white reproduction.

What framing do you feel finished your work and why?

I’m quite conservative when it comes to framing – liking the typical white border with brown/black/white frame. I feel it gives the image space but doesn’t detract from it in any way; a great enhancement to the final product. Then I also like reclaimed wood in some circumstances – but it depends on the image and space it will occupy.

View more of Jackie Wild’s work on Instagram.