Shannon Benson, or Shannon Wild as she is better known, is an Aussie living in Africa with an overwhelming love of wildlife. Her work is characteristically vibrant and her resume boasts noteworthy clients like NatGeo Wild, WildAid, Africa Geographic and various commercial campaigns for companies like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Converse.
She’s always been fascinated with animals. Later, after taking photos of her pets, the photography bug bit and she started educating herself more on photography’s technicalities.
Before committing to full-time photography she was a graphic designer turned art director for almost a decade. Her transition to full-time photographer was a gradual process and she still consulted as art director for many years. “Going at it alone without a regular paycheck was daunting, but inevitably the only way to truly dedicate yourself to wildlife photography. Clients and locations vary and required me to be as flexible as possible.”
Gear talk: Photography vs. Videography
She currently shoots using the Nikon D800E but has plans to move on to the new Nikon D850 real soon. Since she often shoots in extreme environments she says that she can’t live without her Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia Rain Covers and Roller Bags “especially for air travel as they’re the perfect carry on size”. When it comes to lenses, she shoots with various brands like Nikon, Tamron and Sigma and will choose her lens according to which suits the situation best. Her lenses range from a macro to 15mm wide-angle and 800mm telephoto. These ensure that she’s ready to take that epic shot in any situation.
When it comes to video, she uses the RED Digital Cinema cameras and has a Helium 8K with a variety of still and video lenses. This kind of setup requires high-quality tripods to support smooth panning with large telephoto lenses. For this reason she likes the Miller and Manfrotto range of tripods. She also uses gimbals for smooth and steady fluid motion. To ensure she covers literally every angle, she has the DJI M600 drone to help put the RED up in the sky. She uses Think Tank Photo Video Workhorse Bags to transport all of her video gear.
Keys to success in the digital age
- Developing your style is essential. It may take years, but consistency is fundamental to ensuring a strong marketing presence.
- Posting work online is crucial but avoid oversharing and/or long absences if possible. This can be tricky, especially in this line of work as you often don’t have signal, but you must try your best to post when you do have Wi-Fi and preferably daily.
- Stay on subject and ensure that the bulk of your posts follow the same theme. “People don’t follow my Instagram page for photos of what I’m eating or wearing. They follow me for photos and footage of wildlife and details on the equipment I use.”
As freelancer, she’s learned to constantly produce content. If you want to be a wildlife photographer you need to get out, produce and market that kind of content as often as possible. This will lead to important networking opportunities. When you have an impressive body of work and show that you can produce on demand, it will prove that you’re professional and experienced.
Working as wildlife photographer, the most valuable lesson she has learned over the years is to not become complacent around wild animals. “I’ve learned that lesson the hard way and it’s a lesson I won’t forget.” (Find out why)
For the women…
Going through Shannon’s work and looking at photos of her I couldn’t help but notice how fabulous she looks in the bush! I simply had to know what her secret was and how she felt about being a woman working in a predominantly male-orientated field. “I certainly don’t always feel fabulous! Especially working for weeks or months on end in the bush or out of a suitcase. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate a long, steaming hot shower these days! In this line of work you quickly learn how to pack light since all the photographic equipment takes up most of the room.”
She started taking photos because of her passion of animals. “I didn’t go in analysing the industry and to be quite honest, never really noticed any chauvinistic behaviour over and above what I was used to in general being female.” These days she feels as though her body of work speaks for itself and most men are very supportive of her within the industry.
“We as humans need to live in harmony with nature”
If given one wish or superpower, she’d without question choose the ability to bestow balance in the natural world. “The reality is that we as humans need to live in harmony with nature and we’re simply not doing it. What we take from Earth is disproportionate to what we give back and we’re starting to reap the consequences, which isn’t good news for nature, wildlife or us.”
Over the years, she has collected countless memorable moments to cherish forever – from hearing a lion roar next to her to observing a baby elephant finally working out how to use its trunk to drink with. With three books under her belt and more to come, we feel that this devoted wildlife photographer is sure to push the boundaries and capture more captivating images.
Keep a close eye on her Instagram account to see what adventures Shannon Wild find herself in next.