top of page

An Interview with Wildlife Photographer Richard Peters

Shadow Walker

Winner | European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 Winner | Urban category | Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 | Buy Print

Richard is best known for a style that often favours dramatic light. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being one of the only British photographers to be named the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, alongside winning several awards in the prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

He writes articles for the UK's photographic press and has been on the judging panel for national and international photographic competitions, including the GDT European Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the British Photography Awards. Additionally he donates images to conservation organisations, which have included WWF UK, the Born Free Foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute and the Remembering Wildlife book series. But most importantly for some he won the Countryfile calendar competition back in 2007.

Snow Pounce

Highly Commended | Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 | Buy Print

Hi Richard. We worked together back at Sky News. Your job then was very different. You are an example of someone who puts an incredible amount of work in your free time to turn their passion into a very successful career. When you look back, what were the defining steps for you? A Lot of people want to follow their dream but don’t make the jump, did you have doubts?

I think there is always an element of self doubt and belief in yourself. Especially amongst creatives. For me, I knew photography was my calling because I essentially live and breathe it. It’s all consuming. Not in a way that shuts out the rest of the world but when you find something you are so passionate about that it’s on your mind all the time, it’s vital to see where that passion can lead you. When I worked for Sky, every moment of down time and days off were spent honing my skills. This led me to win some awards and that helped my name stand out within the photographic industry. Even with that attention, there was still doubt. I think it’s healthy to an extent as it keeps you grounded. The trick is to not let that doubt be all encompassing.

Lioness (colour)

Winner | African Wildlife | Nature's Best Photography 2014 | Buy Print

What does a normal day look like for a wildlife photographer?

The answer to this question might surprise a lot of people. The assumption is you spend all your time outside or on planes travelling. Of course there is a large element of that, more so than the average person at any rate, but there’s also a lot of downtime. I talk about this from a pre and post-lockdown point of view but in a normal year, I can spend up to 16 or so weeks travelling. When I’m not travelling, there’s a mixture of writing articles, doing talks, holding 121 workshops and of course enjoying a social life. So it certainly keeps me busy but I don’t spend my every waking moment behind a camera.

Light shafts

Highly Commended | International Nature Talks 2016 | Buy Print

Creative constraints are extremely important. Your images are exemplars of this. You turn normal everyday nocturnal garden wildlife into hugely dramatic moments. What was your thought process in achieving this?

There is a misconception that it’s ‘easy’ to create memorable photos when presented with exotic wildlife. I’ve had many comments such as ‘you’re lucky you can go to Kenya so much and photograph lions. It makes it easier to build a good portfolio.’. My answer is, well, yes. It’s easier to build a portfolio of lion photos. But that alone isn’t going to do much for me. And at any rate, a memorable photo of a lion is a lot harder to achieve because there are so many of them. So with my garden wildlife, I wanted to show you can achieve great things within your photography by creating unique images of common subjects that aren’t photographed as much. The most successful photo I’ve ever taken was a fox, in my garden. No travel, no ‘exotic’ species. Don’t get hung up on what you are photographing but think about ‘how’ you are photographing it. And one thing I always keep in mind…all wildlife is exotic to someone.

Badger in the Rain

Highly Commended | British Wildlife Photography Awards 2016 | Buy Print

You are a Nikon ambassador so you clearly have a favourite brand but what are the core aspects of a camera in general that make it good for wildlife photography. Do you ever like taking photos with your phone?

It’s very easy to get hung up on kit. To think your photos aren’t very good because your camera isn’t good enough. I see two main points when talking about kit.

  1. Camera’s are very personal. Simply spending £5000 on a top of the range camera isn’t going to get you very far if you don’t have a good basic understanding of exposure, lighting and composition. More-so, even if you do you need to buy a camera that compliments the way you shoot. Buying a camera that is more suited to fast action is a waste of time, if you shoot in a slower, more considered and methodical way.

  2. The camera DOES make a difference. We often hear phrases such as ‘the best camera is the one you have on you’, and that a pro photographer will take a better photo with a cheap camera than an amateur with a pro camera. Both are, for the most part, true enough. However, there does come a time in the development of a photographer's skills and ability, where the way a camera functions can hinder them. There are many examples. Smaller camera bodies, with fewer buttons, might rely on more menu based settings changes. Or a camera that uses one dial to change aperture and shutter speed, relying on holding a button down to switch which setting you change. That is slower to operate than a camera that has a dedicated dial for each setting. Slower aperture lenses that push the limits of autofocus in lower light etc.

However, simply assuming a better camera will get you better photos isn’t automatically true. Often, a better understanding of how to use the camera you have is all that is needed. For this reason I rarely encourage clients on workshops to upgrade their camera, as they often have all the tools they already need to improve.

The Three Stooges

Highly Commended | British Wildlife Photography Awards 2013 | Buy Print

You’ve won awards at the Wildlife Photographer of the year, European Wildlife Photographer of the Year and of course Countryfile. How did these awards impact your career? As a judge what do you search for that separates a great photo from a winning photo?

It’s very hard to quantify how helpful awards are in the success of a career, because I can never know what would have happened without them. Equally, it would be very naive to think they haven’t helped shape the path I’m on. I feel very blessed that some of my work has been recognised but I never allow that alone to be my driving force. I still take photos first and foremost for my love of creating. I’m just fortunate that my images resonate with others too. Getting hung up on competition success is a road to an unnecessary pressure on yourself. Always create for the love of creating. Always.

The magical ingredient that transforms a photo. The thing all photographers are looking for. It’s a hard thing to put into words, because photography is a visual medium. But I’ve just finished writing an article on Connection within photography. And to answer this question is to sum up what I wrote for that. Making an image stand out is all about connection. But often, what we are actually connecting to in a photo isn’t the subject itself. It’s the light hitting the subject in an interesting way or the composition creating an emotion. On a subconscious level we are connecting to those emotions, not the subject. Again remember, it’s not what you photograph but how you photograph it.

Spring Lamb

Winner | BBC Countryfile 2007 | Buy Print

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page