Wildlife Photography Hides: What to Know About Workshops
Wildlife photography hides are popping up all over the world, offering photographers the chance to photograph animals quickly and relatively easily. These hides are great for those who don’t have the time to put in the ground work required to find a regular spot for an animal. Consequently, the wildlife photography hide business is booming.
But with that boom comes a wide variation in the quality of workshop you may be booking onto. In fact, some wildlife hides are created as an easy cash grab. You can make a good, regular income from offering experiences for amateur photographers. This means there are some things you need to consider, and this guide will help you learn what to watch out for.
How to find a good wildlife photography hide
Getting an honest opinion about a wildlife photography hide can be tricky, unless it’s from word of mouth. There are plenty of experiences that you can find on Google, but there is nowhere that you can compare different workshops and read honest reviews.
That is, until now. To address this need, we’ve launched the Nature TTL Hub. This is a collection of photo tours and workshops all around the world, and we only allow real users to post reviews. That means you can be sure that what you’re booking onto is going to be a good experience.
Try out our powerful search and explore the different experiences on offer. We don’t host any of these workshops or tours, and we’re not on commission, so you can be sure of quality.
Baiting in wildlife hides
To get animals into an area, a lot of hides will leave some sort of bait out for wildlife. This is pretty normal, and there is no real problem (in my opinion) with leaving things like nuts or bird seed out.
However, things get a little shady when you start to see hides using what is known as live bait. This involves leaving a live animal in situ for a prey animal to take. The most common example of this is live baiting kingfishers for diving shots.
Why does @BBCSpringwatch promote Kingfisher tank shots? @ChrisGPackham, surely there are more ethical ways to shoot? pic.twitter.com/qm88T1iCOQ
— Dr Daniel Allen (@Dr_Dan_1) 31 May 2016
What was once an impressive shot, it is now commonplace to see a photo of a kingfisher bursting from the water with a minnow in its beak. Amazing – until you realise that the bird is diving into a glass tank placed just below the surface of the water.
This is a highly unethical practice, and it is banned from major wildlife photography competitions because of the moral issues around the technique. Not only is it not great for the fish, but the bird can become injured (although this is rare).
When booking a wildlife photography hide experience, please ensure that you aren’t supporting live baiting. If that doesn’t concern you, though, please at least think about why that is. Is your image really worth more than an animal’s life? Images from live baited hides are rarely seen in a good light, and so if you’re taking the images for social media kudos you might be surprised at the reaction you get.
Is your workshop provider insured?
Another question to ask is about insurance. With so many photographers now offering workshops, it is hard to know if they hold the proper insurance. A bare minimum that you’ll want your host to have is public liability insurance. If you are injured during the day, you’ll be able to make a claim against this insurer.
This is something that we have built into the Nature TTL Hub. Providers that have shown us their insurance certificate receive a verification badge to prove it.
Are you alone or in a group?
It can be tempting for workshop operators to stuff as many people as possible onto a tour. This can be detrimental to your personal enjoyment, however, and so you should look at how many people are in the group.
We asked a lot of our readers if they prefer to be alone or in a group, and were surprised to see that being in a group was the most popular choice. However, there is a point when a group becomes too big!
If you’re in a wildlife photography hide, you’ll either want to be alone or in a small group. This means that you aren’t crammed in and fighting over the best position.
Does the wildlife hide have amenities?
Some wildlife photography hides might require you to stay in situ from dawn until dusk! If this is the case, check that your hide has some sort of toilet. You may be talking about a bucket, but it makes the time a lot more bearable. Otherwise you’ll be crossing your legs all day!
With this in mind, you will probably want to be solo in a hide for an all day stint. That is, unless there is a separate toilet where you can get some privacy.
Are you getting tuition?
Some hide operators will offer tuition from a photographer during your time. This can be great for a lot of people, although some professionals using hides will not require (or want) this.
Either way, check if you are getting any tuition from an accompanying photographer during your stay. If not, take a look at the price point. Make sure that you aren’t being ripped off just to sit in a glorified garden shed!
What is a fair price for a wildlife photography hide experience?
In the UK, renting a wildlife photography hide will tend to command somewhere in the region of £70-150 per day. Beyond this and things are getting overpriced, unless it is an exceptional species or including specialist tuition.
For the upper end of that payment bracket, I would expect to be in the hide alone. I would not want to be paying £150 per day to find another photographer in there with me, so be sure to check this before booking.
Offering wildlife photography hides and workshops is a completely legitimate way for photographers to make money. After all, wildlife photographers deserve to be rewarded for all of the hard work they put in.
But just keep in mind that not everyone out there who is offering a workshop does it for the right reasons. Some individuals are out to make a quick buck, and you should ensure that you are booking with an experienced and, most importantly, friendly host.
Remember, use the Nature TTL Hub to ensure you are booking onto a fantastic experience.