- Tools of the trade: Research what photographic equipment the pros are using and buy the same equipment. I use canon cameras and lenses and photoshop and lightroom for processing. Yes, the equipment and software is expensive and yes, that is a big part of the reason that the professionals images look so good. You can race a pinto against a ferrari on a race track, but the only thing in common between the two will be the track that they race on. There is absolutely no way that a pinto is going to compete with a ferarri on a timed lap and there is no way you are going to compete your point and shoot camera up against the equipment that the pros use.
- Homework and practice: the beautiful thing about photography is there is a never ending amount of techniques to learn and practice. The nice thing is that you will be rewarded and will learn more on every photo shoot that you go on.
- Research where pros photograph their subjects and go there. Do as the pros do.
- If you want to produce images like the pros, then keep on top of R and D; Rip off and Duplicate and add your own signature or style to your niche. How do you think the pros became pros? They pretty much followed these simple steps.
To photograph these leopards I had to research where to go to find them. Many photographers travel across the world and never get a chance to even see one leopard. We saw them every day on safari. You can't photograph them if you can't see them, so do your homework.
To photograph these lions, I needed the right equipment. I needed a long lens, so I could keep my distance without getting eaten:). The right equipment in the right place.
You definitely don't want to be close to bears when you are photographing them. A 600 mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter comes in pretty handy when you want a picure of something that may just eat you if you get too close.
All the rest you can learn. You can learn photoshop. That is just hours in front of a computer, googling questions when you need to know step by step instructions on how to improve an image. You can learn about speed and aperature, composition from books, trial and error.
Keep snapping. The professional equipment is expensive, but the lenses are pretty much timless. The canon lens technology hasn't changed much in years, so invest as much as you can in good lenses and enjoy your photography.