Into the Wild: Interview with Renowned Wildlife Photographer Roie Galitz
As much as it is breathtaking, wildlife photography can be misleading at times. When we look at an impressive photo of an elephant, a polar bear or a rare tropical bird, we admire their majestic beauty and harmony with nature. What we don’t see is the immense amount of effort that was put into capturing that magical moment. The long flight hours, the heavy equipment, the time spent in harsh weather conditions, the life-threatening hazards, the numerous photo shoots that never yielded a satisfying result… There is only one answer to why wildlife photographers are willing literally go through fire and water, and it’s this: passion. Passion, that just like a wild animal, cannot be tamed.
Would you like to take a dive into the adventurous world of wildlife photography? Then meet Roie Galitz, an internationally acclaimed wildlife photographer. Throughout his impressive career, Roie has traveled in extreme conditions to the remotest places on earth, capturing images of rarely viewed animals in their natural habitats. But gaining recognition from world leading photography outlets was not enough. Roie also founded an exclusive photography school (boasting over 2,000 graduates a year, no less!), launched a unique magazine for shutterbugs, and started one of the world’s top 10 photography tour companies in the world.
We met with Roie to hear about his adventures in the wild, the rocky road to success, and the must-haves of a photographer’s online presence.
Hi Roie, and welcome to the Wix Photography Blog! We’re super glad to have you with us today.
Thank you guys, it’s exciting to be here.
Did you have other career plans before becoming a photographer? What inspired you to become a photographer?
I got into professional photography at 24, but I didn’t really like doing the commercial work I was doing. I found it boring and was shocked to discover it had ruined my photography hobby. So I shifted to finance, which was also boring – but my passion for photography had returned and enhanced. At that point, I started teaching photography and founded my photography school which had grown immensely, up to the point that it had over 2,000 annual graduates and almost 23,000 grads so far. After the school became very popular, I founded Composition Photography magazine (God rest its soul, after 27 issues) and Phototeva photographic expeditions which became one of the world’s top 10 photo travel companies (almost a thousand travelers a year).
Impressive! And what inspired you to focus your photography on wildlife?
I love nature and wildlife. I always have. Something that I truly believe in life, is to go where your advantages become your tools of trade. I’m very good technically, but I’m not that good at one-on-one interaction. So I will never be as good at portrait photography as the amazing masters… But in wildlife photography – that’s a field in which I can truly stand out. Where your passion meets your talent – that’s the place you want to be.
Tell us about the process of becoming a world renowned professional. What were the major milestones that jump started and leveraged your career?
Well, I can reassure you that it wasn’t a short road, nor an easy one. It takes time and lots of experience to find the right path. If you’re satisfied with where your photography is – you will never get better, so I’m rarely truly satisfied with the result and I’m making a lot of effort to make it better. There are many small milestones in my path: an article in a local magazine, then a national magazine and then an international magazine; a small prize in an international mid-level contest and then a bigger prize in a high-level contest; giving talks in schools, auditoriums of 3,000 and then international talks in opera houses. It’s about gradually participating in bigger and more prestigious exhibitions and getting interviewed in bigger places. It’s about getting better and better sponsors as your recognition grows and so on…
It took me a while before I got to be featured on BBC programs and win gold medals in international contests. And I think I still have a long long way ahead of me as my plans are getting bigger as the path continues. There is no stopping or slowing down.
If you’re satisfied with where your photography is – you will never get better.
To you, what is your greatest achievement so far?
To be honest, the first thing that came to mind is my four little boys. But I guess you mean professionally, so I would say the film on the BBC, as well as winning several contests alongside amazing inspiring photographers and giving talks in front of decision makers in Oslo. You can add being an ambassador for DJI, Nikon, Skoda, G-tech and now Wix, of course :)
Your greatest goal yet to achieve? Your “I wish” moment?
My greatest wish is to get the opportunity to speak in front of decision makers in the UN, to raise their awareness of how fragile our nature is. And there are some other ones, that I’ll keep to myself for now.
What’s the image you’re most proud of? What’s the story behind it?
The image of the Apex predator of the Arctic, the polar bear, catching a seal through the ice in Svalbard. It’s not my best image, but I’m especially proud of it since the effort was immense and it’s the first image ever in history of a polar bear catching a seal.
What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you at work?
I’m not sure… there are always funny things happening with the wildlife, especially with the elephant seals, who I think are the funniest animals in the world. Like in this image, which I called “The 3 Tenors”.
Is there someone you look up to, a role model?
I have so many role models, amazing photographers who I try to learn from. I’d say Paul Nicklen, Amos Nachoum, Ami Vitale, Randy Olson, Melissa Farlow, Tim Laman, Brent Stirton, Daisy Gilardini, Frans Lanting, Marsel van Oosten, Roy Mangersnes, Suzi Eszterhas and many many others that I probably forgot to mention right now. I think I can and should learn from everyone.
Is there an important message you aim to convey in your photography?
Of course. That the world and its wildlife are magnificent. I want to make everyone fall in love with the animals and their stories. When we’ll finally become aware of the threats they are facing, we will be able to make a difference.
What made you open a photography school?
The passion to share the knowledge. Photography, in my opinion, is one of the most amazing hobbies. You’re freezing a moment in time and making people share your unique point of view and story. That’s amazing!
What is the main lesson you’d like your students to internalize?
That the world is amazing, every part and moment of it. All you need to do is look at it from a conscious point of view.
What would you say to someone who dreams of becoming a photographer, but is too afraid to “step into the darkroom”?
The best tip is to take the first step. Try it, click for a while and if you like it – then you can do anything you want with it.
Why did you feel that you needed a website in addition to showcasing your work on professional platforms like 500px, Flickr, etc?
All those platforms are nice, but your work disappears among many wonderful other photographers and creators. I wanted something that would show my work in the correct flow of information I wanted. It’s a portfolio and a business.
You’re freezing a moment in time and making people share your unique point of view and story. That’s amazing!
What was the easiest part of creating your Wix portfolio? What was the most challenging?
The easiest was the interface and the simplicity of updating it. The most challenging part was to decide which images out of thousands will be featured and which to leave out.
What are the necessary elements of a photographer’s website?
First of all, a good platform for showcasing high quality images – it has to look good, while obtaining the original colors, resolution and sharpness (the Pro Gallery is great in that aspect!). Also, it has to be easily updated, seeing as photographers keep shooting and sharing, and the process must be user friendly (this is a huge benefit of Wix in my eyes). Lastly and not least importantly – of course it must be appealing to the viewer – easy to navigate, straight forward and intriguing at the same time, clean and pretty :)
Which social platforms do you use to promote your work?
What tips would you give for running social channels as a photographer?
Share high quality content, appreciate and listen to your audience – it might sound quite obvious, but I think that is the key.
I wanted something that would show my work in the correct flow of information I wanted. It’s a portfolio and a business.
What tips would you give to a photographer creating their website for the first time?
Think before you start – what is important? Don’t share everything you’ve ever shot – choose the right content for your viewers. Less is more. Keep it clean and simple. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. Ask for different opinions and take advice from professionals in terms of design, UX and SEO. If you create a Wix site – every answer you might need is online and the support team is wonderful. Don’t be shy to ask.
Thanks a lot for your time, Roie. The final word is yours. A dazzling thought to share? A love declaration? An art manifesto? A quote to savour? You have carte blanche.
When you photograph with passion, combine it with photographic thought and wrap it up in composition and light – your images will be amazing. Never stop sharing and seeking the way to get better in what you do. Thank you.
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By Julia Ronen Creative Content Developer for Wix Expert Communities