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The ‘Big 5’ – A Comprehensive List of Naturally Photogenic Animals

Throughout the course of time, the ‘Big 5’ have been referred to as the five most difficult animals to kill. Needless to say, the world’s wildlife is facing a major crisis today. Over a million species currently are at risk of extinction and it is important to act now. However, photographers across the globe have taken it upon themselves to change this narrative. They have curated a list of the five most photogenic animals in the world. Let us take a look at five of the most beautiful and photogenic animals.

The Big 5 project

More than fifty thousand people from all over the world voted for the most photogenic animals. The top 5 animals who were voted as the most photogenic animals are the lion, tiger, gorilla, polar bear, and elephant. Each of these five animals has been listed by the Union for Conservation of Nature as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. These animals are being promoted as ambassadors for all wildlife and its numerous difficulties.

This year-long initiative has been supported by more than 250 wildlife charities, conservationists, and photographers. The goal is to raise awareness about the dangers facing wildlife through photography.

Marsel Van Oosten, a photographer working on the Big 5 project, remarked that this project was an excellent way to remind mankind that if we don’t change our ways soon, we risk losing these beautiful species and many other lesser-known species that desperately need help. Another contributor to the Big 5 project, Ami Vitale, commented that although the chosen five were excellent ambassadors for the project, awareness has to be raised for all creatures. Graeme Green, the organizer of this project feels that photographic tourism is an excellent way to raise funds for the conservation of wildlife. The project wants people to shoot only with a camera, and never a gun.

The history of the Big 5

Traditionally, the Big 5 list referred to the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot. This list included the elephant, leopard, lion, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo. Trophy hunting continues to be a popular form of entertainment, even today. The world faces a severe risk of widespread animal extinction. Unfortunately, many of these animals are endangered or critically endangered species.

The most photogenic animals

 Here are the winners.


The largest living mammal on the land, elephants are considered to be the engineers of the ecosystem. They have the ability to move vegetation and spread seeds, thereby shaping entire landscapes wherever they tread. Unfortunately, today there are less than half a million elephants alive. Approximately 55 African elephants are killed by poachers every day.

Elephants do not like humans on foot. Therefore, it is best to photograph elephants from an elevated platform or a car. As is true for most wild animals, one must not approach an elephant. The key is to be patient and let the elephant approach you.


Gorillas are the world’s largest primates. The existence of gorillas is crucial to the forests, especially in Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although efforts have been made to preserve mountain gorillas, Grauer’s gorillas are still considered critically endangered. Gorillas are threatened mainly due to habitat loss.

Cameras equipped with telephoto lenses are the best for capturing gorillas in their natural habitat, even when they are far away. While photographing gorillas from up close, 200 nm or 300 nm lenses are great options.

Polar Bears

The largest carnivore on Earth, polar bears are slowly disappearing as high temperatures melt the ice caps in the Arctic sea. Approximately, only 23315 polar bears are surviving and this number could drop to 2100 if we don’t take action against climate change now.

While photographing polar bears, make sure to mute all camera sounds and avoid using a flash. It is wise to use a faster shutter speed and shoot frequently.


Lions are particularly important for controlling the population of herbivores in ecosystems. However, their numbers continue to dip as the species is threatened by illegal poaching, bushmeat hunting, and habitat loss. Lions were built for photography in the early morning and late afternoon due to their tawny golden coats and blazing amber eyes.


Tigers are the largest cats in the world and are most in danger of going extinct. The IUCN has classed them as being endangered. You have a lot more flexibility in the types of images you can take thanks to the telephoto power of lenses.

Royalty-free stock photos via Dreamstime

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