How to shoot a tiger: q&a with michael vickers


Wildlife photographer Michael Vickers has always loved animals, especially cats, but the tiger has always held a very special place in his heart. Mike has been capturing tigers on camera since 2000 and has worked with Born Free for many years. But why does he do it?
What is your favourite tiger photo?

It’s very difficult to select my favourite image from the many thousands of tiger photographs I have taken over the years. However, if I had to, it would have to be of an encounter that I had in 2006 at Ranthambhore tiger reserve.

My jeep was climbing up a narrow track next to a deep gorge. Half way along the track and coming towards my vehicle was Ranthambhore’s well known tigress known as Machali together with her three female cubs. It was a wonderful chance meeting.   

When’s the best time to capture a tiger on camera?

I find the best chance of seeing a tiger is early morning and late afternoon when the sun is not so intense. There is no guarantee of course, which is why I usually spend upwards of two weeks at a tiger reserve, therefore shortening the odds at finding an interesting sighting.

What was your most challenging tiger photo?

My most challenging image was taken at Bandhavgarh tiger reserve. I had been following a tigress with her two sub-adult male cubs until they entered a cave to shade themselves from the heat of the day. As I approached, they jumped to a ledge above, and just looked down at me. It was the most wonderful opportunity to photograph them as they were calm and curiosity got the better of them! 

What other wildlife do you enjoy taking photos of?

Tigers are my main interest, but I also take images of other Indian wildlife, such as leopards, sloth bear, chital deer, antelope, wild boar, monkeys, jungle cat, jackal, and buffalo plus some very beautiful birds and reptiles. 

I have travelled to a number of other countries photographing wildlife including Africa for the big five, Rwanda for gorillas, Alaska and Finland for brown bears and the Arctic for polar bears and whales.

Michael’s favourite image

Michael’s most challenging image

This year, I will return to the Pantanal wetlands in Brazil for the jaguar and other wildlife along the many fascinating waterways of the area. I should also mention Scotland, where I have spent many happy hours photographing ospreys, eagles and red squirrels.

Why do you support Born Free?

I have been a supporter of Born Free for many years. I admire the dedicated conservation work carried out by the charity including the rescue of many captive animals that have been kept in appalling conditions. I have also visited Born Free’s big cat sanctuaries at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa. 

Do you have any tips for Born Free supporters on how to take the perfect photograph?

Firstly, get to know your camera equipment well before travelling so you don’t miss the opportunity of a fantastic picture. 

Secondly, know your subject and learn about their behaviour before setting out with your camera. Where most wildlife is concerned, patience is essential. Take your time and don’t get discouraged if nothing much happens for an hour or two. I have waited for long periods of time and come away with nothing, yet on other occasions I have struck lucky almost immediately. No matter how good a photographer you are, you also need some luck on your side.

See Michael’s work at