Where to Find Good Wildlife Reference Photos on the Web

If you’re interested in drawing, you know how important it is to find good reference images. But if you’re interested in drawing animals, and not just one here or there, you may have noticed that it is sometimes very difficult to find the exact species you’re looking for with Google Images, and, even if you think you have found a good picture, sometimes you can’t be certain that the photo you are looking at is the right species of animal. I have found some really good and helpful websites with great reference images and labeling systems, so you know exactly what type of animal you’re looking at.

Deer-From Sketches to Final Copy
Many sketches help to create a finishing image.

The best that I’ve found so far is Wildlife Reference Photos Galleries. On their home page, they have at least a dozen categories that you can click on to view, ranging from the broad (Apes/Primates) to the specific (Zebras). Once you have clicked on a category, you can see all of the images in that category but, for your knowledge and convenience, their species is always titled below. If you have a very specific species or animal in mind that you want to draw, you can always search on the left for the species name. Because of the name, I should note that they do not only have wild animal pictures on their site. They have a huge selection of domesticated animal species, too. The labeling system for these is also very good. If you search for domestic dogs, it tells you the exact breed and you can search for a very specific breed here, too.

If you’re looking at this website on a computer, you can hover your mouse over a picture and you will see in enlarged. To me, it is large enough to see all of the details in this view, but you can still click on it to see the full size. If you do this, however, there is a watermark, because you have to buy this image if you want to own it. All photos are $5.

Beautiful Watercolor Kestrel in Progress
Work in progress based on many sketches

Second on the list is the Wildscreen Arkive. This website is great because it provides an article of information about each species so you can learn about your subject better as you learn to draw them. The information provided is extensive. You can learn about their behavior, habitat, and efforts for their conservation right on one page. If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, you’ll see why this would interest me. The Arkive usually have around twenty images for each species, and offers videos of them, too. What’s more, the titles of the photos explain what is going on in them, so you won’t have to guess what their actions mean. For example, when I look for pictures of Coquerel’s Sifaka, a type of lemur, I can see from the titles of the picture’s I’m looking at that the lemur in the picture is feasting specifically on buds or dogwood berries.

Lastly, look up Youtube videos of the animal you want to draw. Videos typically contain images (if you pause the video) that photographers wouldn’t take a picture of. You can see different angles that you might not have seen before and, most importantly, you can see how they move. Why is seeing how an animal moves important to creating a sketch or drawing?  If you understand how the animal moves and how all of the components and muscles of their body work together, you’ll produce a drawing that is many times better than the one you’d make if you didn’t understand that.

I hope you found this helpful. If you have any other resources for wildlife artists, please leave them in the comments down below! And, until next time, goodbye!

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