A compilation of resources to help you create and submit the best photo contest entries
By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator
If you’re a seasoned NANPA member, you know that August brings warm weather and the beginning of Showcase, NANPA’s annual photography competition. And if you’re new to NANPA or haven’t entered Showcase before, now’s your chance to enter your best shots and compete for $6,000 in prizes, a variety of promotional opportunities to build your brand, and recognition from not just your peers, but also from some of the top names in the business. So, head for your photo catalog and start selecting your best images. One could be a winner, but you’ll never know unless you enter!
“The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing.” –Tom Fishburne of the marketoonist
Are you using your NANPA membership to market your photography business? There are some obvious and some not-so-obvious ways to do so. If you’re not, you aren’t maximizing the return on your membership investment.
NANPA recently held two online town hall meetings with our members; one with professional nature photographers and the other with enthusiasts. These meetings and a recent e-mail discussion thread among our board members are part of our ongoing search for the answer to one question: How do we better connect with our nature photography community, both professional and enthusiast?
The reality is that this pandemic crisis has given members of the board of directors and staff time to slow down and think about where we are as an organization and where we are headed, and maybe that is not a bad thing. And, much like the photo of the roseate spoonbill landing, it may be awkward, but we will get it done.
How can we stay connected with nature through our photography when our ability to safely venture outside of our homes has been curtailed? How do we connect with other nature photographers who share our passion and inspire us when our opportunities to meet through regional events, meetups and nature photography celebrations have been suddenly swept away?
Eventually, we will get beyond this crisis and will again be able re-establish our connection with nature, cameras in hand, as well as network in-person with our fellow nature photographers. By this time next year (April 28-May 2, 2021), many of us will be finally gathering in Tucson, AZ, at the NANPA Summit to again meet and greet our fellow nature photographers.
Beyond the short term, there are longer-term questions, such as how can NANPA engage a wider audience in sharing and caring about nature through photography? And especially, how can NANPA successfully connect with the younger generation faced with living most of their lives in an increasingly stressed natural world? These long-term questions are the ones that are the most difficult to answer.
A few particular questions in the town hall meetings resonated with me. From the enthusiasts’ town hall meeting:
Does NANPA have a mentoring program? While NANPA does not have an official mentoring program, NANPA members often network to find others with similar areas of interest who may be willing to share their skills and experience. During these weeks that we’re unable to network in person, you may want to explore the member directory to look for nature photographers near you. Find a few and look at their websites. Follow them on social media and/or subscribe to their email lists. Meeting virtually in this way can put yourself in a good position to introduce yourself in person when restrictions are lifted. If you aren’t sure how to use the member directory in this way, this tutorial can help:
Does NANPA have a way for those with limited mobility to participate in photography events? This is something that the board has discussed, and I believe we can and should find a way to accommodate those who may have physical limitations. Our regional event in Badlands National Park, May 31-June 3, 2021, is wheelchair friendly, and that’s moving in the right direction.
And from the town hall meeting for professionals:
How can professionals increase their visibility? Our reach in several programs goes well beyond our members, making these excellent opportunities to get noticed. For example, anyone who belongs to NANPA’s Facebook Group can post images there, but NANPA members can also share promotional posts once a week when their membership number is included (check the group rules for specifics).
Host an Instagram takeover of NANPA’s account, and/or tag your Instagram photos with #NANPApix for an opportunity to be featured in our Instagram feed.
Write blog posts, give a webinar, and submit photos for the Showcase competition. Showcase winners are featured throughout the year on our website and social media accounts and are published in Expressions.
Unlike other photography organizations, NANPA is solely dedicated to nature photography.
Perhaps you enjoy using your photography to further conservation. Personally, NANPA has opened my eyes to how photography can tell a story about a conservation issue. That is why we published our Conservation Handbook and why we added a category in our Showcase competition for conservation photography.
Maybe you believe in our advocacy efforts to protect the rights of photographers or that educating photographers about ethics in nature photography is needed now more than ever.
Perhaps being a member means that you can purchase good insurance for your valuable photography gear. Improving your photography skills is a common desire of NANPA members, and there are many opportunities to improve your photography skills through online webinars, regional events, summits and our blog posts.
Perhaps as a professional, being a NANPA member increases your visibility. Publications such as our soon-to-be published handbook Make It Work: The Business of Nature Photography, helps established professionals reach new audiences and will give every photographer ideas and tools for improving your nature photography business.
Maybe the biggest benefit you get is just being part of a network of photographers with a passion for being out in nature and sharing the beauty and awesomeness of nature in photographs. Could it be that you just love nature and photography, and that is reason enough to want to join with NANPA in celebrating and promoting the joy and satisfaction of nature photography?
Whatever your reasons for belonging to NANPA, the board of directors, staff and many volunteers are working hard to make NANPA the place where you can connect with nature while connecting with a community of nature photographers.
Nature photographers are used to being outside—hiking, leading tours, teaching classes, seeking new vistas. Now that the restrictions related to the novel corona virus have most of us stuck at home and confined to the neighborhood, what can we do to scratch our nature photography itch? One enjoyable and productive way to spend your time is in learning new skills or refining your existing prowess through NANPA webinars, sponsored by Tamron.
Story and photos by Tom Haxby, NANPA Board President
It is an understatement to say that these are unprecedented times, but we nature photographers are a hardy bunch. We’re accustomed to physical and intellectual challenges in our pursuits of excellent visual stories. And this isn’t the first time we’ve weathered the need to re-imagine how we do business.
In short, you’ve got this, and NANPA is still here to help.
Countless professional photographers are suddenly having to cancel trips, postpone workshops and reschedule face-to-face classes and presentations. How do you manage these unexpected challenges and find new ways to generate income or keep in touch with clients? Many are turning to virtual solutions. But, if you’re unfamiliar with the online choices, where do you start?
I connect virtually with people a lot. For nearly ten years I’ve worked remotely on a daily basis— for multiple nonprofit associations, their members, volunteers, and boards of directors. That means I’m not treading new ground in learning how to work from home or connect virtually with clients, as many people are today.
Fellow board member Lisa Langell recently shared with me a member survey from another photography organization which had been used to assess their member benefits and services. Serendipity, perhaps, because lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefits of being a NANPA member.
More than Pretty Pictures
When I joined NANPA just over 10 years ago, I did so because I was interested in nature photography and believed membership could help me improve my photographs. But I discovered that NANPA is about more than just taking better nature photos.
At the NANPA Summit in Jacksonville in 2017, and again in Las Vegas in 2019, I learned that nature photography is about more than just pretty pictures. It’s also about using photos to affect change.
In Jacksonville, Clyde Butcher spoke about efforts to save Florida’s natural areas and shared his own conservation work. His presentation was complemented by a video, created by NANPA’s Summit College Photography Scholarship Program participants, about attempts to connect these areas to create greenway corridors.
Several of the presentations in Las Vegas on conservation challenges in the Arctic were really eye-opening. Other Summit presenters like Clay Bolt and Andrew Snyder inspired me with their work on rare, threatened and endangered species through the Meet Your Neighbours technique. Because of them, I now have my own Meet Your Neighbours setup.
I’ve seen how conservation photography can make a difference. Want to get started? NANPA’s recently-published Conservation Handbook is available to anyone interested in learning how. Find it in the Members’ Area of the NANPA website or click below.
Ethics and Advocacy
Speaking of handbooks, we currently have available on our website a guide to the Principles of Ethical Field Practices. But that is just the beginning! NANPA has undertaken a much more extensive project to create a handbook on the ethics of nature photography. Your membership helps support large undertakings such as this that will allow NANPA to take a leadership role in educating photographers on ethics. Quite frankly, this is very much needed as the overzealous pursuit of nature and wildlife photos threatens both scenic places and the plants and animals we love photographing. And bad behavior threatens continued access to these places by photographers.
Your membership has also helped support our work on behalf of the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019 (CASE Act of 2019). If passed by Congress and signed into law, the CASE Act would provide photographers with the option of pursuing infringers in a small claims-type of process instead of federal district court. Read more about how the CASE Act will help photographers
Friendship and Networking
I will always remember the NANPA Regional Events that I attended in the Smokies and Upper Peninsula of Michigan—for the great images and friendships made. It will be my great pleasure to now be a regional event leader, myself, in the Smokies this spring with Hank Erdmann. NANPA has many more Regional Events scheduled for all levels of photographers in various parts of the country.
There are larger events, too, that offer many of the same benefits but on a bigger scale. Just around the corner is our second Nature Photography Celebration in Asheville, NC, April 19-21. These Celebrations provide opportunities for shooting, interaction with vendors, learning, networking and more. Asheville is a great place to be in April.
Travel and Equipment Insurance
As I move about the country with my photo gear in airports, cars, and on location, I am thankful that I have insurance on my photography equipment underwritten by Chubb in association with NANPA. You can find information about this and all the other NANPA member benefits in the Members’ Area of the website.
And Taking Better Pictures, Too
All that being said, my membership has also helped me improve my nature photos, just as I originally anticipated when I joined.
During my time with NANPA, I have entered the Showcase Competition, and I have been fortunate to have a few photos published in Expressions. (It’s a great source of ideas and inspiration so order your copy now!) This gave me confidence that I could get great images because, the reality is, if you want to be taken seriously as a nature photographer, quality matters.
I have attended many memorable webinars, both live and recorded. These sessions are free for members and a great way to learn or refresh photography skills. Best of all, you can participate at your own convenience, from wherever you are. Our next webinar, sponsored by Tamron on February 13 is Getting the Most from Your Long Lens with Bob Coates. Sign up or watch a recording of a previous webinar in the Members’ Area.
Portfolio reviews, offered at each Summit hosted in odd-numbered years, provide another opportunity for learning from industry professionals including but not limited to agents and editors. We are currently working on logistics for our next Summit in Tucson in 2021, so stayed tuned for that.
Blog articles are yet another source of education and inspiration, and I especially enjoyed the recent article by Bill Palmer on Chasing Spring Warblers. There will be plenty of warblers—and photographers—at this year’s Biggest Week in Birding Festival at Magee Marsh in Ohio at which, by the way, you can find the NANPA booth. Note that our blog is separate from our regular member and non-member news lists, so if you do not already get NANPA blog posts in your email, you can subscribe on the right hand side of any of them (including this one).
Perhaps you might be interested in submitting a blog post too. What a great chance to expose your photos (pun intended) and stories to fellow NANPA members. Just send a note to email@example.com. That’s what we mean when we talk about “sharing” within NANPA. Everyone is both a teacher and student here.
That’s true regardless of age. As I highlighted in last month’s blog post, young nature photographers are becoming members and getting opportunities through NANPA’s high school and college scholarship programs, both of which are made possible in part due to your support of the NANPA Foundation. By the way, the Foundation’s Online Auction has some great items up for bidding starting February 3rd. All proceeds go towards funding Foundation programs.
What Will You Do?
Gordon Illg has been known to tell me that I ramble, so I need to wrap up. But there really is a lot going on at NANPA, and I hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities. We are working hard to make NANPA a place for nature photographers to achieve all of their nature photography dreams. What will you do this year to help you reach yours?
Exclusive opportunity for NANPA members
NANPA members are encouraged to share stories, tips, and how-to articles on our blog. Not as gifted at writing as you are photography? No problem. We can help you craft a post.
It is always amazing to look back through my collection of
older NANPA Expressions magazines (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2018 and 2019) featuring the top 250 photos from the Showcase competition for that year. I may be missing a few years in my collection, but I am sure the photos in those years are incredible too. NANPA has a lot of really, really talented photographers and I am always in awe of the award-winning nature images our members capture. Occasionally, I have been fortunate to have an image place in the top 250 and I always enjoy seeing my photograph along with all of the other spectacular photos.
George Lepp reflecting on his career in a keynote at the 2019 Nature Photography Summit.
Last month’s Nature Photography Summit is over. Images from the trip have been processed. Gear and clothes have been cleaned and suitcases put away. Fortunately, there’s always something exciting we can look forward to. So, what’s next on NANPA’s hit parade?
At the Summit, NANPA announced that the next Nature Photography Celebration will be in Asheville, NC, April 19 – 22, 2020. The previous Celebration, in Jackson, WY, in 2018, featured location shoots, workshops, informative presentations, gear demonstrations and much more. Circle the dates on your calendar. More information will be coming.
NANPA celebrates Nature Photography Day on June 15th with a variety of events, from a photo contest to local workshops. This annual event encourages people to explore with a camera the natural world around them, whether that’s their own backyard, a local stream or a national park. Nature Photography Day promotes the enjoyment of nature photography and shows a wider public all over the world how images can be used to advance the conservation and protection of plants, wildlife and landscapes close to home and far away. Stay tuned for more information.
This year’s Showcase Competition kicks off August 1st. Exclusively for NANPA members, Showcase is your opportunity to win prizes, get your photos featured on NANPA’s website, blog and printed in Expressions, NANPA’s annual publication. You can see the top 250 images from last year’s competition, browse back issues of Expressions, or order your copy of this year’s Expressions. Get inspired and get out there shooting!
Throughout the year, NANPA offers several Regional Events, two- to four-day field tours led by outstanding photographers with intimate knowledge of the area and photographic opportunities. Attendance is limited. The June astrophotography in Arches National Park workshop is already sold out but you can still register for October’s workshop in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
NANPA also hosts a webinar series, open to members. The next webinar, VisionQuest Photography presented by Shane McDermott, will be on March 29th. Registration is free. You can also visit the webinar archives and view past recordings that cover a wide array of subjects. Have a nature photography topic you’re passionate about? Maybe you should contact us to present a future webinar!
NANPA’s Ethics Committee recently released guide to Ethical Field Practices. You can download a pdf of the guidelines or request cards pre-printed with the guidelines. In addition to helping us ensure we follow the best ethical practices, these documents make great handouts for camera clubs, Meetup groups and at other opportunities to spread the word about ethical nature photography. NANPA also has statements on Access to Public Lands and Truth in Captioning.
NANPA’s Conservation Committee has been busy, too. They recently launched the NANPA Citizen Science initiative, a database of science and conservation projects that welcome and can use the help of a nature photographer. Check it out. You, too, could be a citizen scientist! Know of a local citizen science project? Let us know so we can add it to the database. Coming soon is a Conservation Handbook.
NANPA sponsors a number of Meetup groups which bring people in the same area together to photograph nature. Check for one in your area and follow NANPA on the social media platforms of your choice.
As you can see, there’s always a lot going on at NANPA, and we haven’t even scratched the surface of NANPA’s member benefits. Are you taking advantage of all NANPA has to offer? One way to be sure is to check the New Member Resource Center, for an up-to-date listing of all the benefits and opportunities that come with your NANPA membership.