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.
From the Editor: This article has consistently been one of NANPA’s most popular blog posts, despite being originally published in 2015. We bring it back in case you missed it the first time and to kick off an occasional series of articles on the business side of nature photography. If you have tips or ideas on running a successful nature photography business, share them with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am often asked if it’s possible to make a living as a nature photographer. No matter whether you attempt to do it as a full-time professional or a part-timer to supplement income from an existing job, there are many things to consider. Nature photography is a tough way to make a living. However if you do it right, you can make it work.
Both full-time and part-time photographers need to remember and understand these concepts:
You need to get really (and I mean really) good as a photographer. This takes many years of working hard. As the late, great Henri Cartier-Bresson famously observed, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
Be prepared to spend as much or more time in your office as in the field.
You must deal with rejection.
Full-time photographers can add these to the list:
If no one buys your work or attends your workshops, you don’t eat.
You have to know your market and change when necessary.
Develop business savvy.
Be able to justify expenditures such as travel, equipment and extensive marketing (website, social etc.).
About five years ago, I was taken aback when a female professional wildlife photographer somewhat condescendingly told me she didn’t think it was possible to be a professional nature/wildlife photographer and be a mother of young kids. I’d never met a woman who discouraged other women from following their dreams and trying to make it work, no matter what the obstacles. I was somewhat taken aback. While I can understand and admit that it’s sometimes challenging to get out in the field to photograph, I do not consider having kids a liability to anything I’ve wanted to do. When I met this lady I was near the beginning of my path, seriously following my heart to become a good photographer, and I’m glad I didn’t give up on the idea of being a photographer.
So in honor of the first day of the school year and having the house to myself, I thought I’d share a few ideas on how I’ve been able to mesh the two pursuits and make it work. Continue reading →
I was born and raised in Sitka, Alaska, and fell in love with nature at a young age. My interest in photography began at thirteen and quickly developed into an avid passion that has awarded me many unique opportunities and winnings in local, state, and international contests, including the North Pacific Research Board (state) and Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year (international) photo contests. Continue reading →
Learning a craft used to happen under a master and apprentice relationship. The masters, experts in their fields, would accept apprentices to work under them and learn the trade or craft. The arrangement required the apprentice to live with or close to the master.
Through the years learning trades and crafts moved to schools. Books and teachers replaced the master and students were sent on our way to figure things out on our own. I love school and learning from books and teachers, and I taught myself photography from books and practice. But I also got to a point where I needed additional feedback from living people who cared about my photography and my goals and who could push me beyond my comfort zone, which is what mentorships are designed to do. And unlike centuries (or even decades) ago, mentors and protégés (or masters and apprentices) don’t necessarily need to be in the same place at the same time to have a meaningful relationship. Continue reading →
This flower image earned Kathy an honorable mention in Nature’s Best in the mid-1990s.
Many photographers view photo contests as a way to achieve recognition for their work. Landing a big prize can be a great way to get your photography in front of the public and potential buyers. Yet, not every photo contest is a winner. There are photo contests and there are photo scams. Smart photographers learn the difference.
Legitimate photo contests are fairly easy to spot. They are sponsored by a reputable magazine, organization, public park or government agency. The winning entries are guaranteed a prize and prestige. The prize can be money, merchandise or something as simple as a ribbon. The prestige can be publication of the image in a special issue of the magazine, an exhibition of winning prints in a public place, a traveling exhibit of the prints, and maybe an all-expenses-paid trip to the awards ceremony.
National magazines like Nature’s Best, National Wildlife, and Audubon run annual photo contests that attract the best images from photographers of all skill levels. One of my images won an honorable mention in a Nature’s Best contest in the mid-1990s, and I still brag about it to this day.
This image is one of my favorites created towards the end of my journey to Level 20. The Little Susitna River is at the height of fall color. I wanted to blur the water to capture the essence of it flowing over the boulders. I used the fog and trees to frame the image and processed it to bring the colors out in the trees and water.
I had the most wonderful opportunity this past year to grow as a photographer. In April, Karen Hutton, a mentor at The Arcanum—a new online learning platform based on the master and apprentice method of learning—selected me to be in her cohort. I applied to The Arcanum because my photography had stalled. I wanted to get better, but most workshops and learning opportunities were beyond my reach, because they are either far from home or expensive. The Arcanum fit me perfectly. I would receive personal attention from a mentor and work with a small group of photographers who would get to know me and my goals. Continue reading →
Thanks to all of the 400 NANPA members who participated in the recent Member Survey. You provided valuable feedback on NANPA, it’s programs, and your needs as members.
Input from the NANPA board and committee chairs guided my creation of this survey. An overview and detailed report of the results were presented to the NANPA Board in August and shared with all NANPA committee chairs and NANPA staff. Here, we are presenting a partial summary of the results with you. Continue reading →
Homestead, Florida USA. Burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia floridana) are diurnal birds that make their home in the ground. Photographing these birds was a difficult task. I wanted a close perspective with a wide angle to show their habitat which is rarely showcased in owl photography. I failed many times while trying to find a way to disguise my camera and leave the birds undisturbed. Luckily, their burrows had been marked with road cones. For 6 months I visited the owls and placed my camera inside the cone and using an intervalometer, I took an exposure every 5 seconds. Setting my camera to beep before each exposure ensured the owls would be looking my direction. I used a polarizer to bring out the blues in the sky and soften the light on the grass. Photo by Mac Stone.
Text and Photos by Mac Stone
Many people are calloused by social media and I have to admit that I am too. Our audience is so distracted by the constant onslaught of content from all around the world that the photography market has turned into a fast food drive through line. Images that have taken us months to make are quickly posted, commented on, liked, shared and then forgotten about. It seems like a black hole, but we aren’t the only ones facing this problem and there are lessons to be learned.
Consider National Public Radio (NPR) for a moment. All year, they offer incredible content—some of the best podcasts and radio shows around—for free. In turn, they build a large loyal audience and when the time comes for support or premium content, their audience shows up in droves with money in hand. To me, that sounds like the same model of a photographer’s Facebook page.
The photography market has changed so much in the last ten years. Today, it’s not just the agencies that have access to large markets. With social media, we’re able to reach a very specific or a broad range of demographics, potential customers or future enthusiasts for our work. Continue reading →