Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Success as a Nature Photographer

By Christina VanGinkel

Many people substitute their income through photography, and some lucky people even make a living at it, thanks totally to their photographic skills. Photographers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, with some better at what they do than others. Some work in or own a portrait studio, others take shots at wedding and various types of get-togethers. A step up from this type of photography, a big step up, are those freelance photographers capturing everything from the latest college and pro sporting events, to heading into war zones to capture the ongoing life and death struggles taking place. Somewhere in this midst of various skills and types of photography lie nature photographers.

The problem that often steps its ugly foot into the door though is that many, many people dabble in photography, and quite a few of them think their work is saleable, so the market is a tough one. Add too that the fact that for some of the jobs that a photographer could make a living at, such as heading into a war zone, most of us are just not even remotely equipped or willing to take on such a lifestyle change to make a living with our pictures. Only a rare few are that good, and while some of us might dream, the reality is that no matter how serious we take our photography, our work could never even begin to compare to these photographers, the true professionals.

So can someone in this seemingly overcrowded market make a living or at least a decent substitution to their income via their skills as a photographer? I am actually not sure of the answer to that question, but I have a few opinions on it, especially where nature photos are part of the consideration.

If your photography takes you to places that are not typical to the average person, such as my photography take me into the deep woods of the Midwest where I am able to capture the black bear in situations not seen by most people, I do believe the opportunity exists. If my skills as a photographer are lacking though, even by my own admission, being in the right place at the right time will not help me sell a single photo.

Therefore, my goal has been to make sure that my skills live up to my fortunate circumstances. If you find yourself in a similar situation, and would like to be able to sell nature photos for profit, be sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity put forth.

Learn the markets. Study what sells, asking yourself what it is you like about other photographer's work. Ask yourself what you do not like about other's work too. Pick up books from those photographers who have been successful in the market, and learn how they went about it. You do not have to follow everything they say as if it were set in stone, but it is possible to learn from others, and photographers largely are an honest group of people, usually quite open and willing to share how they made a success of their photographic skills.

Do not go out and spend a fortune on cameras and gear until you know what you want. The tools of our trade often vary from person to person greatly. You will meet experienced nature photographers who will not head out to take a photograph unless they are accompanied by bags of gear, and others who grab what may be to some an insignificant single camera and feel that they have all the gear they need. Both scenarios can be right, as being comfortable with your gear is of utmost important. If each are in that comfort zone, each is well equipped.

Nature photos often include the challenge of getting the shot before the animal, insect, or object moves, and being close enough, or having the right equipment to appear close enough. Moisture in its many forms, including bodies of water, rain, even snow, is also often at issue. Cold and heat can be concerns, or should I say the extremes of each, as is the distance from point a, to point b. Chance is not often discussed when it comes to being a nature photographer, but I believe it can have a some bearing on the success of one photographer when compared to another. If one is able to be in the right place at the right time more often than the other, that person may end up being more successful, even if their skills are equal. To be a successful nature photographer, you not only need skill, you need to be out in nature, so turn off the computer, grab your camera gear, and get outdoors.

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