Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The Future Of Nature Photography
The Next Generation • Show Me The Money • The Crystal Ball • Too Much Of A Good ThingShow Me The Money
Q How do scenic or wildlife photographers make money? My parents think that if I become a photographer, I’ll be destitute.
A Photography—like other creative occupations such as drama, painting and sculpture, music and dance—doesn’t pay much unless you achieve a very high level of recognition in the field, and even then, we’re not talking about huge incomes. Outdoor and wildlife photographers make money by working directly for scientific/educational institutions or organizations that market nature and/or travel; by publishing their images in articles, books and blogs that they, or others, write; by selling their images for commercial use such as in books, calendars and advertisements, either directly or through photo agencies that negotiate the terms and give the photographer a percentage of the proceeds; by marketing their prints at galleries and art festivals for purchase by collectors and other enthusiasts of wildlife and landscape art; and by teaching others how to photograph.
The field of outdoor/nature photography is definitely crowded, and it’s also costly in terms of equipment and travel. Many nature-photography enthusiasts support themselves in related professions, such as news, travel, sports or commercial photography (portraits, advertising, weddings) so that they can pursue their true love (nature) on the side. I trained as a biologist, worked as a graphic artist, went to photography school and photographed at a research university and for Car and Driver magazine before moving into full-time nature photography. Several of my most successful colleagues have taken up professional nature photography following careers in business, medicine or academia.
Parents are rightly concerned that children who dedicate themselves to nature photography—or to other artistic careers—may never earn enough money to leave home. But those who are truly committed, work hard to learn and develop their talent, and are able to promote themselves and their work aggressively do have a possibility of achieving greatness in terms of fame or fortune as photographers. Do you have what it takes? Some with great talent never realize their potential, and some with lesser talent overcome their limitations and achieve distinction.
It’s always good to have a fallback position. We recommend that you do everything you can to develop your photographic skills and experience while you focus on your studies and training for another, possibly complementary, career. Environmental issues are at the forefront of today’s demand for nature photography. Work hard on your science, writing and critical-thinking skills.
Whether or not you become a professional photographer, your love of outdoor and nature photography will always bring joy to your life along with a better understanding of the natural world and the challenges facing it. At the very least, this will make you a more interesting and knowledgeable person, and these are qualities that contribute to success in any field.
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