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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How To Be A Conservation Photographer


Do you want to make a difference with your pictures? Take a look at these tips to get you started.

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This Article Features Photo Zoom
Product: When you're done, submit the project to at least five magazines (though not all at once, as this isn't highly looked upon by the magazine industry). Visit websites such as the Society for Environmental Journalists (www.sej.org) or Mediabistro (www.mediabistro.com) to get the inside scoop on pitching to a wide variety of magazines.


A volunteer for Wildlands Restoration Volunteers cuts seeds from native rabbitbrush in Boulder, Colo. The cuttings go to a seed bank to repopulate the area once the land has been burned to rid it of invasive plants.
Project Idea No. 5
Go Big And Don't Go Home

Challenge: What's your crazy adventure idea? You know that dream photo project that you would do if only money, time and experience weren't an issue. Write it down. Now forget about all the "why nots." Just decide that you're going to do this.

Deciding On A Project: CAT in WATER started over a cup of coffee and a conversation. Form your initial idea, then start researching what's happening with it now. Sometimes it's good to pursue more than one idea simultaneously. Eventually, one will begin to gain more momentum, and you'll know you have a winner. Remember, this is conservation, so think of places that have been protected, are in need of protection or are in the process of being protected.

The Method: How would you execute the project, and what would your products be? Would you record your trek through the place? Would you tell someone else's story? Would you team up with an expert who's going? What could you provide for the people working on the issue? What's impacting this place? Would you just let the place/species speak for itself?

Make Your Contacts: Check out nonprofits, research institutes, universities, businesses—anyone you can think of that cares about your subject area—and reach out to them directly. Craft an introductory note and see who responds. Someone will, so keep working on it, and send another note if you haven't heard back in a while. If you keep working on it in other ways in the meantime, they'll know you're serious.

Fund-Raise: Try crowdsourcing with places like Kickstarter or Spot.us. Partner with a nonprofit on a CauseVox project specifically for your idea. Put ChipIn, a fundraising widget, on your blog. The big thing is to be a social-media champ. Don't just ask for money. Think of promos. Facebook, tweet or blog interesting things about the project or issue. Send direct emails that feel personal. This builds an audience for your project before you've taken a single picture. Don't underestimate the power of the people and a good idea. Once the public is backing you, the editors are almost guaranteed to follow.

There you have it, your introductory guide to conservation photo projects. This path won't get you a quick buck. At first, it may get you no bucks, or more than likely, minus bucks, but it will set you in the right direction, and get you noticed and making a difference. That last part, especially, is what conservation photography is all about.

Morgan Heim is a Colorado-based multimedia journalist specializing in stories of science and environmental issues. You can see more of her photography at www.moheimphotography.com.

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