So You Want To Be A Nature Photographer

What it really means to be a professional nature photographer
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nature photography

I’ve heard it said that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. As photography has been a long time profession in addition to being a passion, to some extent, the above holds true. But before I encourage you to quit your day job, cash out and hit the road with your camera and camper, hear me out with regards to what I mean by, “to some extent, the above holds true.”

When I’m out in nature and everything comes together, it’s tough to think of anything that’s better. When the light is dramatic, when animals display rarely witnessed behavior, when carpets of flowers are peak, when the fall colors are prime, all make shooting in the wild wonderful, productive, and quite often profitable. BUT for those rare experienced days or situations, there are countless ones where not a single image is made. The preconceived notion amongst the masses is that all postcard shots are easily repeatable. This is NOT the case. Let’s take a look at some of the hurdles that must be cleared in order to capture an image about which you can feel proud.

how to be a nature photographer

Are you willing to be away from your home and family for weeks at a time? While you’re on the road, can you live on a budget that makes it feasible to justify the trip? Can you deal with eating meals out of a can while you wait for the light that may be obscured by thick gray clouds to be dramatic? Do you enjoy waking up at 4:30AM and driving an hour to a location and have nothing develop in the way of interest? Can you deal with the rising cost of gas to make the drive to the location you wish to photograph? Can you accept the fact the day you arrive at your location coincides with a severe weather front where rain is in the forecast for the next seven days? So far, how many “Yes” answers do you have?

Let’s continue: Are you capable of photographing other subjects if you are not making sales of your nature images? Does the thought of photographing an occasional wedding make you cringe? Do you have marketing skills that are superior to the hundreds of thousands of other photographers who are trying to make a living selling nature shots? Unfortunately, buyers are not going to knock on your door unless you get your name out there! Can you deal with editor’s deadlines and requirements that differ from publisher to publisher? Do you have computer skills and record keeping abilities so you’ll know which company has what photos and when they’re due back? When you make a submission, are you willing to wait nine months to a year to see if you are even in the running to make a sale?

I could go on and on. My goal is not to discourage you from pursuing your dream but to have you appreciate that the glamour behind the occupation is not all it’s cracked up to be. More power to you if you have the drive. As a matter of fact, I encourage you to pursue your goal. So the next time you see an amazing nature shot, respect the photographer for what he or she had to endure. For every published image I’ve had, there are myriads I’ve discarded, thousands I wouldn’t dare show in public, and many more I’ve taken just to prove I was there. As for the future, more of the same as I do love my job and can’t think of a better way to live my life despite all the hurdles in paragraphs three and four. If you’re of the same mind set, I’ll see you in the field!