Freelance Nature Photography

Mount Washington from Mount Clay in the White Mountains, New Hampshire.
Mount Washington – White Mountains of New Hampshire
 

Freelance Nature Photography – I am not big into writing about photography tips and tricks or ranting about the photography industry so this could be the only post I make this year focused on the business of nature photography.

How to start a nature photography business and be successful at it is always a hot topic of discussion among photographers. By no means am I an expert in the business of photography, but I do see the same mistakes made over and over by photographers just starting out.

Below is a list of things for you to consider before pursuing a career as a full or part time freelance nature photographer. Some form of these statements are always mentioned when working photographers speak about starting a photography business. These comments only scratch the surface and are based on my outlook on photography. The next working photographer may disagree.

~ Things to Consider ~

1) Save money – Have at least one year of income saved before quitting your full time job. Success will not happen overnight, and you will not be making thousands of dollars every day like you envision. It is very possible you will go weeks or months without making money your first year.

2) its business – From the first day you form your photography business, photography will no longer be a hobby or a game. It will be a serious matter and every decision you make will need to be well thought-out.

3) Insurance – You will need equipment and liability insurance for your business. Liability insurance is a must in this day and age. Some venues will not let you in the door without proof of liability insurance.

4) Invest money – You have to spend money to make money. Plan on investing money into your business. Advertising, education and photography gear will all be needed. More than likely your photography gear will be worth more than your vehicle at one point.

5) Specialize – Thinking you will be able to roam the countryside aimlessly photographing whatever you want is unrealistic. You need direction and should focus on a particular subject area of interest.

6) Image editing – Simple tasks such as adjusting levels, dust removal, keywording, monitor calibration and preparing images for clients are the very basics that you will do daily. Editing your work will be essential. Some knowledge of image editing software will be beneficial.

7) Publishing credentials / client list – You need paying clients to survive as a freelance photographer. Do not include image donations, non paying clients, or volunteer work when considering this. How will you survive without paying clients?

8) Portfolio review – Your friends complimenting your imagery is great for the ego, but shooting profitable imagery is very different. The soft and over-processed images your friends like, editors will hate. Have a professional photographer that works in the industry or an editor review your work.

9) Future of photography – Consider how your business will be operating five and ten years from today. No one really knows where the photography industry will be in the future, but it is a good idea to study the trends. Knowing the trends in your given photography field will help shape your business.

10 ) Proper Information – I am baffled as to why aspiring photographers seek advice from individuals, forums, organizations and websites not associated with the photography industry. Be very careful when searching for information. Usually (not always) the most reliable sources are from the photography industry.

11) Website – You will need a well designed website, not social media websites, where potential clients can see your work. Skip the image galleries that include music. Your trying to sell imagery not put clients to sleep. 

12) Be different – Here in New England photographers are shooting the same locations in nearly identical fashion. Dare to be different, get away from the same scenes everyone is photographing or at least try to photograph locations differently than others have. 

13) Study, study and study – If you are unaware that the nature photography industry is currently in turmoil, then you are not ready to a be freelance photographer. Do some more studying and reconsider at a later time. 

14) Check the ego – Editors hate egos and so do working photographers. There is nothing worse than a photographer who thinks they are a godsend. See # 8

If you have already considered all the above, then it is time to form a business plan and get your business rolling. Good luck with your new venture.

My two cents – I need to stress that working freelance nature photographers have a different mindset than photographers who do not rely on photography for income. I believe a photographer has to be in this "mindset" to be successful and survive in this business.

You have to have the desire to work at growing and improving your photography business. Life as a freelance nature photographer is not a 365 day endless safari. It is work, work and more work, but fun work. Do not live in a dream world, be realistic.

Happy image making..


 

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Erin Paul is a professional photographer who specializes in environmental conservation and historic preservation photography in the New Hampshire White Mountains. His work is published worldwide, and credits include; Backpacker Magazine, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and The Wilderness Society.

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