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Thread started 23 Jul 2011 (Saturday) 13:42
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Freelance nature photography?

 
Ganoderma
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Jul 23, 2011 13:42 |  #1

I am not at the point yet that i can open up as a genuine business, though i ahve decided to give it a run in the near future.

But I am wondering, if your not contracted with a magazine or publisher, is there any $ to be made doing nature/animal/plant type photography. This is by far my more passionate area, I quite dislike weddings/portraits/spo​rts etc. but it seems "human" based subjects are far more in demand.


I like shooting flowers, leaves, bark, bugs, waterfalls etc. IS there a market for this that isnt already bursting at the seems?

I have a basic by many your standards of equipment, but a good deal of decent stuff which far surpasses my obsession. But before i sink in another few grand into a couple more lenses and maybe a new body I want to make sure its the right decision. and if no one is paying, then there is little point sinking huge money into things that can only be appreciated in paied jobs.


I am not so much into studio, or opening one. I am more interested sitting in a puddle of mud for 3 hours photographing ant colonies do their thing, or wading in swamps trying to get good turtle shots...if that makes things more clear. But then, i have this feeling many people do what they need to do to pay the rent. model/wedding type photographers are a dime a dozen where i live (Taiwan) and add the fact i dislike that type of photography, its not a wise career move.


not looking to step on anyone toes, just putting out feelers to see if it may be a viable option for a career choice.




  
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Hikin ­ Mike
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Jul 23, 2011 14:26 |  #2

I do the same thing (landscape/nature/wild​life) and I hate people and I will never do weddings or portraits. I've sold a bunch of prints, but not enough to make a full time job. I would think you would have to do workshops to make a good living.


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ssim
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Jul 23, 2011 15:02 as a reply to  @ Hikin Mike's post |  #3

Most of the stock sites will have something that tells you what is selling and what is not. Most of them will tell you that unless you have a one in a million flower shot to not bother submitting them. Same thing with pet pictures, they just have way too many. There is a publication called Photographers Market 2011 (external link) which will give an indication of what magazines are looking for.


Is there a career in doing what you want, sure but for a chosen few. To be totally independent would be a tough thing, imo. You need to have some contract work from some magazines or publishers that pay the going rate. Prices are being squeezed because there are so many very good photographs available for pennies through the micro stock sites. I can't say as I blame the publishers for taking advantage of this, if I could buy something at the MSRP or through a discounter at less I would certainly chose the later. There are some very successful wildlife and nature photographers who have made a pretty good living at this while still maintaining their independence. One such person that comes to mind is Moose Peterson (external link).


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HappySnapper90
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Jul 24, 2011 17:07 |  #4

Ganoderma wrote in post #12809880 (external link)
But I am wondering, if your not contracted with a magazine or publisher, is there any $ to be made doing nature/animal/plant type photography. This is by far my more passionate area, I quite dislike weddings/portraits/spo​rts etc. but it seems "human" based subjects are far more in demand.

From what I've heard, those that write for photography magazines do it for exposure and are typically not paid. Someone can correct me if they know otherwise.

I cannot see anyone making a living by being a freelance nature photographer for magazines or other publications since magazines can find amateurs more than willing to have their photos published in their magazines for free not paying to use the photos.

And in order to make a living doing nature photography, you can sell at art shows but that'll require you to be good at marketing, selling, and travelling 30 to 40 weeks a year from state to state. You'll also need photographs that can sell. Go to local art shows where you are this summer. You'll probably see that 75% of the photographers exhibiting are also selling nature photographs. Highly competitive - too competitive if you ask me!

The best way to make money at photography is to have people to pay to be in front of your lens before you take pictures, i.e. weddings and portraits, instead of nature photographs where you hope someone will want to buy it!




  
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DLitton
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Jul 24, 2011 19:28 |  #5

Hikin Mike wrote in post #12810044 (external link)
I do the same thing (landscape/nature/wild​life) and I hate people and I will never do weddings or portraits. I've sold a bunch of prints, but not enough to make a full time job. I would think you would have to do workshops to make a good living.

what he said. I am going to be a senior in college this year, and while I would love to be a landscape photographer I realize it will be just my main hobby. I will of course sell my photos and market them as a part-time job and hope that overtime I gain better exposure and make more money, but I realize that right now I need to look into another job. However, that could be weddings and portraits if I (or you in this case) feel like doing that.


David

  
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stephenb49
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Jul 25, 2011 00:04 |  #6

As a former freelance magazine contributor and long time editor...(survived for almost 25 years at it) I have three comments which may or may not be relevant:
1."contracted with a magazine or publisher" ? it may happen in America, (but i doubt it) , there is and never has been any such such thing as contracted to a magazine or publisher in Australia, and all the nature related magazines here consisted of a staff of one, the editor, in many cases me, and everything else was the three or four reliable freelancers at any one time who could fit the bill...yes although there were several hundred freelancers, there were only ever three or four at a time who actually were worth the time and effort.
2. the bottom fell out of the magazine industry worldwide in the late eighties, and has not , and most likely will not recover enough to afford the luxury of paying people what they are worth for photos and copy. For example when forced to give it up :(when the bottom fell out there were never enough hours in a week to actually earn a living) I was regularly being paid around $AU400 for 2000 words and $AU500 each for published photographs. A recent survey of similar mags by my son who was considering doing a bit of freelancing was quoted a free copy of the mag for words, and up to $25 for a top quality photo which does not already exist on file or as microstock ((as judged by the editor - all of whom seem to be grounded in economics rather than drawn from journalism these days)
3. Equipment and especially the cost of one's particular equipment is irrelevant, and is best left in the in the hands of camera club discussion nights and those who append a huge list of all their gear to the end of their forum posts. In the real world it is how you use the equipment you have, can rent, beg, borrow or st..., and the results you can achieve with it, and really if you want to make a living at freelancing getting a saleable shot within five to ten minutes is the norm, not the luxury of three hours sitting observing life in a mud puddle
So...and I do really mean this 'cos my years freelancing were the most enjoyable: good luck




  
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Jul 25, 2011 04:12 |  #7

Thanks Stephen for the insight.

So, the best option should be improve self and get a job in National Geography?


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aussiedee
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Jul 25, 2011 06:18 |  #8

I'm right there with you... love landscape and wildlife and natural candid shots of people in public places doing everyday things. As for making a living from it, I highly doubt it'll ever come to that. I would like to sell some prints one day so I have an account with Redbubble and try to market myself through social networking sites.

Have I ever sold anything... nup! But I have been approached saying they would buy so-n-so image.

Hoping to one day get that "great shot" but I know I'll never be good enough for National Geographic. LOL!!!


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PhotosGuy
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Jul 25, 2011 10:09 |  #9

Good post, but I've aways wanted to be able to edit the Editor, sooo...

stephenb49 wrote in post #12816750 (external link)
As a former freelance magazine contributor and long time editor...(survived for almost 25 years at it) I have three comments which may or may not be relevant:
(Don't make me try to read a solid block of text!) ;)
1."contracted with a magazine or publisher" ? it may happen in America, (but i doubt it) , there is and never has been any such such thing as contracted to a magazine or publisher in Australia, and all the nature related magazines here consisted of a staff of one, the editor, in many cases me, and everything else was the three or four reliable freelancers at any one time who could fit the bill...yes although there were several hundred freelancers, there were only ever three or four at a time who actually were worth the time and effort.
(Don't make me try to read a solid block of text!)
2. the bottom fell out of the magazine industry worldwide in the late eighties, and has not , and most likely will not recover enough to afford the luxury of paying people what they are worth for photos and copy. For example when forced to give it up :(when the bottom fell out there were never enough hours in a week to actually earn a living) I was regularly being paid around $AU400 for 2000 words and $AU500 each for published photographs. A recent survey of similar mags by my son who was considering doing a bit of freelancing was quoted a free copy of the mag for words, and up to $25 for a top quality photo which does not already exist on file or as microstock ((as judged by the editor - all of whom seem to be grounded in economics rather than drawn from journalism these days)
(Don't make me try to read a solid block of text!)
3. Equipment and especially the cost of one's particular equipment is irrelevant, and is best left in the in the hands of camera club discussion nights and those who append a huge list of all their gear to the end of their forum posts. In the real world it is how you use the equipment you have, can rent, beg, borrow or st..., and the results you can achieve with it, and really if you want to make a living at freelancing getting a saleable shot within five to ten minutes is the norm, not the luxury of three hours sitting observing life in a mud puddle
So...and I do really mean this 'cos my years freelancing were the most enjoyable: good luck


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Jul 26, 2011 13:19 |  #10

PhotosGuy wrote in post #12818448 (external link)
Good post, but I've aways wanted to be able to edit the Editor, sooo...

<chuckle>


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snapshot2011
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Sep 18, 2011 06:29 |  #11

Not to burst your bubble....but this is why i have a normal job......I would like to be a well known photographer one day ....chances are very very slim...but hey who knows.


I am glad that I have a normal 9-5 job that puts food on the table.....I dont think I would leave it for a photography career...hhhmmm unless I was an exclusive photographer getting flown around the globe and earning some serious $$$$ for the effort

Ian




  
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Csae
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Sep 18, 2011 09:02 |  #12

I think i'll offer advice in a different vein than whats already been said.

Its super tough as a landscape photographer, but it is entirely possible.

You have a completely different and niche market to reach out, this means that there isn't as much competition as you think, why is that? Because when i think landscape photographer i think Peter Lik.

The only way to be remotely independent in a landscape survival is to cater to fine arts, emphasis is on amazing prints. Large, well done, well colored, well framed, well composed, Prints.

Not magazines who could never deliver the prints anyways. Capture beautiful things from around the world in ways no-one has seen them before, then print them to capture and you'll be standing out. For something like this, i'd suggest going straight back to medium format or large format right off the bat and finding yourself a very solid printing lab.

If you're set on magazines, the closest market you could get work for is National Geographics, and thats not just landscape but entire photojournalism, photographers who shoot pretty sunsets but can't capture the story of the fishermen doing midnight runs won't survive with NG.

I love landscape photography and have sold my fair bit of prints, i would love to one day work for NG, but i know that landscape needs to meet editorial, needs to meet journalism & documentary if i'm ever to be considered.


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