So You Want To Be A Pro Nature Photographer

June 20th, 2011 by Mike Moats

I see many times people posting interest in taking their hobby of nature photographer to the pro level. Myself and I’m sure other pros have people that contact them asking for advice on what it takes to make a living in this field. My response is that from my experience it’s a seven day work week and can be tough on your family life. I work about forty weekends a year so any family birthdays, holidays, christenings, father and mothers days, sports, concerts, etc, are many times missed.  This is much like the entertainment world, pro athletes, traveling salesman, or any other profession that requires you to be on the road many days a year.

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Nature photography is one of the toughest fields of photography to make a living in. I’ve found that for me being diversified is the key to making it. Having multiple streams of income keeps the money flowing. Those streams all take a lot of time to keep them flowing.

Marketing is number one, nobody knows you’re alive and in business unless you tell them. Shameless self promotion is something you have to get used to and you need to be the type of person that doesn’t mind this type of marketing as some would consider this bragging about yourself, but it’s just getting the word out that you’re in business and having some success at what you’re doing. I spend a lot of my time marketing, I write a daily blog post,  moderate on two photography sites including my own “Macro Nature Forum”, post images, post on Facebook and Twitter, and reply to photographers sending me emails with questions.

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I display my images in about twenty art shows a year. This takes up twenty of my weekends, many away from home. The shows start in May and run until October and consume almost every weekend for those months. Some of the shows I’m gone on Friday and return on Monday, leaving me Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, to print, package, and pack for the next weekend. During the winter months I’m going though the process of applying to these shows, which is filling out applications, sending images for the jury process, writing out checks for show fees, etc, keeping it all organized so I have a show every weekend. Taking time to keep track of materials and doing all the ordering and always trying to find the best prices. During the winter when I apply to these shows the jury fees and booth fees run about seven thousand dollars, which I won’t see again for months.

During the art shows off season I’m presenting my workshops. I do about twenty workshops which are on weekends. This take time promoting the workshops, adding them to my website and blog, sending out emails and post cards, posting them on nature photography websites, posting on Facebook, etc.  Working with the hotels on setting up rooms for the workshop all across the country. Planning the workshops and how they will run. Shooting images for examples in what I’m teaching in the workshops, and constantly updating the material presented at the workshops. Many days each year are spent on the road driving to and back from the workshops and art shows.

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Wow, I’m already tired and I haven’t scratched the surface on what I do. While all this craziness is going on with the art shows and workshops,

I have to maintain my moderator duties online.

I work with art consultants that buy images for their design projects, print the images, package, ship, and invoice them.

I contact companies that would be willing to sponsor me, work with them when they need images for ads, photo conventions, sometimes even go to photo convention for them. I send them promos for my workshops that they can list on their websites.

I do online workshops, which takes time again promoting, critiquing the participants shooting assignments.

I have a how to macro book that took time to write and have printed, I have to maintain stock at Amazon, maintain on my store front sales, packaging and shipping to customers.

I have five e-books completed and am working on more. Again more promotion, sales and sending the e-books online. I also make them into CDs to sell at the workshops and art shows.

I’m working on how-to macro videos for You tube.

I travel and present programs for camera clubs, photo conventions, garden clubs for flower photography, have done some at REI stores.

Send submission to magazine with article ideas, and once accepted working with the mag to set-up the article and images. Invoice them.

Send out information introducing myself to new art consultants, interior designers, calendar companies. etc. reply to their emails as they contact me asking questions about pricing, printing, etc.

I maintain a blog which I write and post as frequently as possible and I write when possible for Tamron’s blog. Post on facebook any updates on workshops, art shows, and any other happenings.

Maintain a website, posting new images updating art shows and workshop schedules.

I will visit and sell through art galleries, so time is spend traveling to the galleries maintaining stock.

I have companies that contact me for stock images, negotiate, send files, and invoice them.

I get to beta test new products for companies, and they always wait till the last minute to send you the product and need a response NOW! Take time to work with the product, Email back and forth with response.

I have charities that call and ask for print donations which I always do. Deal with emails, set-up time to make contact with prints.

Take care of all the accounting, sales, taxes, keeping track of cost of running the business.

Working toward setting up webinars for live how-to macro workshops online.

Wow, all this work is making me tired, I need a nap.

Now are you starting to wonder why I haven’t mention anything about shooting. As you can see there is not much time left to shoot. It can be frustrating and hard to schedule time to shoot, as you have probably heard most pros say that the business takes up ninety percent of their time. I do make time to shoot but it has to be scheduled at the peak times which for me are the spring and fall. The summer I almost never get out to shoot as the art shows consume so much time.

I have to say I’m pretty sure there are a few more thing I do, but I think you’re getting the point. If I tried to make it on any one of these streams alone it would be tough, but with a little income coming from all these streams I do very well, but I sacrifice a lot of time and family life to maintain this business.

I have to say even with all the work I do I can’t wait to wake up in the morning at five o’clock and get to work! I wouldn’t trade what I do with anything else. I always tell people where else can you work where people are complimenting you while handing you money!

Good luck if you give it a shot.

You can visit Mike’s blog and learn about his workshops here:  Tiny Landscapes

Mike’s eBooks are available in the OPG store here:  Mike Moats

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