The Stock Market – It’s not what occurs on Wall Street everyday (which is impossible to fathom), but the many stock photography companies that purchase nature, wildlife and landscape images for a myriad of clients and purposes. What digital photographer wouldn’t want to see his or her images in National Geographic? Its editors, however, have a very limited number of positions for nature photos, and many of them are “reserved” for the proven, best photographers in the world. It’s important to realize that there are many more opportunities to sell your nature images for a multitude of uses on Websites, non-nature magazines and even posters that are part of the décor of a local bank or dentist’s office. Your excellent close-up of an animal, bird, insect or flower could also be used as a product logo or a symbol to represent a particular point in ad copy.
Fine Art – An insider secret of many digital nature photographers, who sell to the fine arts market, is that you shouldn’t automatically assume you must try to penetrate the obvious and most competitive artistic and cultural markets, such as New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, etc. It’s a worthy goal, but like photos in National Geographic, galleries and agents in these cities tend to gravitate to known photographers, leaving few opportunities for the new or unknown.
A Multiplicity of Channels – Successful nature photographers are successful because they don’t rely on just one or two markets. They develop as many sales channels as possible.
Publications – Again, National Geographic and similar publications may be your ultimate goal, but think big picture when developing a list of editors to approach with your images. Many magazines and periodicals, even some that are Web-published only and not nature-oriented, are searching for nature photos. For example, a company that publishes a birdseed or camping/hiking equipment catalog may need many nature images.
Do you aspire to be a successful digital nature photographer, creating unique and spectacular images, and then selling them, professionally? If this is your current, or future, goal, then a good place to start is not just technical knowledge and the right equipment, but also a thorough understanding of the nature photography market.
Your best strategy is to make a name for yourself by selling fine art nature photos to galleries, museum and exhibitions in your local area or smaller cities and towns. You may be surprised how many opportunities you’ll find. Many of these communities have very vibrant and active fine arts program with gallery managers eager to showcase local talent.
Instead of trying to break into the nature photography book market, especially if you have no choice but to self-publish, consider creating an e-book of your images that you could initially offer as a premium to anyone that buys one of your nature prints. As interest grows for your images in a book form, you can then pursue the bigger goal of contracting with a publisher for a book that generates income.
As an aspiring nature photographer, look for opportunities at local or nearby arts festivals and street fairs where you can contract for some booth space and peddle your images directly to the public. It is certainly “strictly retail” and a bit time-consuming, but it will help to create local word-of-mouth; and you just never know whom you may meet (someone scouting for new talent?)
As you build a body of work and become very familiar with a specific locale where you’ve shot many of your nature images, consider offering a photography workshop or tour, promoting yourself as an expert of the subject matter available in that area.
It’s equally important to spend some time learning about publications and their editorial bent. Once you understand the contents of a publication, you may be able to create opportunities for yourself by writing a short proposal for a story idea that will, of course, require your images.
A final tip: Many successful nature photographers advise that you avoid trying to photograph specific nature subject matter, so it matches with what you perceive a potential buyer may want to purchase. A much better strategy is to do your best work, created from your perspective, not an editor’s. If you have the creative chops and their evident in your portfolio, then you are more likely to offer editors or any buyers images that exceed what they thought they wanted. It makes the process a bit more challenging, but you’ll develop a much stronger relationship with that buyer for future purchases and boost your reputation as a nature photographer with a much broader and deeper vision.
Photograph by Photography Talk Member Nitin Vyas.
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