So you want to become a nature photographer. The reality is often much different than the dream though. Find out if you have what it takes to turn a passion into a successful career.
The Weekend Warrior’s Viewpoint
The dream occupation is to create gorgeous nature images and get paid for it. Go ahead and sign me up. Get paid to travel and photograph, see the world on someone else’s dime, expand your photo library and more. I’m totally in. Yes—it’s the dream job!
The Professional Nature Photographer’s Viewpoint
Photographers who own and operate their own businesses have many responsibilities. They must advertise, schedule appointments, set and adjust equipment, purchase supplies, keep records, bill customers, pay bills and, if they have employees, hire, train and monitor them. In order to run a successful business, the nature photographer must be creative, know and understand the technical aspects of their gear, have patience, stay focused and concentrate, pay attention to details, have strong networking skills, know how to relate to clients, be a good team leader, possess teaching skills and a whole lot more. Every job has two sides to the equation.
Living Up To Expectations
Expectations influence your perception of the services and products you buy. When you eat at a restaurant, you expect a certain level of service and good food. When you go on vacation, you look for reviews of the accommodations and research customer satisfaction. If you remodel your kitchen, you have lengthy discussions with contractors to make sure the work they perform is precisely what you desire. It’s fair to say that as a consumer, you base your buying decisions on the high expectations you set for yourself which, in turn, you impose on others.
As a professional nature photographer, it’s mandatory you live up to the expectations of your clients. Are you ready for this? Your website might proclaim you run workshops, but how many have you actually run? You claim you know every location inside and out, but how many times have you traveled to the site? What if the weather goes south? What if the animals don’t show up? If you do scenics, when are high and low tides? Where and at what time does the sun rise and set? You better have a Plan B for every scenario.
Educating Yourself To Become A Nature Photographer
There are dozens of other nature photographers who offer nature photography tours. Have you ever taken a workshop from any of them to comprehend the reality of what’s required? You may be a fantastic nature photographer, but can you teach? Have you ever taken any education courses? You’re good at what you do, but what makes you stand out from the rest, and what can your clients expect when you show up to take pictures?
Everyone wants to become a photographer for National Geographic. Have you ever watched any of their specials on PBS to see what these photographers endure? Some hang from the canopy of the rain forest in a hammock for hours and get bit by every insect in the Amazon. Some camp on the tundra for weeks and endure below zero temperatures the entire time. Some dive to the depths of the sea and withstand huge amounts of pressure in their heads while getting tossed around by underwater currents. How alluring does it sound now?
With the above being said, if you’ve got the chops and are willing to tackle the responsibilities and your life is based around photographing nature, there’s no better job in the world. Will you become rich and famous? Not a chance, but will you love every minute of your job? Absolutely. With regard to my “work life,” I’ve been very lucky. I taught for 27 years and loved every day. If you love to share your knowledge and enthusiasm as I do, it’s a dream job.
Marry Your Passions
When I left the classroom to become a nature photographer, I incorporated every minute of my 27 years of classroom experience and applied those teaching skills to the adults with whom I now teach in my workshops. I married my two passions—photography and teaching—and since doing this, I feel like I’ve never actually worked a day in my life. If it’s your dream to become a nature photographer, never give up your pursuit. If you’re willing to invest the time, effort and patience and deal with the speed bumps, I encourage you to persevere. Become successful and one day, everything I listed in the professional nature photographer’s viewpoint paragraph will simply be accepted as part of the job!
Visit www.russburdenphotography.com for information about his nature photography safaris to Tanzania.