More on Making Money as a Nature Photographer

Posted: December 1, 2015 in Uncategorized
Two days ago my post on making money selling your photos drew an amazing amount of interest.  On a good blog post I would get a couple hundred views, but on the making money post, it had over two thousand views.  It shows just how many photographers are looking to make money with their photos.  I get that, because I am one of those people making money with my photography. I found a quote on the state of the nature photography business by a very famous established wildlife photographer named Jim Brandenburg.  Here is Jim’s bio and following that will be his quote.
Minnesota native Jim Brandenburg traveled the globe as a photographer with National Geographic magazine for over three decades. He has done assignment work and has been published in numerous national and international publications including the New York Times, Life, Time, Audubon, Smithsonian, Natural History, GEO, Modern Maturity, BBC Wildlife, Outdoor Photographer, National Wildlife, and Outside.
His career with the National Geographic Society resulted in 23 magazine stories, several television features and many National Geographic books. His November 1997 National Geographic magazine feature, “North Woods Journal,” was—according to editor William Allen—“the most photographs the magazine has ever published in one feature in its entire history … and by the way, using the least amount of film.” The bestseller Chased by the Light elaborates on Brandenburg’s experiences during the 90 days. Brandenburg produced a sequel, titled Looking for the Summer. A sample of that project was featured in the June 2003 issue of National Geographic magazine and the November 2003 issue of Outdoor Photographer and was the first completely digital story featured in both magazines’ histories.
Brandenburg’s work has been featured on all major television and radio networks including Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt, Dateline NBC, Animal Planet, and the National Geographic Channel, as well as National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
Last year I was doing some exploring on the internet of different photographers and I believe I found this quote by Brandonburg on his blog.  It showed his frustration on the business of being a nature photographer.  As big as he is as a nature photographer, I take it he is also feeling the pressure of all the incoming photographers looking to make money as  nature photographers. Here is his quote.
“Business like Nature Photography has changed. It has become a bit bizarre. In the old days, when we were still using Kodachrome cameras, you really had to understand photography and be really good at it to survive. Nowadays, take someone with a moderate amount of talent but who has never made a picture in their lives before. They go to the camera store and buy even a cheap camera. In the same day that someone can make a magazine-worthy picture, if they have some sense of composition.
There are ten – even hundred – thousand photographers out there doing this and they have destroyed the Nature Photography business in terms of income. In terms of magazine photography, books and photo publishing, there are so many photographers that are willing to give their images away just to be published, just for the fun of it”.
I am like all of those photographers that came along in the digital age and started producing good quality images with the help of a digital camera and all the great software to correct mistakes, and improve images.  In the days of film, as Brandenburg states, you had to really be a good photographer with the understanding on how to work the camera and getting it done right without any post processing help.  So because photography has gotten so much easier to make great images, it has also lost the mystic of someone who made a great image in the film days.  I see so many amateur photographers that produce images that are every bit as good as the best pro photographers.  So of course they want to make some money as well.
The problem is as we have more photographers coming into the business it will cut down on sales of prints, workshops, book sales for everyone, just as it did to the stock photography business.    I surely don’t have a right to complain about this because like all of you wanting to make some money, I did as well.  I just hope I can keep making a living with my business for a few more years until I decide to retire.


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  1. Morris Burke says:

    Precisely. With the advent of the digital age, picture taking became both much more affordable and easier to do. Point and shoot means just that – with perhaps 90% of the population not knowing what an f stop or ISO mean. The cameras and those with attached phones are sophisticated enough that you can get good to outstanding images by pointing and shooting.

  2. Fred says:

    Good Story ! Thanks for sharing, this sheds new light.

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