Self Assignments Are One Way to Create Better Selling Images

One way to create outdoor stock imagery that might be in better demand is to try some self assignments. Try acting like a photo buyer looking for an image and give yourself the assignment.

In many areas of stock photography, clients are looking for pretty pictures for their calendars and cards, but in more commercial markets clients look to buy images that have concepts like Teamwork, Perseverance, Challenge, Longevity, and so on.

It is a little more challenging to apply concepts to nature photography but think about what the Bald Eagle represents: America, strength, sharpness, patriotism, and more. I also shoot people outdoors and find the application of concepts much easier, but the demand for the same in nature is there from time to time.

Keeping this in mind when you travel and photograph you will shoot as you normally do, but simply keeping an eye out for subjects and details that fit concepts can create images that might be more in demand.

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Have You Been Asked To Show Your Filming Permit In A National Park?

Many years ago I was stopped in Big South Fork of the Cumberland River by a park ranger who had seen my “big camera,” as she described it, and wondered what I was doing.

My “big camera” was my 4×5 field camera and in our subsequent conversation she wondered if I was doing commercial photography. I told her that I was a traveling nature photographer and using a big camera for the quality of imagery it delivered.

I also told her that I was not doing commercial photography but even if I was, the fact I was by myself no permit was required. She begged to differ so I pulled out of my camera backpack a tattered Xerox copy of Title 36, Section 5.5 of the U.S. Commercial Code which relates to filming and photography rules for federal lands.

After a few minutes we parted ways, on friendly terms, and I went about shooting. But I hear from time to time that lone photographers who might have an HD dSLR with a microphone and accessories and shooting videos or stills are being questioned by park service personal as to whether they have a permit. 

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If You Charge Too Little You May Have A Problem

If you are always wondering just what to charge during an assignment, you may want to read this post over at Larry Lohrman publishes this site and his post last week: If You Charge Less Than $150 For A Shoot You Have A Problem is well worth reading, even for nature photographers.

The markets are tough out there for all photographers and the competition for work forces prices down. The real question is just how low to go and remain profitable. Real estate photographers and nature photographers share similar problems.

Real estate photographers are in a category of their own within the architecture photography business. You have your high end architects and high end magazines like Architectural Digest, and you have real estate agents, all who hire photographers.

Each of these types of clientele has different needs and different price points that they may be willing to pay, just like nature photography and pretty much anything else in the photography business.

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Photographing the Mountain Bike Crash

I was on assignment for an outdoor products company and we were shooting mountain biking with several pro mountain bikers near Bend, Oregon when one had, I guess you would call it, an accident.

Using a forest trail with various jumps (some man made) and wooden ramps, I had the bikers zipping through the woods as I captured them getting air. In some cases I used a flash for fill and others I did not.

But as this rider came off the trail jump it appears he got his weight a little too far forward and landed on the front wheel where it subsequently collapsed.

My digital camera shoots at 5 frames a second (not fast enough) so I captured most of the event, but even at this speed I missed the final face-plant because I was freaked out that he was injured. But you can see the bike did not do as well.

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5 Lighting Tips for Outdoor Portraits

You are a nature photographer! You do that and you do it well. And you don’t wish to do anything else. But things are a little slow right now and not much in the way of sales this month. So you are open to pretty much anything that might come your way and something has.

That photo editor you worked with last fall on the story about a wildlife refuge, where you licensed stock to them, just emailed you and said they need a portrait of a refuge manager on a different refuge in your home region.

You don’t consider yourself a portrait photographer because your interest and business is all about wildlife and you know you will never have an interest in being a portrait photographer, but you are not about to turn down paying work either.

You haven’t used lighting gear so what are you gonna do? Well don’t fret cuz here are a few tips on ways to light and shoot portraits.

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Photographing Breeding Birds of the Arctic in Churchill Manitoba

by David Hemmings

When a nature photographer happens to ask you during a conversation, “have you ever been to Churchill, Manitoba?” more often than not, the first vision that comes to mind is Polar Bears and freezing cold weather.

I can tell you that most people will not think about photographing birds on the tundra in spring. If you are one of those who would not vision shooting birds out on the tundra of Churchill in the spring, you probably should.

Every serious bird and nature photographer should visit Churchill at least once. June in Churchill is fresh, full of life and there are beautiful species of birds everywhere in glorious breeding plumage.

With beautiful breeding colored feathers and landscape backdrops of light purple flowered and tundra landscapes you will be sure to capture stunning images of these beautiful birds.

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Why You Need Liability Waivers AND Model Releases

If you are an outdoor photographer that shoots people in recreational or adventure sports and for your stock image files, you always get a model release. Or you dang well should!

I can tell you that some photographers who are personal friends of mine, have paid thousands to subjects they shot and failed at getting releases. If you were shooting a decade or more ago you may remember when Corbis paid out a million bucks to settle a claim of no release.

We have already posted here about model releases and you are getting them, right? What about liability waivers when you take ‘adventurous’ people out to photograph them doing sports or extreme activities? If you are not you may want to consider it and here’s why.

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The Future May Be The Commercial Nature Photographer

Most nature photographers shoot landscape and nature photography for the peace, solitude, and personal experience that comes with it. Most shoot for that joy with no ambitions to be in business.

Others seek a full time creative career and feel that if they can shoot, license lots of images and make a living at it, then they’re set.  However, nature photographers today are challenged to make enough sales that provide a living wage.

While the economy sucks in all areas of photography, wedding, advertising, and commercial photographers can historically earn thousands of dollars per day while the nature photographer might be challenged to make that in a month. The real question is can or will the markets continue to support nature photography as a viable profession?

I wonder this myself as I continually evaluate my business and the future. From the time I seriously picked up a camera 35 years ago, I intended to be a full time landscape, nature, and adventure recreation photographer. During my career my nature image library sold well in advertising and publishing markets, but it was never quite enough by itself. 

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