In 2010 I celebrated 39 years of serious photography of one type or another. Part time commercial, full-time commercial, auto racing (and other sports) photography for publication without pay, and auto racing for paying clients, including magazines and buyers of prints. In the 1980s I made nature my featured subject at first as a hobby, then a part-time business, and finally a full-time business which included stock, fine art, and workshops. The last five years have been spent commenting on photography (and many other things), viewing and sharing the work of others, and until 2014, still making and sharing a few of my own new pix. I have been able to experience photography as a full-time professional (a few times), a part-time professional ( a few times), and a hobbyist.
Being a professional photographer is as much a lifestyle as it is an occupation. If nature is the root of your photography, it is a two-pronged lifestyle. Part subject driven, and partially fed by mood, and effect. It does or should, course through your veins. The professional photographer, should be made up of a little different DNA than “normal” people. If nature is your primary subject, your feet should be partially in modern technology, but largely with your subject. Whatever your subject, make it just as important as your photography. Some people will follow your work because they like your work, and some (birders. Etc.) will follow it because of your subject. If ego suggests to you, that those who care about your images because of the subject, are inferior or less important than those who love “your” pictures, than keep both feet planted in print sales and art galleries. You make images to say something about yourself, not your subject. There is nothing wrong with that, although personally I prefer photographers who walk on both sides of the equation, and are happy showing art, or subjects. Art will tell a story about you and your viewpoint, great subject photography tells the story of that subject. Tell the latter with loving care.
I started the Earth Images blog by writing about the state of nature photography in 2010. Many of those same thoughts still apply. If you want to do landscapes, try working in the lesser known national, and even sate and local parks. Many are under covered. When you work the best known parks from any country, work the areas that nobody else does. If you work the iconic areas of well-known parks, try to find a new way of looking at them. That last suggestion is becoming very difficult to accomplish. Work roadsides and even wilderness areas, that have no real name. Tie those shots to the state, whether it be for stock use, or fine art. People often care where the prints they buy were made. At times, look at the world as a giant abstract. More and more buyers of pictures, including fine art and stock, are appreciating unique ways of looking at things. If you travel, and photograph indigenous cultures, don’t attend all of those phony ceremonies where the natives dress in the clothes they wore 50 years ago, and pose for pictures…..at a cost. Catch them the way they really dress and act. There is a story to be told. Most of these people have western clothes, and many have cell phones and internet access. Despite that, they often live in poverty. Catch them when they are transitioning from today’s garb, to yesterday’s. Many actually live with one foot in today, and one in yesterday. That’s the story and it needs to be told.
Times have changed since 2010. There are untold millions of people worldwide, making serious pictures with serious equipment. That equipment makes almost everybody look good. Don’t pick subject matter “only” because so few photographers are photographing it. If you aren’t emotionally engaged in your subject, you are better off looking for new ways to interpret a common subject.
There is also the point of how you market yourself. Please don’t get too full of yourself. Arrogance is ugly. Believe in your work, but remember there are more important things in life than pictures. Also remember that there are millions of others doing the same thing you are. My failing in life was always that I was cordial but often much too outspoken. You are a salesperson. Let the charming side win, and offer opinions only after careful consideration.
If you are doing this to become rich and famous, drive a truck instead. If you love making images and expressing yourself with a camera, then maybe this is for you. Searching for, and creating pictures should be fun. It was fun for me in 1971, and it was fun the final time I clicked a shutter in 2014. If anything, I loved it even more.
Be it a hobby or a business, grab your camera and explore the world around you.
Some images made long before 2015
May God Bless, Wayne