What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?

Started Aug 29, 2013 | Discussions
garyknrd
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What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?
Aug 29, 2013

What does it take to be a professional wildlife photographer?

A picture that makes it to a top wildlife magazine?

Someone that sells a pic or an article about wildlife?

Kinda curious what the professional photographers here think the definition is?

Presently living in Asia

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Apewithacamera
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Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013
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Zee Char
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to Apewithacamera, Aug 29, 2013

Apewithacamera wrote:

Just to add. There are a lot of roofing companies in our city. A person can be fired from 12 different companies because they are just not good at what they do, That person can go to Home Depot and buy a hammer, start a company and put an ad out in the paper. Now that person is a professional but it does not mean his company is qualified and can produce consistent quality work.

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ESfishdoc
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to Apewithacamera, Aug 29, 2013

Agree with Ape W. C.

It is easy to sell something... good or bad... easy to sell any number of things.

But... is the photographer out there really making a living at it?

Take me for example: I have professional equipment and a fair amount of experience and ambition and enthusiasm and have sold prints and done some work for money. I've seen work by "professionals" that I can equal or better.... but... I have a good paying day job and don't need photography money. Am I a professional photographer? I would say no... I am not.

A wildlife photographer? Two of them come to mind. One of them is well known and another not as well known. As far as I know both of them bust hump to get out there and get the job done.

Moose Peterson

http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/

Megan Lorenz

http://www.flickr.com/photos/urban_jungle/http://esfishdoc.com/blog

http://www.mlorenzphotography.com/

Just my opinion...

Richard

My Flickr Page
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My Images at Photo.net
http://photo.net/photos/esfishdoc

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garyknrd
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to Apewithacamera, Aug 29, 2013

Apewithacamera wrote:

Was hoping for a little more than that?  I would say wedding photographers are a good definition of a professional photographer. Making a living taking pics and selling them. But wildlife photography is a lot different than a professional wedding or portrait photographer. Or maybe I am wrong?

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garyknrd
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to ESfishdoc, Aug 29, 2013

ESfishdoc wrote:

Agree with Ape W. C.

It is easy to sell something... good or bad... easy to sell any number of things.

But... is the photographer out there really making a living at it?

Take me for example: I have professional equipment and a fair amount of experience and ambition and enthusiasm and have sold prints and done some work for money. I've seen work by "professionals" that I can equal or better.... but... I have a good paying day job and don't need photography money. Am I a professional photographer? I would say no... I am not.

A wildlife photographer? Two of them come to mind. One of them is well known and another not as well known. As far as I know both of them bust hump to get out there and get the job done.

Moose Peterson

http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/

Megan Lorenz

http://www.flickr.com/photos/urban_jungle/http://esfishdoc.com/blog

http://www.mlorenzphotography.com/

Just my opinion...

Richard

My Flickr Page
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33755787@N03/
My Images at Photo.net
http://photo.net/photos/esfishdoc

Good explanation. But does Moose make his money selling prints or clicking on his links. And being a Nikon spokesman?  Or do the two make the most money selling prints?

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Mike921
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

garyknrd wrote:

Apewithacamera wrote:

Was hoping for a little more than that? I would say wedding photographers are a good definition of a professional photographer. Making a living taking pics and selling them. But wildlife photography is a lot different than a professional wedding or portrait photographer. Or maybe I am wrong?

Presently living in Asia

IMHO, a professional (fill in anything) is someone who gets paid  for their work.

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garyknrd
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to Mike921, Aug 29, 2013

I know a lot of people who make there living as tour guides. And are wildlife photographers.

Is that a definition that works?

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dgovoni
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Here's my take...
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

1. You have to make the majority of your money from that trade.

2. You have to obtain recognition from other professionals who do wildlife photography in that field.

For example, Art Morris is recognized as a Professional bird photographer. Yes, he has some income, I guess, from Canon, but he publishes articles and from what I can tell gets quite a bit of his income from workshops. The pros I know (I'm not one), get most of their income from Workshops and other educational gigs and they do publish. But to get to this point, you have to establish a reputation and there are numerous ways to do this. You might start at your local level. For example, doing competitions (and winning) and then entering national contests (and winning) is one way to get recognized.

I know National Geographic will now accept photos from non-staff members, but they need to be so unique that they stand out.

But again, you have to make a living off this, not just dapple, IMHO.

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dennis

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steelhead3
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Re: What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

Someone who takes pictures at Cancun during spring break?

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garyknrd
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Re: Here's my take...
In reply to dgovoni, Aug 29, 2013

dgovoni wrote:

1. You have to make the majority of your money from that trade.

2. You have to obtain recognition from other professionals who do wildlife photography in that field.

For example, Art Morris is recognized as a Professional bird photographer. Yes, he has some income, I guess, from Canon, but he publishes articles and from what I can tell gets quite a bit of his income from workshops. The pros I know (I'm not one), get most of their income from Workshops and other educational gigs and they do publish. But to get to this point, you have to establish a reputation and there are numerous ways to do this. You might start at your local level. For example, doing competitions (and winning) and then entering national contests (and winning) is one way to get recognized.

I know National Geographic will now accept photos from non-staff members, but they need to be so unique that they stand out.

But again, you have to make a living off this, not just dapple, IMHO.

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dennis

Another good explanation. I see a trend here I think? So not necessarily selling prints and taking photos. But writing and touring and workshops? I see that mostly as a guy that looks at sites of wildlife photographers.

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garyknrd
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Re: What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?
In reply to steelhead3, Aug 29, 2013

steelhead3 wrote:

Someone who takes pictures at Cancun during spring break?

LOL, been there and done that. Had a blast too. It was Cozumel for me.

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fredlord
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

Wildlife photographers are sort of like actors or athletes. Many try to make it big for a while but very, very few succeed in making a career of it.

The problem now is that one of the old income mainstays, stock image sales, is so incredibly diluted that it's almost impossible to rely on making a living doing nothing but photography. Most "wildlife photographers" now can only make a living by giving instructional photography tours and/or lecturing on the subject while showing examples of their work. An acquaintance of mine who has nearly a half-million images in stock now has to do tours, teach, and lecture to make ends meet.

There are literally millions of would-be novice wildlife photographers out there who, through sheer numbers, inundate the market with images. They're willing to pay to work or work for nothing and undercut anyone else to just be able to say they're wildlife photographers. Quite a few of them have made their money elsewhere, retired and have no real income worries. I know several of those out doing wildlife photography right now. They did not rely on talent to succeed to say the least.

It used to be they would become wildlife photographers in order to do something they loved and make money at it. It was a tiny and extremely dedicated group. Now, most make their money and THEN enjoy themselves.

Wildlife photography, itself, is really not that much in demand as a commodity. Submitting stock images now is like buying lottery tickets. The chances of a win are miniscule. Most of my sales are for less than a dollar an image now.

Just like professional athletes and movie stars, it takes a transcendent talent and maniacal perseverance to succeed. There is no glamour to it when you have to fight just put bread on the table.

One of the example given, Moose Peterson, does not make sufficient income solely from his photography any more. He too tours, teaches, lectures, and endorses products to make a living.

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garyknrd
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to fredlord, Aug 29, 2013

fredlord wrote:

Wildlife photographers are sort of like actors or athletes. Many try to make it big for a while but very, very few succeed in making a career of it.

The problem now is that one of the old income mainstays, stock image sales, is so incredibly diluted that it's almost impossible to rely on making a living doing nothing but photography. Most "wildlife photographers" now can only make a living by giving instructional photography tours and/or lecturing on the subject while showing examples of their work. An acquaintance of mine who has nearly a half-million images in stock now has to do tours, teach, and lecture to make ends meet.

There are literally millions of would-be novice wildlife photographers out there who, through sheer numbers, inundate the market with images. They're willing to pay to work or work for nothing and undercut anyone else to just be able to say they're wildlife photographers. Quite a few of them have made their money elsewhere, retired and have no real income worries. I know several of those out doing wildlife photography right now. They did not rely on talent to succeed to say the least.

It used to be they would become wildlife photographers in order to do something they loved and make money at it. It was a tiny and extremely dedicated group. Now, most make their money and THEN enjoy themselves.

Wildlife photography, itself, is really not that much in demand as a commodity. Submitting stock images now is like buying lottery tickets. The chances of a win are miniscule. Most of my sales are for less than a dollar an image now.

Just like professional athletes and movie stars, it takes a transcendent talent and maniacal perseverance to succeed. There is no glamour to it when you have to fight just put bread on the table.

One of the example given, Moose Peterson, does not make sufficient income solely from his photography any more. He too tours, teaches, lectures, and endorses products to make a living.

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Fred Lord

I'm in the retired category. And I now decline any sales or give away any free. Hoping to help others really. It has turned into a national past time. Kinda my reason for asking.

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Calliope
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

garyknrd wrote:

ESfishdoc wrote:

Agree with Ape W. C.

It is easy to sell something... good or bad... easy to sell any number of things.

But... is the photographer out there really making a living at it?

Take me for example: I have professional equipment and a fair amount of experience and ambition and enthusiasm and have sold prints and done some work for money. I've seen work by "professionals" that I can equal or better.... but... I have a good paying day job and don't need photography money. Am I a professional photographer? I would say no... I am not.

A wildlife photographer? Two of them come to mind. One of them is well known and another not as well known. As far as I know both of them bust hump to get out there and get the job done.

Moose Peterson

http://www.moosepeterson.com/blog/

Megan Lorenz

http://www.flickr.com/photos/urban_jungle/http://esfishdoc.com/blog

http://www.mlorenzphotography.com/

Just my opinion...

Richard

My Flickr Page
http://www.flickr.com/photos/33755787@N03/
My Images at Photo.net
http://photo.net/photos/esfishdoc

Good explanation. But does Moose make his money selling prints or clicking on his links. And being a Nikon spokesman? Or do the two make the most money selling prints?

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Presently living in Asia

Moose also does workshops and speaking engagements in addition to selling his photos. We were lucky to have him visit our club and talk about his work. He is a very fun and engaging speaker. I would love to take one of his workshops some day.

For some competitions the definition of a professional photographer is one who makes money from selling their work, teaching photography and acting as judge in other competitions.

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garyknrd
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Re: Professional is one who is earning a living.
In reply to Calliope, Aug 29, 2013

Fred, I think the first paragraph you wrote really hits it on the head. And in my mind. It is this and only this that makes this profession profitable. There are bit players, but what I see is the top end people are few and far between.

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Cailean Gallimore
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Re: What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

Someone who makes a living at it, who is known to consistently produce results fit for publication.

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garyknrd
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Re: What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?
In reply to Cailean Gallimore, Aug 29, 2013

Cailean Gallimore wrote:

Someone who makes a living at it, who is known to consistently produce results fit for publication.

Yea, that is a general description of all professionals really.

I really have a hard time putting a label on it. It is a national pastime now. Retired farts like me and millions of others take photos of birds and wildlife. The sheer numbers must be staggering. And I see so many just drop dead photos.

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fredlord
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Re: What is the definition of a professional wildlife photographer?
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

garyknrd wrote:

Cailean Gallimore wrote:

Someone who makes a living at it, who is known to consistently produce results fit for publication.

Yea, that is a general description of all professionals really.

I really have a hard time putting a label on it. It is a national pastime now. Retired farts like me and millions of others take photos of birds and wildlife. The sheer numbers must be staggering. And I see so many just drop dead photos.

Presently living in Asia

Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of wonderful images being shown. There is no doubt that talent abounds throughout all populations of the world.

The difference is that there are now easily affordable instruments (DSLR cameras) which allow almost anyone with at least a modicum of talent to shoot unlimited images with pleasing results.

The same thing happened with personal computers. When anyone could publish, everyone did publish. That all happened 30 years ago. Now, anyone can publish to the internet and everyone does publish to the internet. DSLRs are simply computers that make images. Anyone can make images so everyone makes images. The possibilities of good images are basically unlimited. You and I are competing with the world rather than a small and highly dedicated group of professionals who would call themselves wildlife photographers.

The fact that billions of people are shooting many trillions of images makes them a cheap commodity. When supply outstrips demand, prices always drop.

Our only hope is to find a niche that allows us to make images that sell in sufficient quantities to make a living for us. That's not really an option now save for perhaps a few dozen individuals at most. One cannot simply be a gifted photographer now. One must be an acute business person and opportunistic entrepreneur as well. Effort and determination to succeed equal results.

All it takes is motivation, opportunity, and capability. How many billions of people do you think possess those three things? Opportunity and capability weren't always there for them. Now, with the inexpensive, high-quality equipment and rising standards of living allowing them to indulge themselves, they are present for most people.

I'm not complaining. It has always been so to a lesser or greater degree. Even a reasonably good photographer could make a living in the past. That time is now gone. I say, just enjoy doing what you love and, if you make a little money, great. Meanwhile, get a real job.

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Fred Lord

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donaldsc
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If You Have to Ask, You Aren't One
In reply to garyknrd, Aug 29, 2013

You know if you are a professional in any field, not just photography.  If you have to ask if you are a professional, you are not one.

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Don

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