The great thing about photography is that it’s a hobby you can easily turn into lucrative side-hustle or even a full-time career. Using your camera to earn money doesn’t mean you’ll spend every single weekend snapping shots of weddings or posing teenagers for senior photos. If you don’t fancy taking pictures of people, you can become a nature photographer.
The Future of Nature Photography
One of the great things about deciding to pursue nature photography instead of portrait photography is you’ll encounter fewer people who are unwilling to pay you for photos because they’re convinced they can do an equally nice job with their cell phones. Most of your clients accept the idea that they lack the means to travel to different locations and wait for a photo op. It’s difficult to determine how in-demand nature photographers will be in the future. But there’s no denying that as long as people crave photos of the wild, you’ll find a market for the high-quality images.
According to ZipRecruiter, the average United States-based nature photographer earns about $39,678 annually for their photos. Some of the best nature photographers routinely pull in about $70,000 per year while others struggle to make it on about $15,500. Factors that influence your earning potential include:
- The type of nature photos you specialize in
- How many hours you’re able to dedicate to your craft
- How far you’re willing to travel so you can take great photos
- Who is purchasing your nature photos
The truly successful nature photographers who consistently pull in a respectable yearly salary understand that taking outstanding pictures is just one aspect of their business. In addition to honing their art, they also devote large chunks of time to developing a successful business, marketing, and cultivating useful connections.
Determine Your Nature Photography Niche
Nature photography is a vast genre. It includes:
- Underwater photos
- Macro-photos of insects and flowers
- And more
While there’s nothing wrong with deciding to take photos of lots of nature’s wonders, many successful nature photographers find they do best when they build a brand around a specific type of photography. For example, if you’re passionate about taking photos of birds, build your business brand around your bird photography. Making this the mainstay of your new business allows you to work with local bird groups. You can receive commissioned work from websites and magazines. And you can even gett hired for speaking engagements that revolve around bird photography.
Deciding to specialize in one aspect of nature photography doesn’t mean you’re only allowed to focus on that one thing. You’re free to continue to capture other images that catch your fancy, but specializing enables you to build a solid brand.
Putting Together a Nature Photography Business
A successful nature photography business doesn’t just happen. Knowing how to take stunning nature photos is important, but so is putting together a business. You start by creating a solid foundation which means putting together a business plan.
The main purpose your business plan serves is providing you with a clear outline of your business goals as well as the specific steps you’ll need to take to achieve them. You’ll be surprised by how often you turn to your business plan. It helps you determine your target market, access your business’ forward progress, and increases the odds of loan approval.
Issues your business plan should address include:
- The type of photographs and services you’ll provide
- Where you’re based and whether you’re willing to travel
- Operational procedures
- How your nature photos differ from the competition
- What physical assets you currently have and how you’ll handle problems such as equipment breaking
- Current financial assets and how you want the financial situation to change during a twelve-month period
- Your target market
- Online assets and how you plan on utilizing for marketing your nature photography business
A good business plan is often the difference between owning and operating a successful and profitable nature photography business and being unable to generate a solid ROI with the business.
Get Serious About Marketing
Setting up a nature photography business and taking great photos is important. But you won’t make any money if you don’t become adept at marketing. Rather than approaching marketing as a chore, treat it as an art form. It’s a chance to connect with and share your photos with thousands of people.
Successful photographers know the key to successfully marketing their work and building their business is getting creative and having fun with their marketing efforts. They implement best practices like:
- Showing off their favorite shots
- Sharing fun stories about the adventures they had while they took the pictures
- Attaching fun hashtags (as well as high-value hashtags) to their social media posts
- Encouraging amateur photographers
Social Media Marketing
One fun and surprisingly effective way to use social media marketing to build your business is sharing when things don’t go exactly as planned. Some photographers excel at posting a bad photo on their timelines, sharing why the photo doesn’t work and how they could have made it better. This is a simple teaching tool that appeals to amateur photographers who will flock to your social media accounts with the hope that you’ll share more useful photography tips. Best of all, they’ll tell their friends about you and you’ll see a lovely increase in traffic.
Without a doubt, social media sites like Instagram and Facebook are vital for growing your nature photography business but you’ll also need a website. The website provides you with the means to showcase your portfolio, to talk about your business, and it serves as a virtual storefront. Your website must be highly ranked or prospective customers won’t find it.
The key to a golden search engine ranking is mixing your photos with high-quality content that both the search engines and your customers love. Don’t assume that because you’ve created a few pages of content you’re good to go. Google is constantly reevaluating webpages and giving nature photographers who routinely update with fresh content a higher search engine ranking. Blogging is a great way to improve the value of your website.
In all forms of your marketing, you must come across as friendly, personable, knowledgeable, and approachable. When people feel they can come to you for advice about nature photography, they’re more likely to purchase a photo from you and recommend you to their friends.
Add High-Quality Cameras and Other Equipment to Your Nature Photography Arsenal
It doesn’t matter if you intend to make your nature photography business your source of a full-time income or if it’s simply a side hustle — you can’t afford to use inferior equipment. Before you start promoting your business, take a hard look at your current equipment. Consider if it’s capable of the demands you’re about to place on it. All of your cameras, lenses, and computer programs must be reliable, high-quality, and capable of producing the type of high-quality prints your clients will insist on.
Most photographers recommend having more than one camera and a set of lenses to take with you on every single shoot. Having backup equipment saves you from the heartbreak of finding the perfect shot only to discover that your camera has gotten wet or one of your lenses cracked during transport.
Nature photography takes a toll on equipment so it’s always a good idea to make sure your purchase business insurance that covers the cost of repairing or even replacing damaged equipment.
Be Smart with Your Finances
One of the biggest mistakes many nature photographers make is not thinking about the financial future. Once they start earning money, they may forget about paying taxes. Meet with an account while you’re still setting up your business. Your accountant will help you determine which expenses you can deduct and also explain how much money you should set aside from each sale for the government.
When you meet with your accountant, don’t forget to plan for your future. If nature photography is your only means of support, make sure you’re paying into Social Security and retirement. Setting the money aside isn’t fun when you’re struggling to build a business, but when the day comes that you’re ready to hang up your camera for good, you’ll be glad you saved the money so you can enjoy your retirement.
Consider Side Hustles Within the Nature Photography Industry
The beautiful photos you snap should be the mainstay of your nature photography business, but that doesn’t have to be your only source of income, especially when you’re in the process of building your business. Many industry-specific side hustles help fill your business’s coffers, allowing you to operate in the black. Explore opportunities like:
- selling equipment
- taking speaking engagements
- collaborating with local camera shops
- teaching photography classes at local community centers
- contributing to photography websites/magazines.
These industry side hustles improve your earnings potential. And they’re also a great form of marketing that quickly establishes you as an industry leader.
What is your favorite approach to building a nature photography business?