Book reviews:    The Business of Nature Photography

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The Business of Nature Photography
John Shaw
0 8174 4050 X
Amphoto Books
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Ever dreamed about becoming a part time or even full time wildlife photographer? If you have (and haven't we all?) then this book is the book for you. The famous wildlife and nature photographer John Shaw has written a book specially on the subject of the business side of wildlife photography. The subtitle is: "A professional's guide to marketing and and managing a successful nature photography business". And this is exactly what you will find in the book. There is no information on how to make photographs, exposure, techniques etc. For this kind of information you could refer to one of his other books or to one of the other photography books reviewed on this site. This book deals only with setting up a business as a wildlife and nature photographer.

There are six chapters and an appendix in the book which I will describe here.

  1. Getting started
    You have got the idea of becoming a nature photographer. What does this mean? What essential equipment and films do you need to get started? There is some very good information on what editors and clients want. This will be essential if you like to sell your work. John Shaw very clearly describes these issues in detail.
  2. Office work
    Many photographers are interested only in the photography. They want to be out in the open photographic breathtaking landscapes and exotic animals. But there is also the practical side to this. You need to store and caption slides. Organize them so you can find them back quickly. John Shaw tells you from his personal experience. This chapter might not be as interesting to some people as they want to be "out there". But do read it it several times, because it will tell you what a nature photographer can't live without. There is also some information on computers and databases, but as this book was written in 1996, the information is slightly outdated. Still the system of how to organize your slides remains the same. Read this carefully. There is nothing more frustrating as having to re-organize thousands of slides, with re-labeling and re-captioning them! It was nice to find out that the system John Shaw uses is very similar to the system I have thought out for myself.
  3. Finding clients
    Very important!  Since it will be the clients that pay for your work that will support you and provide you with money to pay the bills, this chapter is vital. John Shaw tells you about the different types of clients, what they are looking for and how to find them. There are sample letters on how to contact clients you can copy or use. Many photographers are more into photography then marketing, but this chapter will tell you what to keep in mind. There is also lots of information on stock agencies and how they operate. Advantages and disadvantages and specifics to look after for.
  4. Sending out submissions
    When you have found a client interested in your work, you will have to send him a submission of your work. John Shaw clearly explains how this can be done. How to pack and ship. Legal stuff about terms and conditions. What cover letters to write and so on. Again there are several sample document printed which you can use or adapt.
  5. Writing and publishing
    The best way to break into the business is to write articles that accompany your pictures. Many photographers seem to forget that magazines have text as well as images and if editors can buy them together this is much easier for them then to shop around at different places. This chapter tells you all about writing magazine articles. There is also a section about publishing your own book or calendar. How does it work? This book tells you all about it.
  6. Money matters
    We all dream of giving up our daytime jobs to become a wildlife photographer. But is this idea possible? What kind of money will I have to spend to get the slides that will sell. And how much income do I have to generate from these slides to get my expenses back? And how much more to make a living? All these questions are answered here. Also questions on pricing and contracts, some legal stuff and tax matters. To some this chapter may come as a cold shower after getting so excited about reading the first chapters of this great book. But this chapter is very realistic and will help you calculate whether it is a viable option for you. Or whether you should start doing wildlife photography alongside a "daytime job".

Conclusion:  If you are interested in becoming a professional wildlife and nature photographer, whether it is part-time or full-time, then this is the book for you. It has the answer to all the questions you have and will get. It is comprehensive. There are numerous sample letters, contracts etc in the book which you can either just copy or adapt for you own use. Again if you are serious about selling images then this book is a certain "must have".

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All text and images 1991 - 2011 Hans Martens