Book reviews:    Professional Nature Photography

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Professional Nature Photography
Nigel Hicks
Focal Press
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A few times a week I get e-mails from people asking me how to become a full-time professional nature photographer. Sometimes from kids who are doing a school assignment but often also from young people with a serious interest in this profession. Well, now I can advice them to read this book very carefully. It does not only offer information on how to set up your own business as a professional, but it also gives a very nice insight in the actual work of a professional nature photographer. Reading the book, you will realize that the actual job is hard work and has little to do with all the glamour often associated with it. The books is written by Nigel Hicks, a well published British photographer, who is an Associate of the British Institute of Professional Photography. He is also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and even holds a PhD in Biology.

book47b.jpg (33302 bytes)This book is very well laid out and balanced. After each chapter there is a summary highlighting the most important topics discussed before. After an introduction there is a chapter on the nature photography industry, explaining how the business works. Who is buying nature photographs and what are they looking for specifically. All the differences between stock agencies, book and magazine publishers etc are described. Here already you will see that being a professional photographer is maybe as much about marketing your work as it is about the actual photography.

Then the book goes on with chapters on launching into business and becoming established. The fifth chapter is about taking on the job, and describes working on assignments, working with stock agencies and how to run your own agency. Another chapter, based on personal experience, that is very helpful, is on the road. It tells you how to prepare for an assignment and what it is like to be far away, maybe in a third world country, for weeks in a row. Rushing to get all the shots you need. This is one of those parts where the book not only provides helpful information, but gives an insight into the work of a nature photographer.

At the end of the book there are two chapters about the business side of being a professional. Managing the office deals with the problems of setting up an office and how to run it. Something which might quite a challenge to a nature photographer. There is legal information on copyright, business status, money matters and (how awful) taxes. Equipping your business is about all the equipment you might need to run your business professionally. Not just cameras and lenses, but computers, faxes etc as well. It includes a part about darkrooms and using a digital darkroom.

The book ends with some special skills and professional issues. The latter being about dealing with clients and competition. About ethics and for example using captive animals or digital manipulation. About taking a stand in environmental issues etc.

Conclusion: If you are interested in becoming either a full-time or part-time professional nature photographer, you will have to read this book. It will give you a very clear insight in working professionally. Also it is loaded with very practical information you will need to know. For anyone with professional aspirations it's an absolutely essential book. Together with John Shaw's book on this subject, it is a must have.

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