It doesn’t take long as a new photographer to realize that the world is full of photographers, from those content to snap photos with their phones to the professionals, successful or not, working to make a living from their trade. The spectrum of photographers is broad and the fields endless. One can choose to focus on any number of subjects, which can leads to exceptional opportunities or, in some cases, dead ends. As with any skill, the best way to improve is to practice constantly and dedicate yourself to learning at every opportunity. Getting recognized as a photographer is somewhat unique though in that you are competing in what may be the biggest market in the world with people who will gladly give their images away for free.
The ubiquity of cameras in the world now mean that nearly anyone can capture images and post them online. Obviously the quality of the photos varies to the extreme, but we are nonetheless inundated with imagery daily. Consequently, we have learned to filter like so much other noise in our lives by quickly scanning through them, pausing only briefly when something catches our eye. Even as a serious photographer I am guilty of rapidly browsing through pictures posted by other photographers on my phone, giving so little time to each that the nuances and details that can make a photograph remarkable are lost in the diminutive size and cursory observation. There are also so many talented photographers that even the most phenomenal images get far less time and attention than they deserve.
How then does one rise above the clatter and clamour to become recognized and advance as a professional? The answer is much simpler for those that choose the more commercially viable fields of photography such as wedding, event, and portrait photography. There is already a market with a voracious appetite for those services, which in no way suggests that it is simple to do; however, with skill and business savvy it’s possible to make an excellent career in those sectors. As a conservation photographer, the challenge is to be recognized by publications amidst a sea of competing artists and chosen to share your work at the highest level. You then have to consistently produce high quality work and the demands may (will) sometimes exceed your comfort level.
There are a handful at the top that are so widely known and appreciated that there is a demand to purchase their work in addition to the assignments that they receive. Some branch into instruction, which is another noble pursuit and one that is greatly appreciated by new and developing photographers. Book sales are common among the finest craftspeople and offer a great way to earn a supplementary income while distributing your work. For those aspiring to reach that degree of accomplishment, it remains a devotion that can quickly drain your accounts while offering little financial return on investment. I believe, though, that the very best conservation photographers are driven by passion for the natural environment, which drives them to excel in their profession. I too share that love and it is my great adoration that now pushes me to become the best that I can be so that I can further the cause of conservation in all of my work.