One of my favorite shows on TV right now is Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel. They drop a man and a woman literally out in the middle of nowhere and have them strip down and leave them with one item of their choice and that's about it. No clothes, no nothing. There is a three man crew that follows them around recording their every move and are instructed not to intervene except in emergencies.
They've been in Madagascar, the Amazon, even Louisiana and it's about 60/40 split on those who make it and those who "tap-out". The idea takes Survivor and other "survival" shows to the ultimate level, and this is the attraction to see if they can actually figure out how to make it. They've even brought back a couple of survivalist who kicked butt in the first season for a second go around in an area where another pair tapped out in less than 4 days. I was very impressed and the scenery is very cool, I would love to photograph some of these remote areas.
The only knock is that it is a "reality" show, so there are liberties taken with the stories, I'm sure. I'm not sure on Day 17 of 21 how a female can have cleanly shaven arm pits, and in the latest episode in Madagascar the show led us to believe that the pair had no food except for a couple of snake eggs for 18 days, this after cooking one snake too long and then after killing another snake the camp went up in fire, ruining what they had caught. Maybe it's possible they hadn't had food for 18 days and could remain chipper and strong, but it seems to be a stretch. On the flip side, there was one woman who was using a walker after getting Dengue Fever.
There's no doubt though that most of it seems to be legit, and the bug bites alone would be enough to make someone cry uncle, or much worse. It's a great show though, and although the After Dark live follow up show is totally unnecessary and takes a bit away from it by trying to be funny, it's worth spending a little over an hour on Sunday nights to see what the next random pairing will get into.
I had the chance this weekend to meet a good friend of mine who lives in Arkansas and hang out a bit, and took a day to go out on a photography tour of Northwest Arkansas. We stayed in Fayetteville and attended an Razorback baseball game, and lucked out to get to see them play Alabama. After a couple of innings, marginal storms moved across the area dropping a good amount of rain with imbedded lightning so we ended up with about a 45 minute rain delay. Once play resumed, it was 10pm and Bama was leading 8-6 in the fifth inning and we called it a night. When we saw the final score ended up with Alabama winning 17-8 , and they had to be playing well into the wee hours of the morning so I'm thankful we didn't stick around.
We got up the next day and traveled first to the north to Eureka Springs, not so much to see the town but it is nestled in some beautiful hill country. I love taking the back roads because that's where you see the unique stuff, and we did end up getting quite a few nice shots. After driving around in the north for a couple of hours and stopping by Pea Ridge Battlefield, we ate at Zaxby's in Springdale and headed south to Devil's Den. We did a little hiking along the main trails and saw a nice waterfall, and found some photo opportunities. We finished up the evening with some good BBQ and a couple of beers at the Boar's Nest in Fayetteville. It was a great weekend out, and ended up being a beautiful day with lots of scenery. Here are some photos from the short trip:
I love my Canon 7D. When I take photographs and sit down and process them, I come up with a photo how I saw it and want others to see it. Not just for what it was, but for what I feel and want to express. When I'm out storm chasing I see beautiful things. Skies, clouds, countrysides that are not only jaw dropping but they bring you back to a time when everything seemed new and the world was a simpler more quiet place. This is where my camera comes in, and the glass that comes with it of course. It builds a world that makes me feel what's in it.
Here's what I wish it could do. DSLR's are being caught up to very quickly by the smartphone market. It seems like every six months a new phone is released and it has an upgraded camera that takes panorama 40 megapixel shots and can be instantly shared with an audience on Facebook, Twitter, or social media of your choice.
My camera takes photos, then I have to get home or wherever I stop for the evening that I have to get the images off of the camera, then I have to upload them for processing, then process, then release. In storm chasing and in journalism in general there is a small window of opportunity to get a photo out quickly. A tornado touches down, someone who can get a quick decent shot with a smartphone has it out to the masses instantly. I have to wait and release photos after the fact. By that time, my photos have become old news. Many that I process will be lasting images that will stand for many years to come. But, there is a need to be able to snap a quick photo and share it. This is what I wish my DSLR could do.
So, camera makers, if you are reading this please start moving in the direction of the instant share. I believe there is a market for having both a professional DSLR combined with the capability of taking an unprocessed photo and connecting it to a cell phone tower or Wifi and sharing instantly. I understand some of the new cameras are capable of Wifi, but the ability to share that photo instantly still doesn't exist. Cameras can and should be integrated to be social media compatible.
I know the question you are asking. Why don't you just use a smartphone to take the photo, then use the Canon for the real photography and be happy with that? Well it's the same reason that I had a phone that could talk and worked just fine, but someone figured out that if you put a camera on it, it increased it's functionality and longevity. Like I said, I love my Canon 7D. But, I'm also sure there were people who loved their Poloroid just as much and we know how that turned out.
This wasn't much of a chase, mainly just a lot of driving around in gray skies and eventually ending up in three hours of driving rain. But, this chase made me remember a few things that it seems I had forgotten, and taught me a couple of other things that will shape the way I chase in the future.
The night before I had hardly looked at the forecast models. I did a quick overview of the main parameters and moved on to something else, thinking I would get up the next morning and take a look and make my decision then. So, I get up the next morning and check the SPC outlook to see what they had to say about it. Then I looked at the models again and I think I was trying mash what the models were saying with what SPC was saying, again not looking very deeply and not paying attention to what the forecast models were saying anyways. I was wishy-washy about going in the first place because I believed it would be a day full of gray skies and rain, and I've seen that movie before. But, after thinking about it a bit I decided to go because it had been about five months since I've chased anything and the number of opportunities per season is very limited. So, I got my equipment ready which didn't take long, but again I didn't have in place to go in the first place. This was very telling when I look back at why things ended up the way they did.
I left OKC heading south on I-35 with a target of Greenville, Tx. Greenville? Because it took me south about as far as I really wanted to go, and I believed it would be a place where the storms would end up after developing just a bit further west. Also, because I wasn't paying attention to the forecast models as I drove down, and common sense as a chaser. There was no cap, no lift, and ultimately no storms there. I stopped there to eat for about 20 minutes, then decided to head west so I could at least get some storm time. I drove west to Denton, thinking if I got west of Denton I would be in a non-populated area and could get some good photos of the heavier storms. Well, I ran into the heavier storms. Gray, non-structured, heavy rain storms. And they moved slowly, so basically I sat in rain for most of the rest of the afternoon with nothing to really photograph. Meanwhile, two hours to the south, structured supercells were taking shape and blue skies provided the heating needed to punch through a sufficient cap.
Ultimately, I half-assed the chase, and I got the results I put into it. This is the first time I've really had a chase that I walked away empty handed and was disappointed in how I played it, and more mad at myself because I really didn't play it at all. I don't have any photos to post and the video was just rain falling, and some thunder and lightning here and there. I was chasing very lazy, not wanting to drive too far south because of the long drive back, and not expecting much so I got what I expected. It was a very bland day from the results, but a very eye opening day as I look within myself and what I need to do going forward to be really ready for this season.
I love this time of year. The world comes out of its hibernation and comes back to life after a long cold winter. Looking back at this year, this wasn't the coldest year but it may be one of the longest consistent cold winters in recorded history. Of course, I wasn't alive for most of that so I can't attest to a bitter cold winter 50 years ago, so lets just say it was the coldest in my recent memory.
Of course, with Spring comes storms, especially here in the Great Plains. Most of us who have lived here for many years know what's to come and prepare for anything. There are some though who have just moved into the area who may not understand fully how the season works in these parts.
Tornadoes aren't something that occur everyday. In fact, most years you won't be within 50 miles of one. But anyone who lives in Tornado Alley could be affected by one at anytime. This means everyone should have a plan on how to react to severe weather, not only for themselves, but for their families as well. If you're at work, know where to go. If you have a family, they should know what to do when the time comes. This means knowing where to go for shelter, when to take shelter and the difference between watches and warnings so you aren't spending your entire spring in the hidey-hole.
Watches are released when a general area has the possibility of severe weather. There are several types of watches. Severe, Tornado, Fire, High Winds, etc. A tornado watch is something to definitely pay attention to, but doesn't require a reaction at that point. It does mean think about your plan (which you will have in place after reading this right?). A tornado warning can be issued due to what the radar shows. In this scenario, radar is showing a rotation and there could quite possibly be a tornado on the ground. A tornado warning could also be a confirmed tornado has touched down and has been reported by spotters, chasers, or LEO. The tornado warning is where you want to implement your plan if it is in your area. These days the National Weather Service has really done a great job of issuing warnings that only cover the immediate area in an effort to reduce false alarms, but just paying attention to the weather and staying informed will help tremendously in whether you should take shelter or if it's 25 miles away with no threat to you.
The moral of the story is have a plan and be ready to implement it. I have a plan, and in the last couple of days have discussed it with my family so we know what to do when the time comes. Usually I will be out chasing the tornadoes, but the El Reno tornado last year being on a direct path to my home reminded us that it can happen to anybody. Be safe this year, and I'll be doing the same and hopefully capturing some beautiful images.
If you're into storm art, which I'm assuming you are since you are visiting this site, check out the Fine Art America page for storms found here:
My work can be found there and lots of other awesome photos from photographers and artists around the world. You can also order my work in canvas, metallic print, framed, etc. so it's pretty cool. Check it out!
If you do a quick Google search for selling landscape, nature, or any photography for that matter there is a common theme between them all. Selling photography is flat out tough. There are literally millions of photographers armed with DSLR's and many of them are very good at what they do. A great percentage of them get into photography because they love it. As that love grows, so does the urge to make a living doing it. It's not long after that most find out how tough it is and even though they may bring in some side money enough to possibly pay for some equipment that's about as far as it goes.
But, some of us are hard headed, including me. I started out taking pictures of storms with a point and click and got to the point where my pictures just weren't doing any justice to what I was witnessing. So, I made the investment and upgraded my camera, got some glass and went out and did my thing. After a while, I had a good stockpile of photos that I had taken over the years and thought I might take the chance that someone in the billions of people in this world would find one of my photos nice enough to spend their hard earned money on. It took a while, but I found a couple of places to list my photos, worked on my pricing and business model and finally after months of trying to get my work out there I received my first order. It was one of the most exciting and scary things all at once. Now someone was paying me for the work that I had put in, and I had to provide the goods. This included processing the photo, packaging it, and sending to the customer all the while hoping that it would get there in great shape. Luckily, it did and it was one of the most satisfying feelings. Each order I receive feels the same way these days, and it is one of the driving forces in capturing the perfect photo. Not only do I find satisfaction when I do good work, but when someone else feels the same way there is no words to describe the great feelings.
But, to get back to the topic....selling photography is tough, making money is even tougher. When many people sell photography, the market get saturated with millions of photos. When the market is saturated, not only is it tough to get found, but then you have to compete so you lower your pricing. When you lower your pricing, margins drop or maybe fall to break even or lose money. It doesn't take a business genius to figure out this doesn't make for a great business.
So.....what can be done to possibly turn a profit? (Notice I didn't say make a living).
First of all, your photography has to be good. People don't want to buy a blurry photo of a sunset with power lines and the apartment complex off to the right. Learn to compose your photos in a way that presents your subject in the best way possible, whether it's people or tornadoes, or flowers, etc. Make it interesting, no matter the subject.
Second, find your outlet. There are so many places to sell photography, and each one has their advantages and disadvantages. There are online outlets like Smugmug, Zazzle, 500px, Fine Art America...the list goes on and on. You may need to list in every place you can to be seen, and even this doesn't guarantee you will make a sale. Local places like coffee shops, restaurants, local stores, etc. can be good places to display your work to a local audience. This of course requires getting out and pounding the pavement, and again is not a guaranteed way to sell your beautiful photography.
Third, find your market. What kind of photography do you do? If it's people you like to photograph, maybe doing family portraits or engagement photos is the way to go. If you like landscapes, you want to be connected to people who spend money on that type of photography. Possibly someone who is doing home decor, maybe the locals who live in the area and can relate to the photo. For me, it's those who are interested in storms and find them fascinating.
Fourth, determine your price. Don't undercharge for your work. You put a lot of time and money in creating that photo. Consider the real cost (equipment, travel time and expenses, cost of production) and set your pricing at a margin high enough to make it worth your time. Pricing your photography low can actually discourage customers from buying, and does nothing for you or the market in general. Photographers work hard to hone their craft, and being undercut devalues all photography.
Lastly, just do what you love. When you enjoy what you do, it translates in your work and people can pick up on it. It's part of what brings value to the photography, what you put into it and how someone can relate to it. Even if you don't sell one photo, as long as it brings you joy it is paying dividends.
Leave a comment below and let us know if you have been able to do well with your photography business.
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