In many ways nature photography can be a dream job. Sure, it’s a ridiculous crap ton of hard work to make it sustainable as a career, but here are just a few of the reasons you should make a go of it.
Reason #1: Incredible Freedom
One of the best moments of my life happened in January 2004: I had just bought a cheap used car in Auckland, New Zealand, and I was driving south out of that big city at the start of what would become a 19-month round-the-world trip. I had no plans, no deadlines, no commitments. And as I realized that I had the means and the time to go anywhere and do anything a powerful wave of exuberance came erupting out of me. I started shouting at the top of my lungs and pounding the ceiling. I had never felt better in my life. That sense of utter freedom gave me a massive rush and I’ve been chasing that same sense ever since.
So for me the best part of being a full time nature photographer is, hands down, the freedom I have to live where I want to live, travel where and when I want, work when I want, and play when I want. There’s no boss to please (except myself and I can a pretty demanding jerk), and no schedule or deadlines except for the ones I create myself. And the freedom of being able to choose exactly how I spend each moment, every single day, is one of the greatest gifts in life.
Reason #2: The Beauty. Oh Sweet Baby Peaches, the Beauty!
I hate to say it, but the world is a pretty ugly place, and it totally sucks to explore it. Uh, not! Are you kidding me? Our planet is so utterly, gobsmackingly beautiful that it’s honestly hard to comprehend. There are so many unique environments to see that it would take 100 lifetimes to understand what’s truly out there.
I have been fortunate to explore a decent chunk of the world (though still just a tiny fraction overall) and I’ve witnessed some incredible moments. And just when I feel like I’ve seen everything there is to see some monumental place or some magical experience will come along and knock me right back on my ass.
As nature photographers it’s our job to go out into the world and uncover these beautiful moments, to capture them, and to share them with others. There is almost no better feeling than showing someone a shot from your latest trip and seeing their eyes bug out, and having them exclaim, “WHAT?! I had no idea something like that could even EXIST!!”
Reason #3: Sharing Your Passion
It’s no question that people are drawn to passion. When you choose nature photography as a career you are shouting from the mountaintops about your love for Planet Earth. You will draw people to you and you will make deep connections that last your whole life. You will connect with other photographers and plan trips together, inspire each other, and share stories.
You will meet passionate amateur photographers and help guide their path through the world of photography. You will help teach people and see the lightbulbs turn on inside their heads. You will share your most sacred places with people who also want to celebrate their beauty, building deeper bonds with those places and those people in the process.
You will sell your work to others who appreciate the natural world. And when you think about it that’s an extraordinary thing: someone likes what you did so much, they so appreciate your vision and your craft, that they want to bring a part of that into their own life. More connections, more bonds.
So much of our happiness is tied up in building strong bonds with other people who share our values, and nature photography is an amazing catalyst to make that happen.
Reason #4: An Opportunity to Give Back to the Planet
Humans are takers. We always have been, we always will be. We take what we need from the planet in order to get our own needs met. And even if you love our planet, love the environment, and love the outdoors, you have an impact on Earth. After all we travel to see beautiful places, spewing tons of C02 into the air in the process. We buy snacks and food to take along, creating more plastic waste. We encourage our governments to create roads and cut trails into the wilderness so we can access these locations.
As a professional nature photographer I, ironically, have a disproportionately high impact on the natural world. I travel far more than the average person. I encourage others to travel and get out into nature. On the road I consume more and produce more waste than I do at home.
BUT!! I also have a platform to call for change. And so will you if you take on nature photography as a career. You have the opportunity not only to lead by example, but to encourage others to conserve and protect our natural resources.
We can all start by looking hard at our lives to see what actual changes we can make to reduce our footprints. You can do things like choose to have one fewer children, take one fewer trips this year, eat less meat, use reusable packaging and water bottles, and invest in carbon-sequestering projects (plant a tree!). I am far from perfect in this regard, but I am doing what I can. Having the discipline to make these small, incremental changes is hard, but it is so much easier than the drastic wake up call we’re going to experience if we don’t make changes.
Reason #5: You’ll Be Excited to Get to Work. Every. Single. Day.
Ok, raise your hand if you like doing accounting! Nobody? Nobody? Bueller? Well guess what: when you turn your nature photography into a career you are going to start to love accounting. Why? Because you are doing it for YOU in order to make your business successful.
And not just accounting, but everything that goes into running a successful business. From taking the photos and editing them, to writing blog articles, to invoicing clients, to emailing customers, to answering questions from students, you will be incredibly excited to go to work, every single day. I’ve been doing this about 10 years now, working like crazy all the time, and each day when I wake up I still think, “Ok, what do I GET to do today.” I am always excited about my current projects, as well as things on the horizon. I’m excited when I get to shoot. And I’m excited when I get to stay home and work on my website. I’m excited when I get to travel, and I’m excited when I get to read a new book about newsletter marketing.
Of course there are a lot of tedious tasks that go into maintaining a business, but there is something so satisfying about doing these tasks when you know you are doing it for yourself. You will want to work, and there’s no better job than the one you wake up wanting to do.
So if you’re thinking about turning nature photography into a career I encourage you to roll your sleeves up and dive in! There is an amazing world waiting for you.
But wait!! Nature photography isn’t all rainbows and puppy dogs. Be sure to read this next:
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About the Author
Josh Cripps is a wilderness landscape photographer living in beautiful Mammoth Lakes, California. He shoots campaigns and gives presentations for Nikon. His work has been featured in publications like Outdoor Photographer, Pop Photo, and Landscape Photography Magazine. Josh also runs photography workshops, teaches online courses, and runs the popular YouTube channel Pro Photo Tips. Sometimes he talks like a cowboy and can grow an enormous beard when the need arises.