|Searching Out Local Markets
There's a saying in the conservation movement that you should "think globally, act locally." The same saying could apply to nature photography as well. To be successful as a professional nature photographer, you should think globally but act locally. The reasoning is that local markets are much easier to find and easier to engage than global markets.
Local markets worth approaching are regional magazines, galleries and businesses. Each has positives and negatives but can be very lucrative.
There are hundreds of regional magazines on the market. Regional magazines vary in quality and subject matter.
Some are beautiful, full-color magazines like Arizona Highways, Texas Highways, and North Carolina's Our State. Each issue of these magazines is filled with stunning photographs. Many, if not all, are taken by freelance photographers.
Others focus just on wildlife like Texas Parks & Wildlife, Oklahoma Outdoors, and Louisiana Outdoors. The outdoor magazines in each state vary in quality and subject matter. Study each magazine because some deal with general nature and others concentrate on only hunting and fishing.
Then there are regional magazines that are easy to overlook. My first cover photo showed up on Texas Gardener and AAA Journeys is a great client.
The key to getting in one of these magazines is to study past issues and then request or download a copy of the photo guidelines. If your photographs are equal to or better than the images appearing in each issue, then follow the guidelines and make a submission. If you images are not equal to the photographs in the magazine, then keep shooting. You don't want to send sub-par images to a photo editor on your first submission.
If you shoot fine art images, then local galleries are much easier to approach than the big outfits in New York City. Spend some time visiting galleries in the art districts of major cities, in areas frequented by tourists, and in the antique rows popular in many small towns.
When you visit a gallery you can engage the proprietor or simply gather information and then make contact later. Carry quality samples of your work, though, in case an opportunity arises where you meet the gallery owner and strike up a conversation.
Arrange the samples of your work into collections of photos that carry a cohesive theme. For example, group all of your flower images in one section of your binder and all of your images of white-tailed deer in another section. Galleries are interested in showings of work not a mish-mash of unrelated images. Carry a promo card as well to leave with the gallery owner.
Whether you make contact with a gallery owner on the spur of the moment or by pre-arranged appoint, let the gallery owner know how many art buyers are on your mailing list. You'll be expected to promote your work as hard as the gallery promotes your work. Successful showings are joint projects.
Local businesses can also be great clients. My photos have been used in brochures for landscape companies, bird supply stores, and housing developments. I made contact by sending a promotional postcard targeted to that business. Business clients can also be found at breakfast meetings of small business owners, Chamber of Commerce meetings and business networking events sponsored by local colleges. Networking is the key to breaking into this market.
The joy of working with local business owners is there is rarely any competition. In addition, there are often opportunities to barter for services or get services at reduced rates. I scanned slides for a local beauty parlor in exchange for haircuts years ago. It wasn't a bad tradeoff.
One word of caution when working with local businesses. Small business owners do not always realize the value of photography. Their brother-in-law can take pictures, after all. Chambers of Commerce often get great photos for free from well-meaning photographers who live in the area. You will have to educate your clients on the value of photography. Don't sell yourself short.
Local markets are a great place to make money and establish your photography business. Work and profit from the local opportunities while keeping your eye on the global markets.
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