Photographing is so easy, why aren’t your photographs cheaper?

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08 Aug

As a nature/wildlife photographer, people sometimes suggest, “Photographing is so easy, why aren’t your photographs cheaper?”. Most people don’t realize what goes into the costs of being a professional nature/wildlife photographer.  First there is the gear, thousands of dollars for quality cameras, lenses, tripods and other gear—and then insurance on them in case of damage or loss. (I had a $2000 lens jump off a rubber zodiac into the water in the Galapagos; though it was recovered, it was a total loss.) Add to this the embedded costs of the training, education, and experiential knowledge of the photographer to get the perfect photographs.

Then there is the cost of travel, medical and trip insurance, food, lodging, tips, and often related driver, tour and/or guide costs to get those photographs; only a very small number of photographers are able to get a magazine or company to pay these costs—most of us pay them ourselves; sales are what reimburse us.

With a few exceptions, I print my own photograph, (having studied with two different master printers, one of whom worked for Ansel Adams), enabling me to have better quality and control over the process—but that necessitates thousands of dollars in printers, ink, paper, mats and frames. If I send an image to a commercial printer, that is a significant cost as well. And if you are in a gallery, there is also a commission to the gallery that comes out of the sale price. Galleries could not exist without such commissions.

So, while it is a labor of love, excellent photography is an expensive process. As we often tell young people who want to become nature/wildlife photographers, study, learn the craft of photography, but don’t quit your day job!

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