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  1. #1
    Registered User Sam Rickim's Avatar
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    Exclamation Wildlife Photographer, Just Trying to Get Noticed?

    Any advice for a newbie photographer?

    My portfolio is here. (samrickim.darkfolio.com). I use DeviantArt for artist networking, photo storage, print sales (yeah, right!) and the premium portfolio service (although I really, really want to find somewhere better) and I'm getting a bunch of business cards from Moo with my photographs on them (I have a coupon, feel free to message me for it) on June 25th. I've been taking photos at Sawgrass Nature Center and a few local preserves and parks - I also plan on going to a "cageless" zoo soon for practice. I'm hoping to get in contact with a family friend who specializes in venomous herps so I can get pictures, which would be excellent.

    I shoot with a Nikon D3100, and two lenses - a 55-200mm and a 35-55mm kit lens. I really should get one that goes up to 400mm, but I don't have the money currently.

  2. #2
    BPnet Veteran bioteacher's Avatar
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    Hey Sam!

    Figured I'd return the favor and leave some advice...

    - If you're looking for another service to host a site on - weebly is super easy, free, and you can post a ton of work there. It also has a number of display options and is becoming pretty well-known for professional businesses.

    - The business cards are a good way to go... leave them wherever you can. Carry some business cards with you at all times and some push-pins. Anytime you see a tack board pin up a card or two.

    - Watermark your images, even on your site - it prevents them from being taken.

    - Believe me, I know money can be tight. If you're desperate for a new lens and have a steady job where you can put a little money aside here and there, try buying a lens through billmelater (6-18 months without interest). I'd suggest the following lenses (all Nikon): 14-24 mm for landscape work, 105 mm macro (this may be a good option for you after looking at your work), or (probably the best option for wildlife with decent range) the 70-300 mm. Also, a good flash can be a huge help - I use a fairly cheap Sb400

    Being new to photography, if you want to get noticed you should work on posting (watermarked) shots on a lot of forums and being "present" on the forums. Query as many magazines and restaurants as you can about providing work for articles and displays. Most are very busy people, so be persistent without being a nuisance - a couple e-mails over a couple weeks works. Get more shots together on your site and keep it to only shots you'd display in print (or at least wouldn't mind on your walls). If you can print some, a good portfolio in print is always nice to show people.

    Try to keep it fun for yourself. If there is any hobby you enjoy, incorporate it. EX: A lot of my shots come from my backpacking. I hike to a lot of places rarely seen which helps with my shots. Definitely try to set up some shoots with friends' animals - snakes can make interesting subjects (just always make sure someone is helping when shooting hots or other potentially dangerous animals). Zoos are great places to shoot exotic animals without the travel/danger. If you have a lot of good shots from Sawgrass NC and all your proceeds are going there, you may want to contact the nature center and see if they'll post a link to your site.

    I'm in no way the best photographer and I'm constantly learning (always continue to read and learn), but I've gained a lot of experience within the last few years. I've got several publications (magazines and newspapers), some possible credits in a book, and over a years worth of displays lined up - so some things are working. If you want to talk shop more my email is: ccarillphoto@gmail.com

    Cheers!
    ~Chris
    Biology Departments - Marist College & Mount Saint Mary College
    carillephoto.com - Wildlife, Landscape, Wedding, & (of course) Snake Photography for sale
    edenexotics.weebly.com - my snake breeding business. Lots of different species, from Ball Pythons through to Bimini Island Boas

  3. #3
    BPnet Senior Member reptileexperts's Avatar
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    Business cards always gear exposure up, its a great way to talk to people about your work, especially the more you get into it. I use to be heavy into bird photography, still dabble in it just not as much here lately kind of an off season. But the one thing I would always do is bring business cards with me. Many people would see my equipment / age and be dumbfound, mainly because I'm a 25 year old guy walking around with huge lenses and binoculars, actively birdwatching with an age group that is generally dominated by ages 55-70! So when people ask me what I'm doing I give them a card and say go check this out, and explain that I take photographs for fun, but mostly do rare bird documentation photographs.

    For me to get my work noticed I did a few other things that I can recommend highly. Keep a folio online (I'm not familiar with the one you are using, but I use Flickr Pro, 25 a year unlimited photo hosting - www.flickr.com). Make sure you have it cleaned and organized. If you're going to use it as your main source of showmanship, only put your best up, hold back anything that would be considered sub-par for yourself (right now I'm using my flickr to host a lot of images and documentation shots and reptile work so again, kind of in a off season). Next thing, join groups, NOT stuff like "Nat geo photos to go" or "I wanna be a photographer" but real groups like magazine groups that want people to send in shots for possible publication. There are many out there, you just need to do some searching. The last thing is tagging. Figure out what the best key words and tags are for your images and plaster them so that everytime someone types a random phrase in google you have a chance of coming up with your image! It works, I promise! If you do wildlife, make sure you are using both common naming and scientific naming. Then further the inclusion by adding tags for the kingdom, class, order, and genus as well. This way you have a very broad spectrum for people to acquire one of your images with. . . . Now flickr doesn't offer a monitizing function allowing people to order your prints, but it does offer exposure that will allow you to have people contact you with information about image use rights. Using these methods landed one of my bird shots last year in a biodiversty exhibit at a Museam! On top of that, many of my shots have been used in publications all over the US, I have been contacted by professors to use my shots in classrooms or research papers, and graduate students have even emailed me looking for usage rights in graduate thesis work! Again, this won't pay the bills, but it will help you grow a fan base and get the exposure your images need to live.

    Finally, equipment . . . since you broguht it up, yeah we'll bring it up again! It's not always the equipment that make the photographer, but it sure can make the difference between a shot that happens, and one that does not. Many of the good lenses you'll need are going to run quite a bit of money, Nikkor 24-70 f2.8 lens is a beast, but the price tag is more than everything you currently have combined! If you don't plan on doing a lot of portriate / landscape shooting, stay away from wide angle lenses for now. They are fun! But heck, they are expensive, and you're not after that in general. For wildlife, I used a Sigma 150-500mm F4.5-6.3 HSM OS lens for a LONG time mounted on a Nikon D200, then a Nikon D7000. This set up faired extremely well for me, and I imaging it would do wonders for you with that extra length. For the price the Sigma 500mm is the best length bang for the buck out there. But get a half gimbal head and a good tripod to really get your use out of it. Your images will jump in sharpness when you need them to at those long focal lengths. The lens is decent at f7.1 and amazing at f8 - f11, but you're going to need superb lighting or a camera with the ability to cleanly handle high ISO (thinking along the lines of a D700, D800 (easily up to 6400), D7000 (upto 3200)). Other options are out there, Nikkor 80-400mm lens is a great lens for the most part, its a bit soft, but many people have been able to use it and get hands down fantastic images. Another lens that I'd like to HIGHLY reccommend is the Nikkor 300mm f4, this is the budget awesome prime. It's faster than your other options at 400 and 500mm and you can add a 1.4x tele to it to make it a 420mm f5.6 which is as fast as the 80-400 but a heck of a lot sharper, a prime lens, AND 20mm greater reach. The only downside to this is that it has an older style focus mechanism so you will not be able to autofocus on the D3100, D60, D40, D3200, and D5000, D5100 as well. . . as well as a lack of VR (Come on nikon!).

    BONUS CONTENT:

    Touching on equipment one last time, I'll point out a new technology that is bloody amazing! Nikon entered the mirrorless camera game with the 1 series cameras. They offer a 2.7x crop factor on their lenses, so it has a SUPER small sensor, but man it does wonders in a lot of ways.
    1) With the Nikon Ft-1 adapter you can mount your nikon lenses onto this small mirrorless camera, think J1 for budget, V1 for comfort with the added viewfinder
    2) Because it has a 2.7x Crop Factor, you get an additional 1.2x crop than you would if you were using a DX sensor nikon camera with the same glass. This means a 500mm lens would have an EFL of 750mm on a D7000, EFL of 500mm on a D700, and a whopping EFL of 1350mm on a Nikon J1!
    2b) When you utilize the crop factor, you lose NO light - usually adding a teleconverter causes you to drop your F stop by the same amount as the tele, a 2x tele will drop you 2 f stops (think f4 goes to f8) while a 1.4x will drop you 1.4 stops (f4 goes to f5.6). With the crop factor of the sensor and the light retention of the Ft-1 adapter you retain your fast f stop!! So what this means is if you use a nikkor 70-200 f2.8 lens, you will have an EFL of 540mm @ f2.8! This translates to wicked awesome depth of field as well as superb autofocus abilities as well as wicked fast shutter speeds (think ISO 100, exposure 1/4000 sec @ f3.2 in daylight).
    3) Insanely fast Frames Per Second shooting with Raw capabilities - Big for people trying to photograph wildlife in action.
    4) Cost over all is GREATLY reduced to a comparitive cropped or full frame setup with a smaller package that can still retain some GREAT shots IF you know its limitations.

    Breakdown on Cost:
    Nikon J1 kit - $500
    Ft-1 Adapter - $200
    Tamron 70-200f.8** - $769
    -----------------------------------------
    Total: $1469

    Going the budget route with a Tamron 200 f2.8 is an alternative, but it delivers! Just don't expect Autofocus to work, to keep with autofocus capabilities you'll need to look into Nikkor, at least the 80-200 AF-S, or a used Nikon 70-200 f2.8 VR (not the new VRII). But this will add at the least $800 into your final cost.

    Go check out some of my test work with this set up, as well some of my work, be sure and look at my sets "Warblers 2011" and "Panama Highlite shots" for some great examples. Many of my J1 test shots can be seen on page 2 of my flickr page if you are interested in this budget small footprint camera set up. Let me know if you want to talk more on any of this!
    www.flickr.com/codyconway

    Cheers
    -------------------------------------------------------
    Retics are my passion. Just ask.

    www.wildimaging.net www.facebook.com/wildimaging

    "...That which we do not understand, we fear. That which we fear, we destroy. Thus eliminating the fear" ~Explains every killed snake"

  4. #4
    BPnet Senior Member kitedemon's Avatar
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    I have different advise. Don't sweat gear too much, cameras lenses take pictures but people make great images. You have a good eye you will make good images with a point and shoot or what you have or more expensive gear. long lenses are great I would suggest no ever buying a DX lens as full frame is creeping down the line and the more advanced gear it is likely you will be using in the future will not be fully functional with DX lenses. Rent the lens you are thinking of, you get to try it out and see if you like it or not. Look at prime lenses faster and cheaper for what you get.

    Getting noticed I'd not suggest web sites and forums they are good for advise and such but being noticed by client? not so much. It is too hard to find YOU out of the millions of others. I suggest a printed (well printed spend the extra for good prints not cheap ok ones) and knock on some doors. Find pros in your area whom shoot similar subject and make an appointment and sit and chat about your work. They will remember you and with some luck you will find an assistant job. Go to parks or zoos take your images pick the best and then go back and talk to owners and managers give a print get invited back. You need business cards, good ones. Get a designer (trade?) and make professional ones. You need to present your self as a professional and be treated as such.

    The best experience you can get is to work as an assistant for a few years. A good assistant is worth their weight in gold, and is paid reasonably well (my assistants makes 20$ an hour just about 2x min wage) and more importantly are recognized by the clients as working with Mr. Professional. When you branch out on your own and run into the same people they will remember you. Learn names and faces, remember them, say hello by name every time you meet that person, it matters. Maintenance workers security as well as owners and managers, security people can be your best asset or your worst pain. It is your choice which they will be, respect goes a long long away in good relations. Photographers and dictators and control freaks, but also people persons, and photographers whom are painful to work with are either so good it doesn't matter or not working.

    I make my living from photography, 30 years of running my business as well as 20 of teaching photography in a university. I started as an assistant and many of my assistance are working pros now.
    Last edited by kitedemon; 07-06-2012 at 01:58 AM.

  5. #5
    BPnet Senior Member reptileexperts's Avatar
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    I can not agree with that previous post for the sake of wildlife images . . . that may work great for portriate work and for wedding and senior shoots. But if you're specifically aiming yourself toward wildlife photography the advice is moot. Youre audience will not be found in your neighboorhood, you will be looking for magazine prints, periodicals, publications, and the random art exhibit halls that show case local work. If you want to do stuff in person you need to look for art shows that allow local artist to feature their work. I may not make a living from photography, but I have an extensive collection of published materials under my belt, and the majority of it being wildlife photography.

    While equipment may not be as good as the person using the camera, it sure does make the job easier. If you're trying to photograph a hummingbird with an onboard flash and a 250mm kit lens, your results will be far less than what they would be by even just adding a more powerful external flash like an Sb-700... While I agree that artist can do a lot with a lower quality camera because most of them are using photoshop post shooting and editing the heck out of it, adding vignetting, even adding noise to make the image look more interesting, but with wildlife publication its all about clarity, unique captures, and rarity. If you take a picture of a Grackle, there are slim chances someone will take notice of it, after all its just a grackle, but if you take a picture of a grackle doing something fantastic and unique, you have an image worth its weight. Same to say, if you travel to a remote location in the world and photograph a bird few people have ever seen, green-naped tanager for instance down in the Darian Provence of Panama, if you capture a clear image of this bird sitting on a branch doing nothing special, there WILL be people dying for image use rights! And if you get an image of a unique encounter with it, it will then become priceless. The problem is, a lot of these images will require equipment that needs bank. In the rain forest for instance you have very low light shooting oportunities, and high ISO and fast lenses is a must. I struggled in Panama shooting at f4.0 and an ISO of 1600, barely managing 1/250 shutter speeds for the most part. The better your equipment is, the more opportunities you will have to shoot. Sure you can get a shot at whatever your highest ISO is, and cram the most out of your lens wide open, but even the best artist will fail to get results that work when it comes to wildlife photography. Keep in mind that lighting is everything. And when the lights are subpar, you must rely on your equipment!
    -------------------------------------------------------
    Retics are my passion. Just ask.

    www.wildimaging.net www.facebook.com/wildimaging

    "...That which we do not understand, we fear. That which we fear, we destroy. Thus eliminating the fear" ~Explains every killed snake"

  6. #6
    BPnet Senior Member kitedemon's Avatar
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    Interesting, one of my early assisting jobs was for a wildlife guy, 2 weeks shooting critters in northern labrador. I learned a monster amount and you think that is not of value? True I don't shoot much wild life for cash these days but I know 2 guys whom do in my area. Both often and regularly take one or two assistants with them usually an intern and first assistant. It sure seems like a great way in to me. I am sure that I will be disagreed but that is fine.

    I have never seen anyone get any real work with a photo sharing site, maybe some do but I have not seen it. Heck I had a web site but I don't think I got any work from that I don't bother now. I have more than I can manage.

    Cameras should be used without thought, change settings on the fly and alter the way it responds all with out needing to fumble and mess with it. Speed and comfort is more useful than lots of stuff learning what you have is better than having lots of gear. Gear head photographers often get so hung up on gear they don't take great images.

    Oh last comment, Croposis (the need to crop photographs to 'improve it' is a nervous disorder. The crop tool in photoshop is NOT your friend and should be treated with extreme caution.

  7. #7
    BPnet Veteran bioteacher's Avatar
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    I hope you're getting some good advice out of this all Sam!

    Both bring up good points and advice. Obviously there is no "right way" to go about finding work and jobs, or everyone would be a professional photographer. Learn from the advice and experiences of others (above included) and take the advice you think is best and most helpful to you. Not everything will work for you, but a lot can be applicable.

    My last note, which I think was great advice from the above two, is that apprenticing under someone successful in the field can be very helpful (as long as you're not just someone's b!tch and actually are learning) and photos of rare animals and plants do get a lot of requests - just look for photos of a brooding frog giving birth.... you'll find the only photo was taken by Dr. Michael Tyler and is only posted with his request (some have illegally posted and are being brought to court).

    Kitedemon - Seeing as that you've been successful as a photographer, I'd love to see some of your work. Do you have it posted anywhere?
    ~Chris
    Biology Departments - Marist College & Mount Saint Mary College
    carillephoto.com - Wildlife, Landscape, Wedding, & (of course) Snake Photography for sale
    edenexotics.weebly.com - my snake breeding business. Lots of different species, from Ball Pythons through to Bimini Island Boas

  8. #8
    BPnet Senior Member reptileexperts's Avatar
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    One of my good friends who is a professional wildlife photographer, uses his flickr to get his work out there, and has ended up with his work being selected for a few magazines just from his flickr account. If you do it right, it works great for wildlife photographers. Being an assistant is a great start, especially if you do not have any formal training, or want to get your foot in the door somewhere. I never denied that. But again, wildlife photographers are a different kind of beast.

    Also - Cropsis is bad. Having a cropped sensor can be bad. But I know plenty of professionals in their field that use a Canon 7D over a 1D Mk IV or a 5D Mkiii full frame cameras, because the sensor is just fantastic and the crop gives us that extra bit of reach when we need it.
    -------------------------------------------------------
    Retics are my passion. Just ask.

    www.wildimaging.net www.facebook.com/wildimaging

    "...That which we do not understand, we fear. That which we fear, we destroy. Thus eliminating the fear" ~Explains every killed snake"

  9. #9
    BPnet Senior Member kitedemon's Avatar
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    Sort of yes. As I said I don't keep a web site anymore, I was getting the wrong clients and not the right ones. (calls about weddings and grad portraits and such) My little place is picking up all the botched jobs and the 'impossible' ones. The type of thing there isn't enough time to do I do. I get work that simply cannot be done by photographers thinking inside the box.The best example is a few weeks ago I got a call about meeting a truck 2 hours from anywhere, that needed to be shot in 1 hour. They tried 6 others before I was called. the answer is easy, helicopter it is a 22 min flight and I am 8 min from being picked up. Done. Cheap? NOPE.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKGZKIjkMEQ
    1:40 in my photo and custom aging process designed exclusive for this one photo. Delivered in 12 hours.

    http://www.wickeremporium.ca/

    Almost everything, fast the web shots are all average 8 min total time post and shooting and the banners and such all less than one hour custom lighting and all.

    Off hand that is what there is, I have a lot of publications in Europe and Asia but it is not easy to point to, I don't keep track anymore. I shoot a lot of fashion but that is all under non disclosure agreements.

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