Since I've now officially launched http://www.bestnatureimages.com/, I thought it might be time to talk a little bit about Whimbrel Nature Photography, what it is, where it is going, and how it is getting there.
Several people have asked where the name "Whimbrel Nature Photography" came from. I actually came up with this name for my photography business back when I was dreaming about being a nature photographer my freshman year of high school. At the time I was birding a lot with my dad and the whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) was my "holy grail" bird for our trips to the coast. With its large size (for a shorebird), striped crown, and long decurved bill, this bird just captured the exotic, mysterious, and exciting world of birds for me at that time and I thought the name just sounded cool. I've seen many whimbrels since then, but have yet to get a good image of one. When it came time to name my budding business, I decided to honor the name I came up with back then. It brings back happy memories of lots of time spent out in the field with my dad.
Another question that comes up frequently is, "do I Photoshop or significantly alter my digital images". My answer to that is somewhat complex and too involved for this post (maybe it should be a later post). My personal philosophy is that I'm a naturalist/educator first and an artist second. I do my best to present my images as I saw them, in real life, at the time I captured the image. Yes, I do post-process my images, but I generally use those techniques to try to capture the image I saw with my own eyes in the field. I wish to make it clear that I don't begrudge those photographers that do use more extreme digital techniques or that I'm swearing not to use them in the future. Photography is an art, and artists should be free to explore their vision. I do promise to be up front about any image that has been significantly altered from the reality I witnessed. To do otherwise would be a violation of my primary objective, that of being a naturalist/educator.
What is my goal in making images and marketing them? First and foremost, I hope that my images will inspire a love of nature, a respect for nature, and an interest in nature. I hope that this love, respect, and interest will inspire people to want to conserve and treasure the beautiful natural places left on this planet and to work towards existing in greater harmony with the natural world. My second goal is to educate. I want to focus on producing not only "beautiful" images, but images that show fascinating behavior or illustrate biological concepts. I want to be the "go-to" source for images illustrating the cool science behind the natural world. As such, while I'll be quite pleased to sell prints of my images online, my major focus for my business going forward will be producing images for editorial and educational use, and to accompany my own articles about the amazing world that surrounds us.
Some of my current projects include:
-an article about the function of the nictitating membrane in diving ducks (I've captured some great images of ducks about to dive or surfacing with the membrane moving across their eyes)
-editing my images from St. Augustine, Florida and Denali National Park in Alaska to add to my online archives
-an article about the art (and ethics) of stalking wildlife for photography
-an article about natural areas to visit in the DC area
-creating a lightbox of natural history images suitable for providing exciting examples/illustrations of biological phenomena for marketing to textbook photo researchers; my lightbox will provide information on how the images can be used to provide a cool illustration of a particular topic
So, how am I getting there? Last summer I joined up with a service called Photoshelter to host my images online. I chose Photoshelter because they seemed to offer the most in terms of helping me sell my photography. In addition to securely storing my images, they give me the capability to sell prints online, offer my images for rights-managed licensing, and create customer lightboxes. They provide the tools to make it really easy for my customers to find and purchase my images online. I've already been using their lightboxes, galleries, and coupons to connect with clients and I'll be using them more as I begin to truly ramp up my operations this spring and summer. They provide the tools and the know-how to increase your SEO and get found online.
What I like best about Photoshelter is that they are constantly thinking about and implementing new upgrades and that they really try to educate their members about how to suceed in the "new" and sometimes daunting marketplace for photography. They offer online seminars (which I have and will attend), an excellent industry blog, really great user forums, and excellent information packets about topics such as SEO or utilizing social media. I've been extremely happy with their service so far and I look forward to a long and successful partnership. I'm currently just a semi-pro starting out at the very beginning of his career, but Photoshelter is providing the tools and the knowledge to help me make my dreams and goals become a reality.