How Does One Sell Bird Photos?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by jim_mueller|2, Apr 10, 2004.

  1. I've been shooting some birds with my 300D. The thought occured to
    me that there's a remote possibility I might be able to sell a photo
    sometime in the future.

    If one wants to sell bird photographs is slide film the only
    acceptable media? Do original **digital** photographs of birds have
    any value? How does one go about marketing ones photos?
  2. Jim,
    What market are you talking about here. Two books I would check out at
    the library are. The yearly Photographers Market and John Shaws "The
    Business of Nature Photography. If you wanted you could frame some and
    troop on down to the nearest crafts market set up a booth and sell
    some. If you are talking magazines each one has its own requirements
    though most usually accept slides though many are adapting to digital.
    God's light to you
  3. Realistically, you get in line behind the 10,000 other photographers with the same thought...

    It's not like there's a scarcity of bird photographers or a lack of bird images on the market unless you have something really rare and special.
  4. Check out
  5. Jim<br>
    Been there.. Done that...To elaborate on BobAtkins, there are 10,000
    photographers in each city with 10,000 photos in stock. So ours photos
    are 1 in (10000 * 10000 * N# cities). I used to spend a lot of money
    on photography until one day when I asked myself, what the heck am I
    doing. Now I donate the money I used spend on these Rolls, and a
    child in Afghanistan gets food and cloth one full year. <br>
    My point is... Photography has come to a saturation point. There are
    sharks out there like John Fielder & John Shaw with killing machines
    and great skills many just can't compete with. Thats the fact.
    Good luck on your expedition.. who knows.. maybe you can become an
    other "John Shaw" or "Gallen Rowell"... :)
  6. Jim,

    I've been published in Birds and Blooms, Jan/Feb 2000, double page spread and as the others have stated there is a lot of competition.

    The one thing I've found is you can't get published if you don't submit. And of course it helps to submit tack sharp and well composed and lit work.

    I shoot slide film but some pubs are considering digital these days.

    Look for a fit between your work and the magazine you want to target.
    Professional looking cover letter, submittal list of work and sleeved and numbered images, personal copyright stamp on each slide. You might also want to include a terms of usage but some of the legalese might work against you if you are not known to the publisher.

    good luck,
  7. I guess it all depends on what you want to achieve. There is a big difference between wanting to see a few of your photos in print and wanting to support your family from photo sales. If you just want to see some of your photos in print and "make" a few dollars, then one approach is to produce a photo and words package and send it to an appropriate magazine. John Shaw's book has some good advice on this, but instead of his suggested route of sending in a proposal letter I would say send the whole package at least until you have made a name for yourself. There is a lot of competition in bird photography from pro and amateurs, but one area where you may have an advnatge over most pros is that you can, if you decide to, spend a whole year photographing one breed of bird in one area or a similar in-dpeth study.

    In terms of digital - yes many magazines and stock agencies are accepting digital, but you need to have established a good and consistent workflow for your files.

    I woudln't bother with stock agencies, unless you have a large volumes of images, or something very rare e.g big foot and a dodo in the smae clearing.

    Finally has some great information on the business of photography.

  8. There are many markets for bird photos, not just magazines. Though I shoot only film gear, I haven't had to send any of my slides anywhere in the last year - everything I've sold lately has been a digital file.
    As far as marketing is concerned - I haven't gotten ANY sales through stock agencies. It's all been from photo buyers finding my website through search engines or through links with non-profit conservation organizations who have asked to use my photos on their websites.
    I'm certainly not supporting my family - and especially not my daughter's horse - on the income from photography but I am keeping myself in photo gear and consumables.
  9. My impression has been that by this time in history there is a definite "star syndrome" at work in nature photography. If you don't have a name that's known it's really, really hard to sell photos. The only way to get known is to have people see your work. So the approach is to get your work "out there" any way you can. Lots of photographers create online galleries; the easiest way is to sign up at and create a gallery there. It's easy and free. The better photographers become well-known within this community fairly rapidly.

    Occasionally small publications ask photographers who post at for permission to publish individual photos in their magazines, usually for free. Personally, I think this is a good way to get one's name out into print to help establish a "portfolio." However, there is grumbling among some members of this forum that photographers, however little known, should hold out for "full publication price" for any photos. I don't agree, but then, I'm really looking to make money off of nature photography at this stage of my life.
  10. Douglas, thanks. I signed up for an account at Here's a link to my gallery.
  11. Thanks, you're off to a good start. Here's my gallery site:
  12. Douglas, nice bird shots. That Nikon 80-400 looks like a really sharp lens. How does the "VR" work?
  13. First and foremost you need to be a good salesman. Most published images in general, and bird images in particular are average or below. Some are getting paid for these images. Many of the household names of nature photography are merely adequate photographers but they are excellent businessmen.

    I'll say you have much better change to suceed if you're a brilliant salesman but an average photographer, than a world class bird photography with no sales or business talent.
  14. First of all I agree with the last entry because it refers to me. I'm a mediocre photographer (still) but above average in selling myself. I've just sold a photo to a greeting card company. How? I sent out 100 query letters asking for their needs and then sent them the types of things they were looking for. They chose one and offered $400 for it. As a rule I disagree with anyone saying "it's difficult" or "the odds are against you" etc. The best advice I've read is to target magazines, publications, newspapers, book sellers that you either already read or that use the type of photos you have already been taking and then offer to send a few sample photos. Good luck - you can sell some of your photos - guaranteed!

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