How do you make a photographic hobby pay?

I thought I’d repost this article from early 2010 since the economy and market hasn’t really changed all that much (sad but true). – Enjoy!

Fort Davis

Fort Davis, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
Click on the image above for a larger version.

Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 24mm, f/16 for 1/6th of a second at ISO 100 using Singh-Ray’s warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.

GPS Coordinates: 30°35’56″ N 103°54’24″ W, 5342 ft

Many aspiring photographers and devoted camera buffs ask me the same question year after year, “How do you make a photographic hobby pay?”.

At first I’m tempted to tell folks that it’s impossible because gear lust tends to overcome common sense in most amateurs (and many professionals). The manufacturers keep adding features to keep us dishing out money for new cameras every year. If we fall into this trap (we’re all guilty of this folks) then it’s impossible for amateurs or most professionals to break even, let alone make a profit.

Successful professionals understand this reality very well and look at their gear as capital equipment that depreciates over time. No small business replaces capital equipment before it’s fully depreciated and the key to making money as a small business is watching your cash flow like a hawk.

However, somewhere along the way, serious amateurs begin to realize that their 10 megapixel 20D or 12 megapixel D300 is really all they need to achieve consistent image quality. They come to the realization that a good photograph has a lot more to do with the photographer than with the camera. It’s a profound and humbling realization for most and it’s the time when they sets aside their gear lust and begin their search for knowledge. It’s the time when serious amateurs seek out teaching professionals at workshops, seminars and photo-tours.

It’s also the time when many begin to give back to the photographic community as a whole. This is where many folks really begin to grow as photographers and discover that sharing knowledge freely with others multiplies their opportunities to connect with potential customers, sponsors and other photographers that share their passion.

The next steps amateurs take to make their craft pay for itself depend greatly on the personality of the photographer.

Selling fine art prints or coffee table books to the general public is hard work and most amateurs know very little about their regional market for such images.

Microstock photography is one possible revenue stream but a quick search on sites like iStockphoto turn up thousands of incredible images from very talented amateurs and professionals. (Face it. The stock photography market today is already flush with talent.)

Getting commercial work as an amateur is extremely difficult, given the fact that so many top-notch professionals are already out of work due to the ailing economy and the rapid decline of print media. Competing in the commercial arena means going up against the likes of David Tejada, Tyler Stableford and Kirk Tuck. Not for the weak of heart.

Some how do you make your photographic hobby pay for itself?

  • Control your gear lust and stop spending money for the latest & greatest stuff! The easiest way to break even is to stop spending your hard-earned money on a new camera every year.
  • Volunteer at your church, your local food-bank or your local civic center. NGO’s (Non-Governmental Organizations) in your local area may well need the services of a photographer to document their work. But please don’t under-bid your local pro who needs all the work he can get.
  • Sell to small, local companies that won’t usually hire a professional photographer to shoot their widgets, facilities or staff but want new images for their web site every so often. (Just don’t do this in Sugar Land ;-))
  • Sell your services to local folks that need a simple but professional head shot for a blog, Twitter or Facebook. You don’t need a studio. Make house calls using your minimalist “studio in a box” on-location lighting kit.

If you’re good and can find a local niche for your work, your photographic hobby has the potential to pay for itself. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll have gained valuable experience that most hobbyists never dream of.

Our Lord and Saviour said it best in the New Testament, “Give, and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:38)

Cathedral Morning – Tule Canyon, Texas

Here’s a shot of an incredible rock formation found at the very south end of Tule Canyon near Silverton, Texas. Exploring the western edge of Tule Canyon near the MacKenzie Reservoir yields some of the most interesting history and geology in the entire state.

Standing here on a cold spring morning, it’s easy to imagine this canyon filled with vast herds of buffalo being hunted by the Apache on horseback. It’s also easy to imagine what Coranado must have thought when he first came upon this region during his El Dorado expedition in 1540′s.

What an incredible place to explore!

Cathedral Morning

Cathedral Morning – Tule Canyon, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 28mm, f/14 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Cold Day at Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas

Cold Day at Caprock Canyons

Cold Day at Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 19mm, f/14 for 1/60th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Hiking the CCC Ridge Trail at Palo Duro Canyon State Park

“The rugged Palo Duro Canyon, the nation’s second largest such gorge, located in the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle, is home to one of the Lone Star State’s largest state parks (some 28,978 acres). In the 1930s, seven different CCC outfits, four composed solely of veterans and two solely of young African Americans, were assigned the task of transforming a daunting geographical area–though clearly one of the state’s most important scenic and natural areas–into an inviting park for guests.

CCC Ridge Trail

Among the CCC’s prime tasks was developing over eleven miles of road to gain access to the canyon floor, which they accomplished while also establishing strategically located lookout points, picnic areas, steps, and trails that accentuated the Lighthouse, Castle, and Capitol peaks. Throughout the park Palo Duro’s team of architects and planners took full advantage of the spectrum of picturesque scenes the landscape had to offer. Four Cow Camp cabins invite close-up views of the canyon floor; and Coronado Lodge, the large rubble stone concession building situated on the rim of the canyon, offers a spectacular view of the canyon stretching off into the horizon. Meanwhile, in one of the CCC’s most inspired moves, three of the park’s stone-constructed overnight cabins were set directly into the canyon’s rim.”

Hiking Palo Duro Canyon

CCC Ridge Trail – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 17mm, f/16 for 1/13th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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South Prong Canyon

“The rugged beauty of Caprock Canyons State Park has been created over millions of years, shaped by wind and water. The park is located along the Caprock Escarpment, a long, narrow rocky formation as high as 1,000 feet that forms a natural tran­sition between the flat, high plains of the Llano Estacado to the west and the lower Rolling Plains to the east.

Streams flowing east from the Llano Estacado flow onto the lower plains through the Caprock Escarpment, then into the Red, Brazos and Colorado rivers. With a downcutting action, tributary drainages of the Little Red River have exposed geologic layers in the park down to the Permian age Quartermaster formation, formed approximately 280-250 million years ago. These layers are commonly referred to as “red beds” because of the red coloration of their constituent shales, sandstones, siltstones and mudstones.

Each of the geologic ages exposed by this headwater drainage erosion is characterized by different colorations including shades of red, orange and white. The park’s steep and colorful canyons and bluffs are the breathtaking result of this powerful natural process.”

South Prong Canyon Trailhead

South Prong Canyon – Caprock Canyons State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 28mm, f/14 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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The Spanish Skirts of Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon is approximately 120 miles long and 600 to 800 feet deep and is the second largest canyon in the United States. The canyon was formed less than 1 million years ago when the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River first carved its way through the Southern High Plains. The rocks expose a geo- logic story which began approximately 250 million years ago, layer by layer revealing a panoramic view of magnificent color. The canyon’s archeological and ethnological treasures suggest about twelve thousand years of human habitation, rising and waning as climate varied among periods of abundant moisture, aridity, and sometimes fearfully severe drought.

Spanish Skirts

Spanish Skirts – Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 26mm, f/16 for 1/10th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Straight & Narrow

The drive from Canyon, Texas to Palo Duro Canyon State Park is a gorgeous ten miles of straight and narrow county road. Oh, what a view on a quiet, moonlit night!

Straight and Narrow

Straight & Narrow – Canyon, Texas
Copyright © 2013 Jeff Lynch Photography
EOS 5D Mark III w/ GP-E
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with GP-E2 unit attached, set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens and tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 27mm, f/16 for 1/15th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer filter and 2-stop, soft, graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done in Adobe’s Lightroom 4.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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Workshop Preparation Post #6: Shoot What You Love

The Spring 2013 Texas Landscape Safari is less than a week away and I know the folks that plan to attend are anxious to get out with their cameras after a long and cold winter. So for the next few days I’ll be posting tips to help folks get the most out of their workshop experience.

The first rule of photography that I was taught thirty five years ago was to “shoot what you love”. There is no better piece of advice I can give to an enthusiastic amateur than that. When you truly “love” the subject that you’re photographing, that “feeling” is reflected in the images you capture. Monet painted many different scenes during his career but none stand out nearly as much as those of his beloved garden’s water lilies.

Folks attending photographic workshops are often searching to discover what subjects they connect with the best. For some it’s big game wildlife in Africa, while for others it’s the unique water fowl found in southern Florida. For many younger landscape enthusiasts it’s the majesty of Yosemite or Yellowstone while for others (like myself) it’s the simple, rugged beauty found in the rural areas of Texas.

The key to getting the most out of any workshop (or your own photography in general) is to discover what you love to shoot and make it your goal to learn how to shoot that subject as creatively as possible. Don’t worry about what others in the group are concentrating on. Take a good look around you at each stop and see what catches your eye. If it’s water, shoot the water. If it’s wildflowers, shoot the flowers. If it’s rocks and trees, then explore the rocks and trees with your camera. Approach each new location during the workshop with an open mind, a curious demeanor and a courageous attitude and I promise you’ll soon learn what you “love” to shoot just as I have.

And remember to enjoy yourself out there. We’re all here to learn and have some fun exploring the Texas panhandle together. Learn to shoot what you love and to love what you shoot and I promise you’ll walk away with some great images and some wonderful new friends. But don’t take my word for it; just ask Angel, Darrell or Ralph when you meet them in Canyon, Texas in a few days.

Caprock Canyon in Summer

Caprock Canyon in Summer – Quitaque, Texas
Copyright © 2010 Jeff Lynch Photography
Shot taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II set on aperture (Av) priority using an EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens tripod mounted. The exposure was taken at 40mm, f/16 for 1/40th of a second at ISO 100 using a Singh-Ray warming polarizer and two-stop, soft graduated neutral density filter. Post capture processing was done entirely in Adobe’s Lightroom 3.

Click on the image above for a larger version.

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