Nature and Wildlife photography, Is is Boring?
While lurking through some old posts on other forums I came across that subject line and it turned into a very very long discussion.
If it isn’t boring then why do we not see any being sold at art shows and is it actually art? What makes a photo interesting enough to others to make it worth even over $100 let alone the hundreds we sometimes have invested into that special trip to get that special shot?
I know over time I have gotten bored from just getting another photo of a bird on a limb Or another deer staring at you, Or another butterfly on a flower. to a bird in flight to a bird doing something like catching dinner. Is it just me that thinks much of what I shoot on a given day is boring even if technically superior to the average guy that can afford the same gear as mine regardless if he knows how to use it or not?
And do the photographers that show at art shows ever sell enough to make it worth while even for their ego? Or perhaps there are some that make enough to cover the cost of travel and equipment. I contend that the photographers that actually make a living or a substantial part of it do so by a totally different venue, that being private galleries and direct mail to valid clients and collector of nature photography.
I do not personally find the act of taking a photo boring but in many cases the task of culling and post processing boring. Conversely I knew a photographer that spent more time in photoshop than in the field.
So, there you have it. Is our subject boring to 99% of the viewers or is is boring to us unless we strive for the technically difficult? Many of us take photos for a vast array of reasons. What are those reasons? to get out in the wild even if no photo is taken? to challenge oneself technically or against nature (wait it out to get the shot or in some uncomfortable position)? To sell and make a living? Self gratification? therapy even? I am sure there are many others.
This should be a very interesting topic! For myself, I see it two fold. One being I shoot for myself and try to ignore the fact that yes many of MY photographs have been done before me by more talented photographers or photographers that have better gear for the particular situation (meaning longer lens, studio lighting, etc.). Or photographers that can spend the requisite time on location to capture a spectacular image. So I do try to please myself and out do myself based on MY own benchmarks.
The other side of the coin is that I feel we are drowning in good, excellent and amazing photographs these days. You literally just need to be in the right place at the right time with your cell phone and you can become “instafamous”. I have been making a part time living from photography since 2004 and did weddings for the first 8 years. I made great money then but even then, I sold very few prints. Granted partly my fault for not being better at marketing and party that all my clients mostly wanted were the digital files.
Now we seem even more squeezed by the lack of print sales, short attention spans, and that good-enough photography is available to anyone with a phone in their hand.
Just to make this point. I am shooting at sunrise in Death Valley. I was the first person in the parking lot that morning. By sunrise I am surrounded by 60 or so people with some sort of camera at the ready for sunrise. I have a very nice conversation with woman on vacation who is not a “photographer”. Later that day I run into her at dinner and she says how amazing the sunrise was this morning. I had a photo on my cell phone I showed her and she asked if I would send it to her so she would have a memory of the morning. She was not interested in my “real” pictures with my DSLR. I was not about to charge her for my cell phone image but the point being that was good enough for her, never mind the 30 mega pixel, fine art, post processed, exquisite images I produced with my thousands of dollars of gear I made that morning (tongue partly in cheek there).
NO! I don’t think it is boring as a genre, but some of the photography is - or a lot of it is, depending on your point of view. I think many in the “public” do not have a good appreciation of art but they know what pleases them. What pleases them may not be what pleases us to produce. I do some landscape stuff that pleases people and I do sell some of it. Although some of it pleases me, I frequently find myself getting bored and then I have to push the envelope. Mostly that is in the plant category and I generally don’t sell those, but they get into juried shows and various contests and I find that very interesting.
I think you can go either way. Produce stuff for the consumer that may bore you some of the time or do stuff that you do just for your own satisfaction.
Even on the stuff that I do for my own satisfaction, I sometimes get bored. Then its time to step back, maybe try some different approaches and study what others are doing to keep it interesting.
My two cents.
I’m not sure if this is an epic troll but I’ll bite. No it’s not boring to me and many others. It’s not boring to birders who love watching birds and putting themselves in position to capturing them. It’s not boring to those who like to head out in to the woods and be surrounded by the natural world. It’s not boring to those who enjoy going out for a sunrise and watching the sun come up during a peaceful time of the day. I’m not sure where your statistic that nature photography is boring to "99% of the viewers"came from, but I think that number is questionable at best.
As for the art shows. The answer is yes. Many photographers do very well at art shows. I attend a handful of shows each summer and do very well. Yes, it’s kind of a nice ego boost when people look at your work and compliment you, but I have very good sales at these shows too! Art show money (along with portrait and wedding gigs) pays for my hobby. I haven’t had to spend my “day job” money on photography gear in nearly a decade. (That makes my wife happy! ) Some photographers do so well selling their photos that they can even quit their day jobs completely and open up their own galleries! I’ve visited a couple nature photography galleries and they are very nice. That’s actually a long term goal of mine!
Having said all that, photography of any genre is highly subjective. A photographer who finds nature photography boring probably shouldn’t be doing nature photography. Additionally, nature photography has a lot of subgeneres that may or may not be closely related. For example, bird photography is way different than macro flower photography, landscapes, etc. If a photographer finds one of those to be boring, they might be better off to focus on other subjects that do interest them or they will admittadly get bored. And if somebody finds nature photography prints boring, they are not a customer of ours. But many, many people like looking at and even purchasing nature photos.
Thanks Luke! I’m really glad that you are successful I wish more accomplished photographers were as fortunate. I further believe many underestimate the dedication it takes to be a successful exhibitor and to be published.
Thanks again for your valued input
Here is another great read [In Conversation with Colleen Miniuk
I don’t find it boring. If you’d have asked me 10 years ago I would have probably had a different answer but I (like many others I guess) love the highs and lows of it. I love spending hours planning visits and scouting locations.
I enjoy the mindful approach to finding compositions when time allows and the excitement of having to react to changing conditions and more dynamic compositions.
I also really enjoy the post processing and I am one of those that (as mentioned above) possibly spend just as much/more time in Photoshop than in the field.
What I do find boring is the same composition over and over again and I guess every area has its usual suspects. I completely get it that they’re iconic for a reason and ideal for learning I just find it really dull, especially when they are shot during blue sky days.
But yeah, if you’d have asked me in my 20s I’d have probably laughed out loud.
It’s finally happened to me. I’m bored with grand landscapes, of which 90% of my photos are. I’ve loved going to places searching for that magical sunrise/sunset with a panoramic view, but now I’m pretty tired of doing that. Fortunately, there are other things to photograph!
Anyone who finds nature photography boring is in the wrong business. If all you photograph is birds or flowers and are becoming bored maybe you should broaden your horizons to lichens or insects or rare orchids or skeletonized leaves or … There’s so much of interest in the natural world that there’s an infinite number of potential subjects. Here’s a challenge: Pick any acre of woodland and take a photo of a different subject every day for a year – you should never run out of subjects.
My photography is for my own satisfaction, if someone else likes my photographs it’s a bonus. I’ve sold a few photographs over the years as well as several articles illustrated with my photos but have never tried to make money from my photographs.