Three Top Local Prospects for Your Nature and Wildlife Photography

by Scott Bourne | September 1, 2005

NatureScapesIf you want to get paid for your nature and wildlife images, you may have already found out that the competition to sell such images is fierce. Part of the problem is that everyone is trying to carve up the same pie.

For more than a decade I’ve successfully sold my nature and wildlife images by concentrating on new business models and new targets that may have less curb appeal than the big magazines or stock agencies, but which pay as well or better.

Local Businesses

Every business has a need for photography of some kind. And many use nature or wildlife photography for their website, catalog, advertisements, or to decorate their building.

How you can make this work for you? If you find a company called “Wolf Brothers Automotive,” you should be showing them your portfolio of wolf pictures. Also look beyond companies with obvious name-subject ties, such as businesses that will be attracted to other symbiotic combinations. For instance, businesses in communities surrounded by water will be good targets for seascapes, photos of boats, harbors, sunsets and sea-borne birds and mammals.

Visit local business and decide which of your pictures would be appropriate. Put together a portfolio and start making calls. Making cold calls is scary for some people, but with experience, you’ll be amazed at how productive it can be. It just requires a willingness to introduce yourself to the person who needs your photography.

It’s best to start with companies that are familiar to you. For example if you always go to the same dry cleaner, chances are the dry cleaner will recognize you. Take 10 seconds and say, “By the way, how would you like me to make some custom calendars you could give to your best customers?”

Developing this kind of relationship with vendors is a non-threatening and low-key approach to sales. Do that with every vendor you use, and you’ll quickly start to generate new business.

Chambers of Commerce

No local entity is more interested in and more committed to supporting local photographic images than your local Chamber of Commerce. You can also use the Chamber of Commerce as a conduit to local business. They need pictures for their membership directory, their website, for economic development brochures, trade missions, business development, and community public relations.

Local photographers have an advantage over big ad agencies and stock agencies if they can deliver timely photos that show the local images that Chamber likes to promote. And you probably have images of all the nice outdoor settings in your area such as zoos, lakes, parks, outdoor and tourist attractions.

Contact several Chambers of Commerce in your area and ask for copies of their brochures for newcomers. Visit their website and evaluate the images they use. This is a road map for the emerging photographer who wants to make headway in the market. If you can make and show the same kind of images that you see in their literature and on the website, contact the Chamber’s marketing communications director and ask for an appointment to show your portfolio.

Due to your proximity and ability to access local areas regularly, you probably have a better chance of making a killer picture of your local mountains, lakes, oceans or parks than the top pros do. Use that advantage and sell those images.


I make a nice side living selling my nature and wildlife images to builders. Every time a new commercial building goes up in the area, chances are, it opens with some of my images on the wall.

There’s a secret to getting this business. Get to know the local decorators in your area. They typically spend the builder’s art budget. And since it’s not their money, they don’t mind giving it to you as long as you have what they need and are willing to take the time to build a relationship with them.

When a new telephone company came to Tacoma in the mid-1990’s, I had the good fortune to know the woman selected to decorate their new $10 million dollar headquarters. I asked her what the art budget was and to make a long story short, got a nice five-figure sale with annual maintenance contract to boot. She got a commission on the deal, the building owner got thirteen of my images framed and hung and I got paid. Everyone was happy.

I realized how potentially lucrative these relationships could be so I joined several local professional organizations who had decorators as members. I got to know a dozen of the most sought-after decorators, made sure they had free prints from me hanging in their offices and the rest is history. I have images in more than 100 area buildings thanks to the tireless promotional assistance I get from the decorators who like my work or me.


Try these things in your local market. It doesn’t matter where you live; you have local businesses, a local Chamber of Commerce, and area decorators. Show your work to these people often, attend their networking meetings and get to know the decision makers.

It’s not the same satisfaction as seeing your image on the cover of a prominent magazine, but chances are you’ll get a check that makes you twice as happy.

About the Author

Scott Bourne is a long time Photoshop instructor who will be teaching a two-day workshop for Pixel Corps that introduces all of Aperture’s major functions. His books are 88 Secrets to Selling & Publishing your Photography, 88 Secrets to Photoshop for Photographers, and 88 Secrets to Wildlife. These books are available through

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