Being an Adventure Photographer Isn't all Red Bulls and High Fives

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do. I’m my own boss, set my own schedule, and routinely edit videos or write proposals while wearing pajamas. However, with the advent of social media, and people projecting this image of, “look how awesome my life is” I find it important to take a moment and reflect on the reality of this profession. I’ve been contacted many times and told how awesome it must be to travel all of the time and film such rad athletes and locations. To be completely transparent though, the time spent actually shooting an epic adventure project really only makes up a small fraction of my time.

With this blog post, I wanted to paint a more accurate picture of what being an adventure photographer looks like. To begin, I think a pie chart might best represent the stats. Mmmm, pie...

Writing proposals

This is easily my #1 time suck. When asking for large volumes of cash money from a small outdoor brand or fledgling non-profit, they have to know where their money is going. Designing a well-crafted, thoughtful proposal is vital for getting work. A client might not say it, but chances are they are receiving solicitations from several independent creatives or agencies, and you’ve got to make sure you stand out.

While the total cost of services plays a large role in whether or not we get a particular job, having a professional presentation goes a long way in making a case for a client choosing us over someone else.

Pitching photos to clients

When it comes to soliciting photos to brands or magazines, the approach is a bit different than pitching a video production project. First, images are collected and processed. Then a private, online gallery has to be made to host these images. Then, a succinct but compelling email has to be sent to our contacts. Sometimes we know exactly the person making creative decisions, sometimes we don’t.

Negotiating Rates and Licensing Fees

If all goes well with the process above, we then have to negotiate fees depending on usage. I could write an entire blog about pricing photo licenses, but I did that a few years ago already. Others have gone even further into commercial photography licensing, so I won't bother rehashing that here. The point is that you have to know the value of the images you’re trying to sell. Some important factors include how awesome and unique your photos are, the usage the client wants, if it’s for commercial or editorial use, what the media buy is, if it will be exclusive, etc. This often takes a bit of research on our end to determine a fair market value, and then working with the client to agree on that rate.

Image may or may not be related to the art of negotiation.

Unfortunately, photographers are treated more like they are running a garage sale, and not a business, so clients will try to haggle, barter, and offer less than the stated price. While this makes it difficult to earn what we think is fair market compensation, it’s up to us (and the community as whole) to educate clients properly. Referencing high end stock sites such as Tandemstock is a great starting point to see what rates for different adventure photographs are.

Prep for Shoots

Cleaning gear, organizing notes, packing gear, making phone calls, booking flights, scouting locations, and all manner of behind the scenes preproduction happens.

Taking pictures (or video)

Finally! On an average month, we’ll have about 5-7 different shoots, but it only makes up a fraction of what we spend our time doing.

Editing Videos or Photos

Lots of time at the computer. And not just editing photos, but downloading and organizing them, then backup up files, updating software, buying new hard drives, and all kinds of other non-outdoors activity happens here.

Social Media posts

We try to limit the amount of time spent creating content for social media, because time is money! We think it would be better spent cultivating clients we already have connections with and pitching photos. But that’s not to say there’s no value in social media! There absolutely is, so we do push content out a few times a week.

Above all of that, there’s also personal time. Taking care of the dog, cooking dinner, going to the gym, and working on projects at home keep us pretty busy. But don’t worry, I high five my dog all of the time!