Mindset Secrets to Becoming a Published Conservation Photographer
Let's tackle the 5 must-know mindset shifts that send you speeding forward and opening doors to editors, without the overwhelm, confidence-crushing second guessing and time-wasting worry about the “right” move to make next.
This is an extra special episode. Today, I’m bringing you the same exciting masterclass I taught to live audiences when I launched my digital course, Conservation Photography 101. I had a fantastic time teaching this material because I got to see how engaged the audience was, recognizing the limiting beliefs that are keeping them stuck, and how energized they were to blow past them and find success. It wasn’t enough for me to teach the masterclass a handful of times and leave it at that. This stuff is too powerful.
So, today we’re tackling five limiting beliefs that keep too many talented photographers stuck in place, not moving forward with the stories they could do such an amazing job photographing… and publishing!
And even if you have published stories under your belt, I’m willing to bet you have limiting beliefs that make it tough for you to get to the next level in your work. If that’s the case, please listen in because you’ll pick up some tips and inspiration for tackling any limiting belief holding you back.
It’s all about mindset, and this episode will help you get on the right track!
- The 5 most common limiting beliefs I see among emerging conservation photographers
- The one next step to take to tackle that limiting belief to the ground
- The most effective way to be published as a conservation photographer this year
- The roadmap that will help you find and photograph a photo story
Get Jaymi's “The Photographer's Successful Mindset Workbook”
This episode is sponsored by:
Our episode sponsor is Wild Idea Lab, my membership community where conservation visual storytellers find creativity, community and support for their wildest work. Wild Idea Lab is designed specifically for emerging and established photographers, filmmakers, and artists working in conservation and science communication. With monthly masterclasses, live events, community engagement and so much more, members from around the world accelerate their growth as creatives and find their place in a network of colleagues and friends. Whether just starting out or you’ve been a pro for years, Wild Idea Lab has the resources you need to do more, and go farther with your work.
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Limiting beliefs. We all have them. We all have these ideas that rear up and tell us why we can't do something. Sometimes it's hard to recognize that we're even thinking them. But creatives.. oh we creatives have them in spades, whether it's about our technical skills or our ability to create something meaningful, or if we even should dare to dream of big things for our work. They can even be little insidious whispers that tell us that we simply don't have time or the resource is to pull off what we're dreaming up.
What I'm covering in this episode is actually the content of a free master class that I taught live alongside the launch of my digital course Conservation photography 101. I had a really, really great time teaching this material because I loved seeing how these limiting beliefs rang true with so many of the people who watch live and how excited they were to tack, cool them down to the ground and move past them towards success at getting their stories published. So today I am bringing that class to you right now.
We're talking today about the must know mindset shifts that will send you speeding forward and opening doors to editors without the overwhelm without confidence, crushing second guessing and time wasting. Worry about the right move to make next, and I have something extra special for you. We're going to be talking today about five specific limiting beliefs that I see pop up often and the leaps to make to get past them.
But you more than likely have your own limiting beliefs that aren't on this list. And I want you to be able to recognize them and flip them. So I created a free downloadable workbook for you. Not only doesn't include all the exercises that I provide for you in this episode, but it includes exercises that will help you see, clarify and then flip whatever limiting beliefs you have standing in the way of your photography. It doesn't matter if you're new or a seasoned pro. You have limiting beliefs, and this is an exercise that will help you kick them to the curb. You can get the free download at Jaymi H dot com. That's JaymiH.com/5 the number five for this episode. Now let's dive in.
Welcome to Impact the conservation photography podcast. I'm your host, Jaymi Heimbuch. And if you are a visual storyteller with a love for all things wild then you're in the right place, from conservation to creativity, from business to marketing and everything in between. This podcast is for you, conservation visual storyteller who is ready to make an impact. Let's dive in.
Hey there! And thank you so much for joining me on this episode of Impact, the conservation photography podcast. Before we dive into all the great content that we have planned, I have something extra exciting to share. This episode is sponsored by Wild Idea Lab, my membership community, where conservation visual storytellers find creativity and support for their wildest work. Doors only open for new members twice a year. And can you guess what time of year it is?
See Wild Idea Lab is designed specifically for emerging and established photographers, filmmakers and artists who are all working in conservation and science communication with monthly master classes, live events, community engagement and so much more members from around the world accelerate their growth as creatives and find their place in a network of colleagues and friends. Whether you are just starting out or you've been a pro for years. Wild Idea Lab has the resources you need to do more and go farther with your work.
It's that time of year when doors are opening. So I would love for you to hop on over to WildIdeaLab.com and find out how becoming a member can help you make a bigger impact as a conservation visual storyteller. All right, let's dive in to this episode.
I am really excited for today's topic. This is for all my listeners who are feeling uncertain in your ability to photograph a story that an editor wants to see or uncertain in your ability to photograph a full story at all. And for my listeners who have a few published stories under your belt, keep listening, because if you ever get butterfly belly when you think about what you want to do and then start listing all the reasons why that's not happening, you're going to learn a few tricks in this episode that will help you change that script in your head.
Right now, I'm going to show you how you can make the mental shift from struggling to send a pitch, feeling uncertain of where to even begin or feeling nervous If you're ready to make the next big move to being confident and excited to get started on a story that you will send to an editor by the time we wrap up, you're gonna know the five mindset shifts that you need to make right now to become successful in getting published as a conservation photographer and the one next step toe overcome each of these limiting beliefs and the number one most effective way to become a published conservation photographer this year.
What I want for you is that when you take off your headphones after listening to this episode, you'll feel full of excitement and inspiration because you will have a road map of how you're going to complete a photo story and make progress toward publication. No matter where you are in your journey as a conservation photographer right now, because as we dive in, here's one thing I want you to really understand. You have the knowledge and the experience right now to be a published photographer. All you need is your passion for visual storytelling and a road map that keeps you focused and confidently moving forward toward publication.
But I know that for many of us at all stages of the game, we put barriers in our own way. We put these limiting beliefs up and allow them to continue to exist. But today we're going to remove the barriers that Aaron your way one by one.
The first limiting belief that I want to tackle down with you is I'm not a good enough photographer yet. Oh, my goodness, It makes me want to roll my eyes every time I hear this from a student because I'm sitting there looking at their work, and I know that they're good enough. The talent is right there. I'm staring at it in their photos most of the time. What someone thinks is a lack of talent just comes down to practice.
And here's the thing. There is no such thing as a magic moment when you arrive when you're allowed to be a conservation photographer. If you know how to work a camera and have a passion for telling stories that make a difference than you are ready right now to get going, there are always opportunities and challenges and a hammer. This home. I would love to tell you a story about one of my challenges from just a couple of years ago.
I was given an assignment from Audubon magazine. It was super exciting stuff. The editors there are really amazing. And it was my first assignment with, um so I wanted to do the best job possible. We talked over the story and shot ideas. I had my list. I had my gear. I had my plan like I was ready, right? The assignment was to document research on an endangered sea bird species, and part of the story was documenting the capturing, radio tagging and release of the birds. They're captured at night on the ocean off the Oregon coast, and I get seasick. But this assignment was a big deal, and I've led tours on boats. I've been on a boat for a week, plus working as a photographer and have been just fine. So I just took extra precautions. I had a good meal. I took motion sickness medication. I was determined, But the moment that boat hit the swells off the coast, I was like uh oh.
It was an extra big uh oh because the processing of the birds, which is such a critical part of the entire visual story, was done inside. And I found out within about 15 minutes that inside was not a place that I could be. I got so sick after just the first bird and no matter how much I tried to psych myself up and tell myself to just ignore the queasiness, I couldn't basically what the next nine hours looked like was the researchers would capture a bird, take it inside for processing, bring it outside to me where I would Oh, I would look through a wide angle lens, bobbing and weaving just long enough to capture images. And then they would go to one side of the boat to release the bird, and I would go to the other to throw up. I don't even want to know what they thought of this so called professional photographer who couldn't do her job.
I went home at about 6 a.m. Feeling devastated. I was so sure that I was terrible at my job and I would never get hired again. And all of those things that you tell yourself when you're at your lowest point, but I was also over reacting when I went through the images. I actually had plenty that were great for the story. And the editor said that she was happy with what I handed over that she had everything she needed for the story. That story was published shortly after, and best of all, I've been asked to photograph other stories for the magazine. Everything worked out not because I was oh so professional during the shoot because I wasn't. It was because a whole lot of practice helped me capture magazine quality images despite throwing up for nine hours. It just came down to practice.
So if you're telling yourself this myth that you are a good enough photographer yet to create a beautifully done conservation photo story than I am setting the record straight right now that is just a limiting belief that you are letting stand in your way. Your work is important. No matter where you are in your journey and your journey is ongoing, you never know when you'll come up against a challenge that will test you that will shake your confidence. That will always happen, so there isn't a reason to let, But I'm not good enough yet. Be something that you tell yourself.
Now I bet you've created images already that have made someone pause and think so. Here's an exercise that I would love for you to d'oh within the next 24 hours, I'd like for you to go through your images. Whatever you've posted on social, you've shared with friends and pull out one that has sparked a conversation with someone you only need to find one. And it could be an online conversation or in person conversation, just one image that really sparked a great chat with someone. So grab a note pad, write that down. And in the next 24 hours, I would love for you to do this exercise, and I know that you're probably gonna find a lot more than one in your archives.
The second limiting belief that I see all the time is this. You need to have an in with editors and I don't have any connections. Here's the reality. No one starts out with everything they need and knowing all the people they're ever going to work with, making connections. It's all part of the grand adventure of chasing down a story and getting it into the world. And I'm certain that right now, even as you're listening, you have more than enough resource is to begin on. Amazing photo story Making connections is just something you do as you develop that the more time you spend building a few connections as you go, the faster your web of a network grows. But I certainly understand how it feels when you're starting out. It's like you're on the outside of this castle and the drawbridge is up.
But the reality is you don't actually need to know anyone to get your story in front of an editor and published, and you can trust me on that from my own experience. When I went freelance and I wanted to get published in print magazines, I was starting from scratch. I did not have any connections to publications or editors. Despite the fact that I had been an editor and a writer for 15 years because I was coming from an online world that works differently than print, I really felt like I was at ground zero. No, I didn't have the connections to editors, but I did have two very important things. An understanding of how to create connections and a proven step by step process that gets me over The jitters. Knowhow on creating connections came from my experience as simply an adult. Making new connections is something that we do on a daily basis and our personal and professional lives. It's not rocket science. We just draw on what we've learned as social beings since childhood. But the second resource, a step by step process that gets me over the jitters. That was something I had to create, and it required just one core ingredient confidence in myself and what I have to say.
And in fact, I recently used that very process to reach out to an editor that I've never worked with before. He'd never heard of me. It was a completely cold pitch, but I sent him a pitch. And would you like to know his reply? I opened up the email that came back from him, and he said, I have to tell you that yours was the first email I open this morning, and it set the tone for my whole day. Thank you. I couldn't have asked for anything better. Oh my gosh. And really, I couldn't have asked for anything better, either. He accepted the story, and right now, as I record this episode, we are wrapping up the final edits before publication. And I'm gonna tell you a little bit more about the story that I sent for this pitch pretty soon because it's a good story.
But right now I want to talk about you, and I want to talk about your next step to get this same results. If you're worried about a lack of connections than here's what I would like for you to dio grab that note pad again because here's your next exercise. What I would like for you to do is to make a list of the publications that you would love to one day be published in, and then find the name and the email of the editor and write that down, too. And that's it. That's it. For now, anyway, Just grab your note pad right down this exercise and promise yourself that within the next 24 hours you'll complete it and you'll see as you work your way through it just how empowering it is to start gathering the contact information that you're going to use because once you start to make a list of who you'd like to contact, you've already started a connection in your mind. You've already started to build that bridge in your head that will eventually give you the confidence to send your pitch. Even if it's a cold pitch,
The next limiting belief that we're gonna tackle is this. Stories are too intimidating. I'm not ready for a whole story yet. If you believe that photo stories are the realm of prose or those who have been at it for a really long time, I would love for you to pause and consider this. How did those pros get to where they are? They got to where they are by tackling stories, even if they were afraid, even if they were intimidated, even if they didn't yet have the skills that they needed that they thought they would need to pull that off. They figured it out. And so will you.
Are you saying that you're not ready for a whole story? Because if you are, I'm letting you know that. Yes, indeed. You're ready. You have all the same abilities as every other photographer who is out shooting right now. The only thing that those pros air doing that you need to model is the willingness to embrace intimidation and go forth with your story anyway. And how do I know this? Because I've witnessed it again and again in my students.
When my students come into a workshop, it's really rare that they've photographed a full story. I mean, that's why they signed up to the training, because we create a full story from start to finish together. And while they may be perfectly comfortable with portrait or landscape pieces of stories photographing a whole story and all its details and different facets, that's brand new territory for all of them. But they're ready to go out of their comfort zones and push their limits. And I've yet to have a student who hasn't completely rocked it because of that willingness to be uncomfortable and try.
So let's talk about you and your willingness to recognize that you're ready to one of the best ways to really gain confidence. That you are certainly ready to photograph. A full story is to go into your archive of images and see how you've already done this in different ways. So this is your exercise for getting past this, limiting belief that you're not ready. Go into your archive, and do you have a set of five or six images that went all put together? Tell a story. They don't have to be photographed at the same time or place, or even be of the same species. Just when they're put together, they tell a story. They could be the story of wildlife living in your yard or a favorite park where you love to go photograph. And indeed, you can use the image that you discover that conversation, sparking image that you discover an exercise number one to spark this story that you tell through a series of images. I know that you have this in your archive right now. It's just a matter of seeing it
Now if you want a little extra help in how to put together a portfolio of images that tell a story Had back toe episode number three in Episode three. I talk about the way that you can go step by step through the portfolio process, and that'll give you a lot of insight into how to go through your archive and pull together these images.
The fourth limiting belief that I see so often is I need to go somewhere exotic or exciting to find a conservation story worth publishing. Ah, this is one of the worst limiting beliefs because it's just patently untrue and yet also really hard to remove from our minds. But ultimately believing that there isn't a story right where you're standing is small thinking. Your own backyard has stories just waiting for you to tell.
A great story isn't found based on location. A great story is a great story, regardless of location. I'm going to repeat that because it is worth repeating. A great story is not found based on location. A great story is a great story regardless of location. The most critical part of a powerful moving, impactful conservation story is how it's told engaging important, visually compelling conservation stories are happening everywhere. There are issues happening in rural towns and city parks and urban jungles in suburban backyards and forests and waterways, and we need conservation photographers telling all of these stories you do not need to travel far. You just need to see what's happening and capture it with honesty, grit and compassion. That's what makes a story worth publishing.
I live this out frequently, and in fact my in person workshops are often held in my own backyard in my hometown, and they're all held in anywhere. USA. There's always amazing stories to tell, no matter where I hold these workshops. And let me tell you about Monterey, California I held a workshop in large part in this location because it's easy for people to travel to and because myself and Sebastian Kennerknecht who co-lead the workshop with me. We know it really, really well because we'd both live nearby for many years, so it was very much a logistical move. Then came finding the story that we would want our students to tell.
Well, in Monterey, California there's the very charismatic sea otter who lives there. But see outer stories, air, frankly, a dime a dozen like, How would this be different? How would we not just be telling another boring story about sea otters? So instead we focused in on the story, not the location or even the species, but the story. And that's where we found magic. Instead of making it exotic or really interesting because of this, you know, charismatic species. We actually dove deeper into the hole in your own backyard sight of it. We looked at the connections between what organizations were doing on land and how that affected the habitat and how that impacted sea otters. And then how they impacted the health of the habitat as well. It was a super cool, full circle, very interesting and complex story all happening in someone's backyard.
The students embraced that challenge of photographing a very well photographed area and very well photograph species in a new and interesting way. And they had truly incredible transformative results in their storytelling skills. And in fact, remember that editor that I told you about who said that my pitch made his day? Well what I had pitched him was this story with images coming from the students, he was a little nervous about the idea of images coming from students and reasonably so. I mean, he has no way to judge the caliber of the work that would come in. But when I sent in the student portfolios of this in your own backyard story told by students who had never done a whole story before. Here's what he said. His email back to me said, I don't think I've told you yet, but I loved the photos. If I had unlimited space, I could find photos from each of your students that I'd print. It will be a wonderful headache for an editor toe have too many good shots. And he also wrote in another email, The selection of photographs from your students are terrific and leaves me in the enviable position of having more to choose from than I'll ever have the space to use.
Ah, there it is. Novice photographers with little experience and shooting a story received rave reviews from a magazine editor, all because they were willing to take on that challenge off photographing the story in front of them, without any excuses.
Now let's move excuses out of your way too. For breaking down this limiting belief. This mental barrier I would like you to throw a party and specifically because I'm a total nerd, it is a post it party. During this party, you'll discover stories that you can photograph right now in your town or city, and here's how I would love for you to do this. So all it takes to throw a posted party is to gather up a pad of post its on a pen, set a timer for 20 minutes. And during that 20 minutes write out every single idea that comes to mind every idea for a story that you can think of one post it per idea. No judgment on any of the ideas that come rolling out and try and think of stories that are happening in your own area that you might talk about again. No judgment. There are no such things as bad ideas at this stage. Then over the next few days, sort the ideas in order of what inspires you the most.
And the reason why I wanted you to do this on post its is because you can put all those ideas out on a flat service, like a wall or a door or a window. And as you sort them eventually, the ideas that inspire you the most are gonna rise to the top. And after a few days of sorting and reorganizing and reordering these post it notes, you're going to have identified a story that you can photograph right now near you, that you are excited to go photograph.
Now let's talk about the final barrier, that limiting belief that keeps you stuck even when you know that you have a great story that you could pursue that limiting belief is I have a full time job, so I don't have time to shoot the whole story. Uh, we all struggle with schedules. Even those of us who are full time conservation photographers struggle to find time to pursue certain stories. I struggle with this all the time, and I understand that when you are not a full time photographer and you have a full time job that's in a different field, it can feel difficult to stay motivated or to feel like you can carve out the time for shooting. But I'm gonna share a bit of a surprising secret with you.
Many of the conservation photographers I personally know who are making waves. They're winning awards. They're changing minds around the world. They don't do this full time. Their work is done in the in between hours, when they aren't working for clients or at desk jobs. They're chasing down their conservation stories on weekends, on vacations in their spare time after working there 9 to 5 or caring for kids or families. And they're so successful at this.
So some of you may know Clay Bolt, if you don't well, stay tuned because he's on an upcoming episode of Impact that will be airing shortly. He is a perfect example of what we're talking about. Here's a couple of the major things that he's accomplished through his conservation photography. In just the last handful of years, he was a leading player in getting the rusty patched Bumble bee on the endangered species list. He basically led the fight to protect this native pollinator, and now it is a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act. That happened in 2017 and it was the first federally protected native be species in our country in America. He also helped rediscover Wallace's giant B and to protect it from illegal trade. When he came back with photographs of Wallace's giant Be in the Wild, he had something like two billion views on all of the news articles that ran that story two billion with a B that is such an incredible impact. And even after that story aired, he worked and worked to help protect it from illegal trade, which is icing on the cake like That's the real work that happens after the stories come out. Clay has a full time job, not as a conservation photographer. He works as the communications lead for World Wildlife Fund's northern Great Plains program.
What's extra awesome about Clay is that in 2009 Clay co founded the International Nature Photography Project. Meet your Neighbors, Meet your Neighbors now includes photographers from around the world, and they're all working toward the mission to reconnect people with the wildlife that lives within their own communities. I mean, that really epitomizes the amazingly cool things that you can create and head up for conservation photography within your own backyard, Right Clay has been published in a National Geographic and outdoor photographer and BBC Wildlife and Scientific American and on and on and on. And that's all while he works full time in a job that's not conservation photography.
It's not about an abundance of time. It's all about drive and determination. I know you have that in spades, so I know that despite the need to balance a tricky schedule. You're absolutely capable of doing big things. And here's your one next step for overcoming this limiting belief that you don't have time to photograph a full story because you're working full time elsewhere. Look for lost time and rededicate it to yourself as a photographer. And here's how I would like for you to do that. Consider your schedule and look at your whole schedule for what you do during a week and then look and see if it's possible to carve out an hour or two per week to dedicate to your photography. So is it possible to wake up extra early one weekend day each weekend? Or is there time in the evenings when usually you would settle down with popcorn and a blanket and watch TV where instead, you can work on a photo story? My guess is that you do indeed have just a couple hours a week that you can carve out and rededicate to your photography, and this can literally make all the difference for you just one or two hours a week over time to shoot, edit and craft that amazing story that you're just waiting to tell.
So those are five limiting beliefs that I hear all the time and there are ways to overcome each of them Right now, I would like to talk about the most effective way for you to get published this year. And hands down. The best way to get published is to complete a photo story.
And the way to do that is to zero in on your why, your why behind your photography and your dedication to storytelling and then to create a plan of action. The why keeps you motivated. It keeps you zeroed in on that big picture of what it is you're pursuing. And then the plan of action is so important because it keeps you heading in the right direction. Even if you're taking small steps at a time, it keeps you on the move. And the best part is that we have just made that plan of action together right here.
So over the course of this episode, those exercises that I asked you to complete have all added up to your plan of action. So the first step acknowledge a conversation sparking image, and that's what we zeroed in on with exercise number one where I asked you to go back through your images and see which has sparked a great conversation with someone. It's a way for you to recognize that your images are already making an impact.
Second, you'll group images together that tell a story. This is you're gonna basically practice your ability to tell a story through images by going back through your archive of images and pulling together five or six that all together, build a story. together You're gonna take the practice of scene that your images are making an impact on the practice of grouping images together to tell a story.
And third, you're gonna discover stories in your own neighborhood where you put that practice into action with on the ground work. So this is exercise number three where you're gonna make a list of all those different possible photo stories that are waiting to be told within your own town, finding the one that inspires you the most. And that's the one that you're gonna act on.
Step number four curate a list of all the publications and editors that you want to connect with. Remember, this exercise helps you not just gain contact information, but it helps you to overcome that. Limiting belief that you need connections to get started is just by making a list of the people that you would love to work with. You're creating a connection with them in your own head so that when you do reach out, it feels that much easier. You're that much more confident because their name and their information's already feeling a little bit familiar.
And finally, step number five in your plan of action is to discover hidden time toe work on photographing a full story. We all have more time than we might think. And if we're willing to do a little bit of tough love with ourselves and see where we're wasting time on distractions that we can then pull and rededicate to photography, then you'll suddenly discover that you have so much more time to work on your story than you thought possible. Even if you have a full time job in another field, even if you have a family that needs your attention, even if you have things that feel like they're a really big part of your schedule, my guess is that you have time that is sitting there waiting to be found and to be dedicated to the photography that you have such a strong passion for
And all together you have a road map. Do you see how doable it is to create a conservation photography story, especially once you pull down all those mental barriers that are standing in your way? It really is a mindset that determines your success in getting started and making progress. It's exciting to know how quickly you can put together a plan of action right now.
If you're like me, you like putting pencil to paper and actually writing your thoughts out. So remember, I have a free downloadable workbook for you that will help you move through these exercises and identify other limiting beliefs that you have in your head right now that are holding you back. And if there's one thing I want most for you, it's for you to be able to see those limiting beliefs clearly so that you can launch, pass them and find success. So head over to JaymiH.com/5 to grab your workbook.
And once you've done that, I invite you to come into the Facebook group Conservation photographers and share one of your limiting beliefs and how you are flipping that script, because I'm willing to bet that you're going to inspire someone else who might be thinking the same things. The link to join the Conservation Photographers Facebook Group is in the show notes right next to your free download. So go grab that get to work. And meanwhile, I will talk to you next week
Before we wrap up. I'd love to ask you to do one quick thing. Subscribe to this podcast see as a subscriber. You'll not only know when each week's episode goes live, but you'll also get insider goodies like bonus episodes. You might miss thumb unless you're subscribed and I don't want you to miss out on a thing, so please tap that subscribe button and I'll talk to you next week.