3 Ways Conservation Photographers Get Paid (or Volunteer)
You might wonder, “Ok so conservation photographers use their images to help the environment. But what does that LOOK like? And, can you make money at it?” This episode breaks down 3 of the most common types of work we do both as volunteers and paid creatives.
What exactly does a conservation photographer do? How's it different from other photography work? It's a question that comes up a lot.
So in this episode, we dive into 3 types of work conservation photographers take part in, including:
- Conservation-focused collaborations where we are the visual storyteller guiding the narrative and deliverables
- Long-term projects with conservation goals – and the many shapes that can take
- And of course, photo stories
This episode is sponsored by:
Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy trains photographers and filmmakers who are passionate about conservation and science.
We are the only online education platform designed specifically for conservation photographers and filmmakers. Our ever-growing selection of robust online courses, in-person workshops, mentorship programs, and membership community are designed specifically to address the unique skills and resources you need as you focus on documenting environment, science communication, and conservation issues. We help you follow your passion to be an effective, successful, and joyful conservation visual storyteller.
Subscribe & Review
Are you subscribed to the podcast? If not, I’m excited to invite you to subscribe today. Not only do I unroll new episodes weekly, but I also add in a ton of bonus episodes. If you’re not subscribed, you’ll probably miss out on those great bonuses and I don't want you to miss a thing!
If you love listening to the podcast, I’ll be so grateful if you leave me a review on iTunes. The reviews help others find me, and I also just love to hear from you! Just pop onto the show in your mobile device, scroll down to “Ratings & Reviews” and tap “Write a Review” Then, you’re off to the races! Let me know what you like best about the podcast. Thank you so much!
Episode 109: 3 Ways Conservation Photographers Get Paid (or Volunteer)
(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)
[00:00:00] Jaymi: Welcome to this episode of Impact, the Conservation Photography podcast, and I'm quite excited about what we're talking about in this episode because we are digging into what exactly does a conservation photographer do. It's a question that I see come up a lot, especially for folks who are kind of diving into the world of conservation photography from nature and wildlife photography.
[00:00:25] Jaymi: I often hear like, Well, I don't think that I am a conservation photographer because I just do portraits of animals in their habitat. Well, Conservation photography is really all about what you do with your images, not necessarily the types of imagery that you produce, but like what it is that you're doing with your imagery and the different forms that that can take.
[00:00:47] Jaymi: So in this episode we're diving into what are some of those forms that the work of conservation photographers take? And I've got three types of work that we do as [00:01:00] conservation photographers that we're gonna dive into . And with me, of course, is Joe.
[00:01:04] Jaymi: Hey, Joe
[00:01:05] Jo: Hello? Hello, Hello, Hello. Really excited to be here,
[00:01:10] Jaymi: Awesome. So have you ever wondered that, have you ever kind of looked at the world of conservation photography and thought, so what is that? What do you do?
[00:01:18] Jo: Oh, completely. Because I wouldn't even know that that was a term if I didn't know you, you know, I would just see it in whatever context it was, I was looking at it. And so whether it was in a a magazine or some sort of documentary or, you know some other kind of publication or museum exhibit or something like that.
[00:01:38] Jo: So I wouldn't necessarily even put a name on it like you have until you taught me about that. So
[00:01:44] Jaymi: I think that that's a really good point that you bring up though, is like, you wouldn't even know that that's what this is because you're looking at imagery in magazines or in gallery exhibits or something. And so often it doesn't feel like it's conservation specific photography because [00:02:00] it just looks like any other photography really.
[00:02:03] Jaymi: But if you stop to read the article or read the caption cards under images or you know, look through things, then you start to realize , Oh, there's a message to this, or there's a story to this, or there's, Oh, now I feel compelled to take part in this thing or that thing. And so that's really where the beauty I think, comes in.
[00:02:21] Jaymi: But, but at the same time, even the three types of work that we do as conservation photographers is gonna look like what a lot of other photographers do in just other fields.
[00:02:31] Jaymi: It's not like it's very specific.
[00:02:33] Jo: yeah, I don't, Yeah, I know that, for instance, just we were talking little bit ago about. that. I just came back from a vacation seeing several national parks. And so of course we went into a lot of visitor centers. And so I'm looking at the images in completely different ways because of the kinds of stuff you do and you talk about all the time Although the images aren't just necessarily portraits, they're showing how the animals behave or they're showing what the environment, the animal's in, or the environment of, of [00:03:00] the, the park itself and the geology of it, or how the climate's changing things and stuff like that, that I wouldn't even necessarily have considered that that's how that image is affecting me.
[00:03:14] Jo: If I hadn't gotten this sort of oh, what's that word where you just sort of absorb something from somebody else
[00:03:20] Jaymi: Mm. Like sort of osmosis
[00:03:22] Jo: thank you. Osmosis. Yes. I, I do, I really do have a degree, but yeah, osmosis. And so , Yeah, and I wouldn't, I wouldn't even have thought about it that way except for the, the exposure about the idea that it is conservation photography.
[00:03:40] Jaymi: So the example that you bring up is actually a perfect segue into the first type of work that I wanna talk about that conservation photographers do, which is collaborating with non-profits, organizations, companies, scientists, national parks to create image assets that can be [00:04:00] used for educational campaigns or awareness or marketing concepts.
[00:04:06] Jaymi: There's so many ways that we as conservation photographers can, can help build not just pretty pictures that go on a website, but pictures that really tell stories and serve a purpose. And can, as a whole unit really help move organizations and the work that companies do, the work that scientists do forward through visual storytelling.
[00:04:29] Jo: But that's, so that's, you're talking about like the stuff you did kind of early on, like helping a group make a calendar that they would use to help promote what they did.
[00:04:40] Jaymi: So that is a really great example of using imagery to help an organization. So like when I first got started in conservation photography, one of the first projects I ever did was that calendar fundraiser. So I approached an organization and I said, Hey, I really wanna create a calendar for you that you could use as this [00:05:00] fundraising asset.
[00:05:00] Jaymi: But at the same time, it wasn't just a calendar that we created because I was building image assets for them. We had the images that went into the calendar, but they also had this body of images that they could use for social media and to be able to have these really great photos that would build their social media audience and help connect them to that audience, a way to
[00:05:22] Jaymi: even better than what they were already doing. Show the work that they do build connections between the audience and the mission that they have. And we have a really great example of this from a recent episode, episode 1 0 3, that was an interview with Susie Erha and Dr.
[00:05:38] Jaymi: Rebecca Cliff of the Sloth Conservation Foundation. And that interview is a, it's such a fun interview in the first place, but it also goes into a lot of detail about. and Susie work together to be able to use imagery to build fundraising and awareness around Becky's foundation. And, and [00:06:00] that's not just through a calendar fundraiser of course, or just through website images.
[00:06:03] Jaymi: It's also through, they've published a couple books together and the way that they use images on social, and it's, it's a really amazing collaboration between a foundation and a photographer. But there's other ways that this can look too. So for example, back in episode 1 0 1, I talked about seven photo stories that nonprofits need, that conservation photographers can create for them. And one of the example organizations in that episode was the Seus Law Watershed Council, and the Seus Law Watershed Council hired a couple photographers and a filmmaker to come and tell their story and to create images that would help tell their story. What is it that this council does? What's the work that they're engaged in?
[00:06:49] Jaymi: Why is it important? Who are the people involved, who's affected by the work that the Watershed Council does? All this amazing stuff so that they could build out not only [00:07:00] their website, but also just in general, their media presence with stories that connect audiences to what it is that they're doing
[00:07:08] Jo: So they did more than just go out and take a. Photos,
[00:07:13] Jaymi: Oh,
[00:07:13] Jo: Um, they're really trying to work with the organization to really come up with the messaging and link that to the images, and create the images so that it matches that message that they wanna tell. Right.
[00:07:28] Jaymi: Yeah. And that's really part of the collaboration aspect is it's not just like, Hey, we're gonna hire some photographers to take brand photos. It's, Hey, let's figure out how to tell our story and to visualize our mission and to show the work that we do. How do we do that? How do we really accomplish that through storytelling?
[00:07:51] Jaymi: And so as the job of the conservation photographer coming in to help shape that story
[00:07:58] Jo: The story itself, [00:08:00] not just the, So they're not getting directed saying, Go take something that reflects this. They're working in a partner. Saying, Okay. What is it that's important that you want the world to know and then come up with it together. Is that right?
[00:08:17] Jaymi: Yeah.
[00:08:19] Jaymi: And I think a lot of times too, who you collaborate with, whether that is a researcher working on a project or it's a company that has an environmental side of their work, or, or they are very environment forward and they wanna be able to express that, or it's a nonprofit or foundation.
[00:08:37] Jaymi: Sometimes when you work with that collaborator, they know that they need image assets, but they might not realize what goes into creating a really effective set of imagery that tells their story. They might not realize that they have a story that needs to be told, and that there are different ways that you can do that.
[00:08:58] Jaymi: So the conservation visual [00:09:00] storyteller can help lead that conversation and say, Well, we're not just gonna do a bunch of headshots, , you know, for the website. What, what is it that you're trying to accomplish? Who are you trying to reach? What is your mission? What's your brand? How do we build images or short films that reflect that,
[00:09:21] Jaymi: that they can then use?
[00:09:22] Jo: that's just fascinating to me when you think about it like that because it shows that how complex the whole system is in trying to make it all work together to get that message out there. Because we would run into the same things in it, right? People would say, I want an app that does this. And we'd say, Okay, great, but who's gonna use it?
[00:09:43] Jo: And what kind of information do you need? And how quickly do you need it? And all of these other questions that they hadn't. They hadn't thought about as the people who wanted to create this, this thing, so it took 'em a while to think more of us as [00:10:00] not only just the tech nerds, but also the partner to create this story as well.
[00:10:06] Jaymi: Yeah, that's a really great example because yeah, I think a lot of people think of photographers, is, Oh, I just tell you what I want and you go make it. And it's like, yes. But I think that we need to have more conversation because you, there's so much more to what goes into this that we need to talk about and, and figure out.
[00:10:25] Jaymi: And so the conservation storyteller can be that kind of like what guiding light or that guide in that conversation to help them think about all of these other Purposes of imagery than just like, Yeah, we need some stuff to throw on social so we can post. Yeah. But don't you wanna craft a narrative on social media that connects you to the followers that you have?
[00:10:46] Jaymi: You know, that's type of
[00:10:47] Jo: exactly. And that's, that's when you start getting into the challenges of. What's too narrow of a message? What's too large? How do you figure out what it is that you're gonna do? When do you wanna get it out? Who's your [00:11:00] audience? And all of those other questions and so I think that's what the, a, a good conservation photographer can do too, is help people, especially in nonprofits or people that are doing it in addition to whatever it is they're doing to pay their bills, is helping them create something that can be achievable.
[00:11:20] Jo: You know, And you can really get it out there and get it done and feel like you've accomplished something. You're making a difference. Yeah.
[00:11:26] Jaymi: Yeah, and I mean we, we've talked a lot about like the, the storytelling side of it too, but also photographers bring in the creativity level. Like there are, I think there are approaches to creating image assets for, for companies or nonprofits that they might think, Oh yeah, we are just gonna do a, a few head shots and some pictures of our facility and some pictures of us that work in the field and we're good to go.
[00:11:52] Jaymi: But the photographer can come in and, and think like, Well, what if we approach it this way? And what about images that are [00:12:00] really unique images of people in the field having fun. Or let's get some behind the scenes stuff and the way that you are as a creative, thinking about a cohesive look for all of that.
[00:12:12] Jaymi: And also a look that. Makes that project or organization or company stand out from the crowd and really reflect that uniqueness. Like you bring all your creative energy and all of the brainstorming and all of the fresh ideas for actually creating visuals that people want to look at, that look unique, right?
[00:12:32] Jo: Cool. Let's go do that. That
[00:12:34] Jaymi: know well, it is fun and not only does it benefit the organization or company or scientist or whoever it is that you're collaborating with, it also benefits you because it leads to potential income opportunities beyond that collaboration that might be volunteered. Hopefully it's paid, but it also leads to other income opportunities like licensing the images that you create.
[00:12:59] Jaymi: [00:13:00] Sometimes you're creating images that are owned by the collaboration, but oftentimes you might be, especially if it's on a volunteer basis, you're creating images that you own the copyright to and that you have the ability to then license or build a story out of. So this is kind of going back to the example of Susie, Esther Ha and Dr.
[00:13:20] Jaymi: Cliff and the Sloth Conservation Foundation, or my work with rogue detection teams, they were conservation canines. Now they rogue detection teams and creating images for them is, Susie owns her images. I own my images and we get to then pitch stories to publications or license them as stock images and be able to have continued income stream off of those images.
[00:13:45] Jaymi: So there's all kinds of opportunity that you, as the photographer can have by doing collaborations especially those volunteer collaborations cuz you're, you're gonna get to own your images and say, Okay, well , you get to use these images, but also this is a great story. I'm gonna [00:14:00] go pitch this story to a publication and potentially get paid for that.
[00:14:03] Jo: Yeah. And that's something that you opened my eyes to too, that I didn't think about as just a amateur photographer. In the world of Post, everything Everywhere is no. Make sure that you're maintaining ownership of that. Cuz even if you do wanna quote unquote give it away in terms of someone to use without payment, the idea is it's still your photo.
[00:14:28] Jo: And so you get to control that. And I never would've thought of that without you telling me that. I mean, remember how excited I was when um, it was the um, Department interior or something. They were doing the, the Monarch pitch for Let's Save the Monarchs. And they contacted me because they wanted to use, because we have these monarchs that show up every year in our area.
[00:14:49] Jo: And I had taken some pictures of them and posted them out on Flicker, and you had said, Okay, but make sure that, you know, you're at least saying . You get to use this if you contact [00:15:00] me and talk about it. And, and they wanted to use it as a background for a poster. And I was like, Okay, you don't need to pay me, but wow, I want my name on there, you know, And I would've never even thought about it.
[00:15:13] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. Yeah, Absolutely. those opportunities I think are kind of the difference between a passionate hobby and then really moving into business is getting your wrapped around the idea that you own images that you can ask to be paid for them, that you can pitch yourself as the storyteller for an organization or a company and get paid to create that imagery for the, the organizations.
[00:15:43] Jaymi: And then in addition to that, be able to go and use it in other ways and be strategic and have multiple revenue streams coming in from the same batch. Photos.
[00:15:52] Jo: Yeah. Cuz I would've never attached value to it and I think that's so important, the way that you talk about making sure that everyone needs [00:16:00] to make sure that they understand the work that goes into producing those kinds of images. This is not something that just happens.
[00:16:06] Jo: Somebody put in blood, sweat, and tears to make that happen and they should get compensated for it.
[00:16:11] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. . Absolutely. Well said. Well said. Um, , So that's one type of work that conservation photographers do is we can collaborate with. Scientists, companies, groups, organizations, nonprofit. We can create these collaborations where we are the visual storyteller and we create a set of image assets or media assets that tell the story of that organization and that they can then put that to work in all sorts of different ways in, in really showing people their mission, their work, their volunteers, and so on.
[00:16:48] Jaymi: There's several episodes that really apply to this, and in fact, as you were talking, Joe, the idea of What is it that even if I'm volunteering, what are some of the business mindsets that I might wanna have in [00:17:00] mind, like image ownership and that sort of thing. There I did an episode on Business Mindsets to have as a volunteer so that you're a more effective volunteer.
[00:17:07] Jaymi: So all these episodes that I'm mentioning are gonna be in the show notes. So if you're listening and you are like, I wanna go listen to what that one's about, just hop into the show notes and they will be linked there. So that's one type of work that we do. A second type of work that conservation photographers do is working on longer term projects that achieve certain goals.
[00:17:29] Jaymi: And this might be your own project as a conservation photographer, or it might be projects that you work on as like a collaboration with other creatives or a, a longer term project within a, an organization. But this is one of those types of work that we create as conservation photographers that can start to differentiate us from photographers in any other field like wildlife or nature or landscape photography.
[00:17:54] Jaymi: The longer term project isn't just simply documenting something, it's also [00:18:00] ha having a goal behind that. What do you wanna achieve? What do you wanna affect? What do you wanna accomplish with this longer term goal that typically has a conservation side to it? Does that you're Joe, Joe and I can see each other as we're recording this and you have a confused, concerned look on your face.
[00:18:18] Jo: Well, I'm just trying to think. So I, I know what you're talking about in terms of the kinds of projects that you're talking about, but I'm wondering, I'm curious to hear about examples and maybe you're gonna talk about these, about the differences between your own passions that you want to promote and the stories you wanna tell and the things you want to expose to the world, versus being more of the team member of somebody else's that drives it, Is there a difference or are you always kind of like point as the conservation photographer driving these kinds of initiatives and things,
[00:18:55] Jaymi: Yeah, it totally depends. I mean, one great example I think is the [00:19:00] Plat Basin time lapse project. So this is a project that was started by Mike Forsberg and Michael Farrell, or Farrell, I'm not really sure exactly how to pronounce that name out loud, so apologies for, for mispronunciation. But the plot basin in time lapse is this very collaborative effort. So even though it was started by, you know, two specific people, it now has this huge team that's behind it. And so there are content producers and graphic designers and ecologists and camera technicians and all of these other people who contribute their expertise to that project to help it achieve its longer term goal.
[00:19:43] Jaymi: And the goal of the plot based and time lapse is looking at the health of one watershed. And can we, and actually I really love how they say this. I'm gonna go ahead and read. How they phrase this, because I love what they say, they say, [00:20:00] What if we could use the tremendous power of photography and storytelling to see a watershed in motion?
[00:20:06] Jaymi: What if we could leverage those images to dig deeper and grow understanding about our resources and build community throughout a watershed? What if this could be used as a template to start a conversation and look at other watersheds around the world? So even though this project is looking at one specific watershed, the goal is much bigger than that.
[00:20:27] Jaymi: They want to, as this collaborative effort, create a project that uses the power of storytelling to not just look at that one watershed, but how do we extrapolate what we are seeing, how we're documenting it, how we're talking about it to other watersheds, and to be able to help improve the health, the community, the conversation that's happening in those other watersheds as well.
[00:20:50] Jaymi: So to to your point, I think that. You might be a photographer in a longer term project that has a certain goal and you have [00:21:00] a role inside of that, or it might be your own passion project. But one of the things that you said was how do you differentiate between a project that is like your passion and that you're trying to get image out there because you care about something versus a longer term project that achieves a goal.
[00:21:15] Jaymi: And I think that that's a big difference is having a project that has a specific goal makes it more than just a project where I'm kind of paying attention to this and taking some photos here and there and making people aware of this issue versus a project where you're like, I have a specific goal that I want to achieve with it.
[00:21:35] Jo: yeah.
[00:21:36] Jo: So then are these, are, are these photographers getting paid to do this?
[00:21:43] Jaymi: That's a really good question. I mean, all of this is, it depends on what the project looks like, right?
[00:21:48] Jaymi: Because, for one example, I ran Urban Coyote Initiative, which are well familiar with like all the iterations and shapes of that project. And that was like, [00:22:00] you know, it, it wasn't something where I collected a steady paycheck from it, but I set up the work that we did in ways where some of it was fully volunteer because we wanted to get out into the field and go accomplish something.
[00:22:15] Jaymi: But some of it was, oh yeah, this is bringing in money. This is funded. We actually ended up making quite a bit of money for the project based on image licensing, which. Leads to a paycheck. And then I think also a big part of these longer term projects that are sort of paycheck driven are how are you utilizing what you create, the assets that you create in addition to trying to achieve a certain conservation goal, but also as somewhat as a photographer making money.
[00:22:45] Jaymi: So are you selling stories, Are you pitching and selling photo stories that are coming out of it? One example is the project that's been a very long term project that has been extraordinary to [00:23:00] watch and to see as a, one of the best examples out there of a long term project for conservation that uses visual storytelling as the path of the panther and the path of the panther.
[00:23:11] Jaymi: Its goal is to document. The, not only Florida Panthers themselves, but the ecosystems that they live in. That includes ranching and farming, with the goal of using the power of storytelling to help create a connected wildlife corridor that panthers can use and survive. But part of the outcome of that is also protecting the long term livelihoods of ranchers as well, because it's about land management and land use and all these other things.
[00:23:42] Jaymi: So there's this big goal of ensuring the future of the Florida panther while also ensuring the future of ranchers. But that project has been going on for years and years, and there's all of these stories that have come out and images that get sold and stories that get sold. And [00:24:00] so the main photographer, Carlton Ward Jr.
[00:24:03] Jaymi: This is part of his livelihood, working on this project on an ongoing basis is part of the work that he does as a photographer.
[00:24:11] Jo: So this is like a good example then of how you were talking about that there's all kinds of pieces that go into this, not just. Taking a photograph and putting up on a, on a website, but that you're selling stories. , the photographer's not only getting paid to do that story, but they're also contributing to this project as well.
[00:24:31] Jo: So they might be selling a story to a publication that may not necessarily be associated with the particular project, but it's related. So in a sense it creates a message and points people back to it and stuff like that. Is that what you're talking about? So it's, it's its own little ecosystem of. Stuff that gets done.
[00:24:54] Jo: Not just one, one vector of this is how I'm gonna go do this. This is how I'm gonna go [00:25:00] make money, or this is how I'm gonna go promote this thing. It's a whole bunch of stuff that all comes together that doesn't necessarily even seem related when you look at it individually, but then you have to have it in order to make such something that big, because that sounds like an awfully big objective that they're trying to do.
[00:25:17] Jo: And complex system. Same with the watersheds, right? Those are, those seem just so, can be so disconnected. And so having to create a message that brings them together so you can see the connections between everything in a system like that, that is, Wow, that's a, that's a lot of work and a lot of thought to go into that, but it also means a lot of different ways that you have to go about trying to achieve it too.
[00:25:42] Jo: Right.
[00:25:42] Jaymi: Yeah. but, I mean because when you think about, and I do wanna preface this by saying, just because it's a long term project doesn't mean it has to have this gigantic goal. It could also be a project like, and I'm not sure how long term this was, but like Clay Bolt [00:26:00] was a really big leading catalyst and getting the rusty patched fumble beyond the endangered species list.
[00:26:05] Jaymi: That has a, that's a very specific goal, get this animal listed, because once that animal is listed, then it can receive these other protections.
[00:26:13] Jo: It should get protection just because it has the cutest name in the whole wide world,
[00:26:17] Jaymi: I know, right? which I mean conservation and animal names, like that's a whole nother huge conversa like that is a can of worms right there that we can talk about.
[00:26:29] Jaymi: But, but like, you can have a, a project that, like long term might mean one or two years and you have a really specific clear goal that you wanna achieve with it. So you're using the imagery that you create inside the project in different ways to achieve that goal. But it also could be something like, there is no necessarily known done point, or it's not gonna be within one person's lifetime.
[00:26:54] Jaymi: Like the idea of. Changing the way that people see [00:27:00] watersheds across an entire country in, in a unified, advanced way like that is big. And, and we don't know what success would look like for that. But at the same time, you know that you are pushing toward a different mindset. You're pushing toward a different perspective or understanding.
[00:27:15] Jaymi: And through doing that, you might help to advance certain things, certain legislation, or it might be changing the future of one. Watershed that might be like facing construction or something like that. One of my students in conservation photography 1 0 1 right now is documenting the restoration of a certain watershed in order to help bring back fish species.
[00:27:39] Jaymi: So it's like, Yeah. And so there's like that.
[00:27:41] Jo: big.
[00:27:42] Jaymi: Right. And so something like that could be wrapped up inside of a larger project, like it's this one specific goal. But like with Path of the Panther, we know what done kind of looks like for that. We know, okay, the Florida panther is back, It's in sustainable [00:28:00] numbers, It has a great look future.
[00:28:02] Jaymi: Meanwhile, Florida ranchers and farmers know that their livelihood isn't disappearing, like they are part of the solution. So we kind of know what that looks like, but it's still a pretty big lofty goal. And, and that's a pretty complex project. So a longer term project can look like that and what you are creating.
[00:28:22] Jaymi: So Path of the Panther has photo stories that have been published in major magazines. They have a film that's out. So there's all these assets that
[00:28:29] Jo: They need a song that's just a great title for his Oh my gosh. Yeah. I can just, you know.
[00:28:38] Jo: Yeah. Anyway,
[00:28:42] Jaymi: But I mean, honestly, , you could create a song.
[00:28:45] Jaymi: Absolutely. And that could be a way to reach a certain audience, is creating a song that's like, Oh, I never would've picked up that magazine, or I never would've seen that film, but I heard this song, and so now I'm into it. So there's all kinds of different things that you
[00:28:57] Jaymi: can build
[00:28:58] Jo: We, were driving home through [00:29:00] Nevada um, on our trip and we saw the animal overpasses, you know, and we knew exactly what they were cuz it was just so cool to see cuz we were, we saw these signs that, I think it was a deer reserve or something. So of course we're looking closely trying to find the deer and then you see this overpass and there's nothing there for cars or anything.
[00:29:19] Jo: It's like specifically for animals. That was just so cool to see that. And that's exactly, I can envision that with path of the panther just creating these pathways for these animals to exist. It's just very cool. Yeah.
[00:29:32] Jaymi: Awesome. I really wanna see one of those. I haven't seen one like in real life, that where I would know, Oh, that's exactly what that was built for. As I'm passing through a territory, I really can't wait for that moment when I
[00:29:45] Jo: Yeah. It wasn't worth the drive for where we were, cuz it was in the middle of nowhere. But it was very cool to see.
[00:29:51] Jaymi: Well, and how cool that they built something like that in what some people would say is the middle of nowhere. And so, Oh, but this is really important. [00:30:00] Maybe migratory habitat in this area. So that's really awesome.
[00:30:03] Jaymi: Oh, that's,
[00:30:04] Jo: really cool.
[00:30:06] Jaymi: Well, so that's, I, I know that we've talked a lot about that. I, I feel like long term projects and what they look like are I, we could have so many episodes on this because you've also been in the midst of long term projects that I've worked on and the complexity that can pop up in all of this stuff.
[00:30:21] Jaymi: But I will just say that is one of the types of work that conservation photographers do is we engage in these longer term projects. They might be our own projects that we're creating, that we have these conservation goals for, that we're creating imagery toward a conservation goal. Or it might be part of a, a larger collaboration a larger project.
[00:30:41] Jo: can I say something As a non conservation photographer person, but somebody who's worked on long projects is, if you're going to get involved in this, continue to remind yourself to create short term. Goals and things that you can celebrate. Because when you're [00:31:00] involved in something that is a multi-year type of thing, you tend to lose the vision and you lose the enthusiasm because it takes so long to feel like you're quote unquote done.
[00:31:09] Jo: Or maybe, like you were saying, there really is no done. And so as you go along, remember to celebrate the things that you have achieved so that you can keep that enthusiasm that I think applies no matter what you're doing. And especially when you get excited about something that has to do with something that you're trying to conserve or maintain or promote as an animal or a species of plant or just the earth in general.
[00:31:37] Jo: You can get so demoralized sometimes. And so hold onto that as a way to keep yourself excited.
[00:31:46] Jaymi: Mm-hmm. , what do you think about, if you're thinking about this long term project and you know that you need to celebrate these small things, what would be your advice [00:32:00] for either setting that or specifically just taking the time to celebrate a win like that? Because it can be hard to, to say, That is something we're celebrating.
[00:32:10] Jaymi: You're like, Yeah, yeah, that's a win. But I, I need to look onto the next thing. How do you suggest strategies or, or thought processes to make sure that that celebration happens?
[00:32:18] Jo: Yeah, I would, I would definitely take some time with the people that you're working with to come up with something that is at least maybe even six month or an annual. Goal or something that you're trying to achieve. And find some words to truly be able to define when that is done.
[00:32:38] Jo: And then once you've done that and you said, Yes, well, let's look back at all this hard work and what it really took to get us here. All it takes is an evening that you're gonna go hit a happy hour, right? But that you're consciously saying, We're gonna go hit happy hour and raise a glass to all the [00:33:00] work that we did for this thing because we made this milestone.
[00:33:04] Jo: We hit this goal, we were able to achieve this thing. And it keeps that in your mind. And then it gets you excited about wanting to define what the next thing is. And you don't lose sight of the fact of all the work that you just put in so you don't get burned.
[00:33:19] Jaymi: I love that. As you were talking, it reminded me of your advice to me when I left my full-time salaried traditional job to be a full-time photographer and you were like, Keep a notepad and at the end of the day, just write down kinda what you accomplished that day because when you are.
[00:33:38] Jaymi: When you're doing things that are kind of at the organization level, it's really easy to completely overlook and not even remember the hard work that went in because you might not have certain deliverables or something that you've accomplished. And so it kind of reminds me like when you're working on a long term project, you might set that goal and say, Well, when we meet this goal, like let's say you're working on a longer [00:34:00] term project and one of the things that you wanna create inside of that is a short film.
[00:34:04] Jaymi: as soon as you hit export on the final film, before you even are submitting it to any festivals or anything, like take that evening to to celebrate that, and while you're making it, keep a notebook of. The work that you have done that day or that week to move that forward.
[00:34:22] Jaymi: Because when you go and celebrate, I think it's really easy to look at what you've accomplished but not celebrate the work that went into it. Because you don't even remember the work that you put into it. You're like, that was just a blur of stress and
[00:34:37] Jaymi: creativity and ups and downs and highs and lows.
[00:34:39] Jaymi: And it's like grab your notebook and and be like, Oh yeah, I remember that one week when we went on that shoot and we met that guy and we had the best story and da, da da. You might not remember those things. So to be able to have almost like a diary to go back to when you have that celebration and then it makes you kind of excited maybe for the next phase of work that you are gonna then look [00:35:00] into after that celebration.
[00:35:01] Jo: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, you can do that in a text message to someone, you know, just giving them an update. Right. You know, you just can say, Today I did this, and now you have this journal right there that is just reminding you what you went and did. And even if it's answering 10,000 emails that day, because you're trying to coordinate the shoot and you're trying to get everything set up and you can't even fricking buy the airline ticket because the, you know, website broke or something.
[00:35:32] Jo: You know, it's like, ugh. All those frustrations. But, but just remembering that you went through that effort to make that happen is really important. Yeah.
[00:35:42] Jaymi: I love that. You already said this Joe, but just to hammer at home, especially when you're working on a project that might not necessarily have a very clear, this is what done success looks like. You're moving toward a mindset or a different way of society thinking or something like [00:36:00] that.
[00:36:00] Jaymi: Man, it's hard to stay upbeat about that and encouraged and fired up. One of my conservation photography 1 0 1 students we have a whole student community and she was just like, I am gonna be gone for like a month. I am need to go camping and just be in touch with nature because I am emotionally burnt out on the issue that I'm working on and feeling really low and really despondent.
[00:36:31] Jaymi: And I need to just go refuel. And when you're working on a long term project I don't remember where I was going with that, like what the purpose was, but like when you're working on a long term project, it's easy for that to happen.
[00:36:42] Jo: Exactly. So you have to re, you have to do things to keep yourself engaged and not let that go too far so that you don't give up. That's the main thing. So even if that is taking a month and taking a break, that's okay because as long as you're committed to coming back to it you just [00:37:00] have to find the right ways to revitalize yourself.
[00:37:02] Jo: Yeah.
[00:37:02] Jaymi: totally. Cool. So that's one. Or the second type. So the first type of work that conservation photographers do is collaborating with organizations, nonprofits, companies, and so on. Being the collaborator as the visual storyteller and really kind of coming in and creating image assets and creating storytelling image assets that help the collaborator that you are working with, whether it's volunteer paid, kind of advance or explain or illustrate who they are and what they're working on.
[00:37:33] Jaymi: Second type is longer term projects with specific goals that can look. Very specific goals that you can achieve within a couple of years, or this is long term, like lifetime, and then somebody else takes it over and they're working on it for their lifetime with these really big, lofty goals.
[00:37:51] Jaymi: It can look like all kinds of different things, but ultimately we're working on a storytelling project that has conservation goals [00:38:00] attached to it, and the third type of work that conservation photographers do of many types. But a third type is. Making photo stories. And photo stories can look really different. They can be assignments that you work on for publications, the public, a publication hires you to be the photographer to go photograph a story. it can be pitching stories that are part of that larger project. So for example, we talked about path of the Panther and how, you know, there's been these stories that have come out about the Florida panther that have come out of that project.
[00:38:35] Jaymi: And so it's one story, but the project still ongoing. But one story comes out and then another story comes out, and then another story comes out. And it's all part of this larger umbrella project, but it's a photo story and it can also look like shaping stories and photographs for those collaborators that you work with.
[00:38:54] Jaymi: So when you're doing a collaboration, you might have kind of this larger body of image assets that they're [00:39:00] using for. Website, social media, marketing, annual reports, whatever it may be. But even inside of that, you can craft photos, stories that talk about a certain aspect of their work or people within their team.
[00:39:13] Jaymi: Like you could do a photo story about people on the team that are part of driving forward a certain thing. There's all kinds of ways that you can build photo stories into collaborations too. Photo stories can also take the shape of story maps, of blog posts on your website of social media campaigns, and you're rolling out maybe a story a day for three weeks on your social media account to, to talk about something.
[00:39:38] Jaymi: It can take so many different shapes, but photo stories are a pretty core part of what we do as conservation photographers.
[00:39:47] Jo: So that's what I think everybody just assumes that that's what you do. I mean, that, that's the core of what you do and it's all the stuff that we were talking about before [00:40:00] is not what immediately comes to your mind is do you think,.
[00:40:06] Jaymi: Probably cuz I think I, I think that if you ever tell someone, Oh, I'm a conservation photographer, or I'm a wildlife photographer, something, I think people picture, Oh, you do, you work for National Geographic? Oh, do you, you know, travel the world? Or I guess it's different depending on what you, like, how you phrase it.
[00:40:26] Jaymi: But I do think that what jumps into people's heads right away is, Oh, you must go and, you know, do assignments
[00:40:33] Jo: Yeah. And you go to these exotic places and you do this. Yeah. Crazy stuff. And you hike through the jungle for 40 days and discover some something.
[00:40:43] Jo: And not necessarily every assignment has to be that, right? you totally made me want to do some sort of giant marketing survey that is, what is your impression when you hear the
[00:40:54] Jaymi: word, you know, conservation photographer or photojournalist or whatever, and get a baseline understanding [00:41:00] of what are the assumptions that jump into to people's heads
[00:41:03] Jo: Because also then it seems like if you're, if that's what jumps into people's heads that you have to go do this elaborate thing, that it would stop people from trying, because there's a lot of things that aren't as complex or hard to do and still be somebody who tells a story a, conservation storyteller without having to have a $50,000 budget to go to some exotic place.
[00:41:32] Jo: Right. Or
[00:41:33] Jo: get hired by National Geographic.
[00:41:35] Jaymi: Yeah. You know how I feel about working locally on stories that you care about cuz it doesn't have to look like that at all.
[00:41:42] Jo: And I think that's a thing that, that's the other cool thing that I've learned from you is that all of these things can look so different to different people and everybody's still making a difference, you know? And you can still feel like you've contributed to the world somehow, and it doesn't even have to be that [00:42:00] huge.
[00:42:00] Jo: And you can have a different job in the daytime or, this can be your weekend thing or, or you can make it your full time life. But either way you can craft it to be your what works. And I think that's the cool part of all that.
[00:42:15] Jaymi: Yeah. I mean, you make a really good point about how when we make the assumption that conservation photography has to look like this, or I'm not doing conservation photography, I think that that's where a lot of really amazing photographers kind of discount their work or discount what they could be doing.
[00:42:33] Jaymi: Cuz like I just got an email from someone who is. Celebrating the photography that they had done and they had created a gallery exhibit and said, they wrote to me because they're like, I'm really excited about this. and I've been listening to the podcast and it's been really helpful, but I don't do conservation photography because I'm only taking pictures of wildlife in their habitat of animals in their habitat.
[00:42:56] Jo: Wait, Isn't that what that
[00:42:58] Jo: Isn't that what that is?
[00:42:59] Jaymi: no, so [00:43:00] he, so he's like, So I'm a wildlife photographer and, but in my, and I have the email, I've been kind of thinking about it cause I wanna write back a helpful email reply in that the photos might look like wildlife in their habitat. It's what you do with it that makes you the conservation photographer.
[00:43:17] Jaymi: So you could totally say this is conservation photography because the cards, the, you know, the caption cards that go under the images and the exhibit tell you about why this animal is important or what's going on in the habitat, or why we need to care about the habitat. Like there's all this just messaging that can go with it, that then immediately is like, Oh, you just made the leap from someone who's like, Hey, look at my pretty picture to, hey, check out this pretty picture and let's talk about why this matters, or why this is important and gives value to what it is that you're seeing in a really big way.
[00:43:52] Jo: And even if it's just creating that connection to the beauty that exists naturally from that period. [00:44:00] So now you've just given somebody a reason to have value, to keep that and not let that turn into something else, you know, not turn into a parking lot. And so it doesn't even have to be a lot.
[00:44:14] Jo: It's ju it's just like what you're saying. It's just what you write on that card that's next to the photo. Well, and even in photo stories, like your photo story doesn't have to say broad capital letters. I am a conservation photo story. In a conservation magazine. Conservation. Conservation, conservation ra, you don't, it doesn't have to be that. It can be literally, you know, I talk about my
[00:44:39] Jo: Now I just picture you walking it with caps in over your head everywhere. . Oh, I'm a conservation. It's like flashing, you know, neon light Conservation photographer. Oh wait, not neon. I should find something better. Ok. Firefly Flashing Conservation photographer. Okay, keep going.[00:45:00]
[00:45:01] Jaymi: I think that sometimes people feel like they have to be at that. Level of like, Oh my God, a conservation photographer is the thing in order to be effective and you don't at all. Like I mentioned my student Anne, who did the, who did a story about bees, and it went into New York Times and it was kind of a, an awareness article.
[00:45:25] Jaymi: And then she started getting all these questions about, well, how do I bring this to my town? How do I do this where I'm at? So she pitched a story to Better Homes and Gardens, about five tips. For doing this poll friendly lawn. That to me is a conservation story. It's in better homes and Gardens, not a conservation nature magazine.
[00:45:44] Jaymi: It's not saying everybody has to care about bees. It's saying, Hey, if you are interested in a poll friendly yard, here's how to do it. And through that act, you who, And encouraging people to do something that they, that they might [00:46:00] already wanna do or not even know about, and then suddenly they know about it and it ultimately has a conservation outcome of helping pollinators.
[00:46:06] Jaymi: That's a conservation story.
[00:46:08] Jo: And it's bigger in the sense that it's better homes and gardens. I mean, how many people look at that and how many people go, Oh, I could do that. And now you've just made this huge population of people think about this thing in a very simple way, that if it was a really narrow audience that only bought a conservation magazine, you may not necessarily have as big an effect, but yet it was a simple story that appealed to a lot of people.
[00:46:39] Jo: Big impact. Really cool,
[00:46:41] Jaymi: Yeah. And that photo story doesn't have to say, you now are someone who cares about conservation. Cuz you might be reaching an audience of people who are like, I don't care at all about conservation. Or they might even have ideas of, oh, well conservation enthusiasts or, or democratic [00:47:00] snowflakes and I don't care about, you know,
[00:47:01] Jo: Bunch of tree huggers and, yeah.
[00:47:02] Jaymi: yeah. And it's like, but you still can reach anyone with a photo story that affects them when it matters to them. And that is still conservation work. So you can reach someone who doesn't want at all to identify with conservation, with a story that they connect to and get excited about. Pollinator friendly garden and they don't have to say, Well, I now embrace conservation, but they're still taking part in conservation
[00:47:29] Jo: Yeah. And that just shows that everything is a continuum and we don't have to label everything a specific thing and still contribute that way. Yep.
[00:47:40] Jo: Yeah.
[00:47:41] Jo: Yeah. Really cool.
[00:47:42] Jaymi: I think that there's a lot of conservation photographers out there who don't know that they're conservation photographers yet.
[00:47:48] Jaymi: It's my mission to help them embrace and, and so that they embrace conservation
[00:47:54] Jo: yes, yes, yes, yes. And they don't even know it.
[00:47:58] Jaymi: Well, so at [00:48:00] any rate, these are the three types of work that we do, but among many, among lots of. Different types of work that you can engage in as a conservation photographer to be effective and to do really incredible work that can look like all kinds of different things. But just to review, we've got one collaborating as the visual storyteller with someone else that could be a nonprofit, a ngo, a company a scientist, a a camera club in your area.
[00:48:32] Jaymi: Like there's so many ways that you could collaborate with an organization or, or another entity, or another group as the storyteller. And ultimately that work has conservation ends. You could also take part in a longer term project that's a visual storytelling project that ultimately has conservation goals or conservation aims attached to it, or create photo stories.
[00:48:56] Jaymi: This is like what we mentioned is kind of the. [00:49:00] Iconic or assumed or stereotypical thing that we do, which is creating photo stories that have ultimately conservation impact associated with them, even if they don't scream conservation. Conservation, conservation in in neon or firefly lights above your head.
[00:49:18] Jo: Yes,
[00:49:20] Jaymi: But one of the things I do wanna say is even though all of these things can look like anything can take all kinds of different shapes, can be incredibly unique, what they all have in common ultimately is being able to tell stories through images and no matter what it is that you're working on inside of this realm, being able to tell stories through images. Core to conservation work and, and being able to have that impact with your images. So I have a very special resource that I just made, just rolled out I'm very excited about, which is [00:50:00] Nature Photo Stories, a private podcast that walks you through three different types of stories that you might wanna create.
[00:50:08] Jaymi: So if you've never done a photo story before and you're wondering like, what does it look like, what would I do? How might I get started In this, This free private podcast series will walk you through three types that are very approachable, very simple to make. And have a really fun way of getting you started in photo stories.
[00:50:26] Jaymi: So you can get firstname.lastname@example.org slash listen. Again, totally free and it is five very bingeable episodes. You can listen to the whole thing and then grab your camera and run outside and start creating photo stories.
[00:50:43] Jo: So you could be planting your pollinator plants in your yard
[00:50:46] Jaymi: Mm-hmm.
[00:50:47] Jo: while you're listening to these
[00:50:50] Jaymi: You can be chasing little cute bumblebees around
[00:50:53] Jaymi: the yard trying to get pictures of them
[00:50:55] Jaymi: while listening to the
[00:50:56] Jo: right, right.
[00:50:57] Jaymi: Excellent. Excellent. Well, Joe, thank [00:51:00] you so much for being here and nerding out on work with me and just yeah, going down all the really great fun rabbit holes together,
[00:51:09] Jo: you very much for having me. It's very fun. I was very hard to not go down more rabbit holes, so we'll work on that
[00:51:15] Jaymi: Well, rabbit holes are welcome. So yeah, we're gonna work on some more in the next episode.
Get all the good things delivered!
How-to action plans, expert interviews, behind-the-scenes insights & more delivered weekly.