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Professional Outdoor Photographer – is there a future for professionals?

Is there a future as a professional outdoor photographer? As a professional outdoor photographer, I think about the future of outdoor photography, and where the art or profession is headed as a way to make a living.  I’m asked questions like, “aren’t you afraid that you wont be able to make money,” and “what about all the competition – everyone has a camera these days and are literally giving away their photos just to see their names in print – doesn’t that worry you?”  Another common one, “what do you fear most about the future of your profession.” People are assuming that the profession of photography is dying due to lower barriers to entry, more free time, more people with more money, and the improvement in technology, not to mention the changing culture and the fact that today’s younger generation want what they want, and they wont be guided by rules and constraints. . .

Saint Mary Lake storm, Glacier National Park, montana

Waves crashing on the shore of Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana. © all rights reserved. Contact Tony Bynum for licensing or to purchase this image as a fine art print.

So here’s my answer. It’s always the same, “I’m worried about my health (I’m not sick, but as our bodies wear out, it’s harder to stay on top in the outdoor photography world), motivation to keep going, and ultimately my happiness.” I don’t spend time worrying about what other’s say, do, or publish. I don’t worry about the prices I’m paid for my hard work dropping though the floor. I’m in competition with myself to do the best job I can and make certain that everyone of my clients is taken care of. In other words, I just do what I do, and let the chips fall where they may.

So, why am I writing this? I’m writing this because I read a great article about photography and the new generation, and I absolutely loved it! I wanted to share it with my community of photographers.

The future is exactly where the past has been. Moving forward. Inventing newer, faster, smaller, better ways of visually communicating. The profession will leave behind those that can’t or wont adjust. There’s no stopping the momentum.

To me it’s like a wave. If you’re surfing, you’re either paddling out and over the wave, riding in front of the wave trying to get enough speed to actually ride the wave (get on top of it), or you crash . . .  I feel like I’ve always been paddling in front of the wave but never really been on the top – “owning it,” so to speak. . .  As good as some of my work is, (I’m not back slapping, I’m acknowledging hard work,) I still feel like I’m never “killing-it.” The younger generation does not worry about “killing it.”  They “kick-it.” They grow their hair out like we did when we were kids and I swear if I had my Welcome Back Kotter (I hope some of you remember that show) t-shirt that said, “up your nose with a rubber hose,” I could sell it to one of these kids for a mint! That’s just the way things are going . . .  No restrictions, and no boundaries. The rules are blurry and becoming more blurry by the day. The younger generation is not compelled to follow the traditional process or get stuck in the quagmire of some sophisticated system of becoming an artist, they just do it!

The future of the professional outdoor photographer is positive.  There is a future in it for those who are willing to embrace change learn to live the lifestyle . . .  So, embrace the future. Move with it not against it.  Ride the wave but better yet, skip “killing-it,” and go right to “kickn-it.”

If you’re into photography, or philosophy, read this pieces by Kirk Tuck, I think you’ll like it!   Here is the link to Kirk Tuck’s article,

The graying of traditional photography and why everything is getting re-invented in a form we don’t understand.

Where do you think photography is headed?  What are your challenges?


Tony Bynum

P.S. Check out this great interview with Maury Postal if you want the “big-shot’s, take on professional photography, it’s worth the read

13 Responses to “Professional Outdoor Photographer – is there a future for professionals?”

  1. tony says:

    If you tried to leave a comment, it may not have gone through properly. Everything should be fixed now . . . Sorry for the confusion. . .

  2. Jim Allen says:

    Hi Tony,
    Honestly, I’d say you’re killing it. You’re shredding the wave. I’ve looked at your portfolio and am inspired by the awesome shots you’ve taken. If I could look back at a body of work that good, I’d feel pretty good about the future. I agree with your view on the future, there is always a market for excellence. I’m confident that if you keep producing the kind of work you’ve done in the past, you’ll always have food on the table. I’m glad guys like you are out there freezing in the dark waiting for sunrise to capture that one shot you’ve visualized. I don’t always get the time to do it, but I sure admire the work you’ve done. You inspire average guys like me to try harder, just to get the occasional good shot. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing your views with the rest of us.

    Jim A.

    • Tony says:

      Jim, thank you for the very nice comment! I appreciate it! I’m happy there are people that take the time to read and comment on what I post. Again, thank you for the kind and generous comment! Tony Bynum

    • Mac McMillen says:

      Very well said, Jim, and I agree 100% with what you said. Tony is still killing it, photography-wise!


  3. Chris says:

    Tony, great piece. Now if I could only find the friggin “on” switch to this Graflex I bought.

  4. Chris says:

    You mean there’s no on switch? I’ve been had again 😉

  5. Chris says:

    And apparently no slot for a CF card…

    In all seriousness, my D800 stuck to my 200-400 and had to go to NPS. Sad face.

    I think good photographers are good storytellers, and good stories will always have demand.

    • Tony says:

      oh man, that sucks! I just had my D4 completely overhauled, new guts, glass, rubber armor, screen . . . shutter, they left the brain, but gave it some therapy, and sensor got a batch . . . shipping and insurance is spendy to send that much gear. I had to split my d3x and 200-400 into two shipments one time because i could not buy enough insurance from the USPS. I guess i could have just used my business insurance if there were a problem but i did not want to risk being dropped for a claim. I figure if I’m going to make a business claim i better save it for a the day I lose it all! knock on wood!

  6. Kevin Root says:

    Well said Tony. The future is bright. I think many of the professional outdoor photographers of the past that have since left us would be excited to see the technology innovations in photography. Photography will continue to change and evolve. Embracing and experiencing the future challenges and future of photography is an exciting endeavor and not something to be feared. I agree, ride the wave and enjoy it!

    • Tony says:

      Kevin, thank you for taking the time to comment! There is no doubt that this is an exciting time! Photographers of the past would surely be inspired by the new technology! Ride the Wave!

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