Do Not Delete Your Images
Award winning owl photo the unique pose tells a story in one image
I am a fine art wildlife photographer not a conservation photographers. There is a distinct difference between the two genres. I look for "the" shot to tell the story, a conservation photographer usually works with a series of photos. The conservation photographer uses that image series to tell the story, whereas I use one image to tell the story. Their story usually incorporates the habitat, I try to minimize the habitat so the species is the focal point of the image, unless I am taking a wildlifescape. I focus on photography awards to increase the awareness of my work whereas the conservation photograph is more likely to focus on publications. However, if you take the right approach in the field and are ready when the action happens then you may also get some publication work as well, but that depends on you having a photo series.
So what do I mean by that exactly? While I am in the field I am looking for an award winning photo that will make an emotional impact with the viewer. I want them to feel a connection to the subject. I want to show the viewer the subject in a different way then how people perceive them; a tender moment of an apex predator with its offspring, a squirrel looking exceedingly fierce or a normally solitaire animal huddled together in a large group. A conservation photographer is looking for a different story, one that tells of an animal's survival in its ever changing environment, its tension with the encroachment of man into its territory, its struggle to survive. We both present a story of wildlife, but from a different perspective.
A series of images leading up to the winning owl photo
Although I am looking for "the" photo I am still clicking when the action is happening and like the conservation photographer I obtain a series of photos documenting that moment, that encounter. I know people who kept only the best photos out of a series of photos, but even as a fine art photographer I am keeping them all. Why...... because of what I stated in the first paragraph, what if a publication asks you for your work? Publications might be looking for a singular photo, but usually they are looking for a series of images. My angle, my story is different than a conservation photographers but it still can tell a compelling story.
The original of the "photo" the award winning owl photo before being cropped and edited
In the last few months I have been approached by two media agencies. They reached out to me based on one of my images they had seen but in actually wanted the entire story to that image. What led up to that moment, what happened after that moment. how did I feel in that moment, what did it take to capture that shot? In getting that entire story they want the before and the after photos, the images leading up to the photo that caught their eye and what happened immediately afterwards. If I had not kept the entire series I would not have been able to work with the agency. External hard drives are cheap its definitely worth the investment to keep all your images.
The series of images after the award winning photo
While photoessays are not my primary means of communicating my work, the occasional well placed image series in the right publication can definitely help with print sales. As a fine art photographer you have to continue to look for opportunities that help build your brand.