Darwin Wiggett is a Canadian-based nature and outdoor photographer. Getty Images, First Light, and All Canada Photos market Wiggett’s stock photography. He’s also authored eleven books, including Canadian bestsellers Dances With Light – The Canadian Rockies, Darwin Wiggett Photographs Canada, and How-to Photograph the Canadian Rockies and seen his work on 100’s of magazine covers. In 2008, Wiggett won the international Travel Photographer of the Year award. Outside of his regular photography work – all of which he shoots without assignments – Wiggett hosts a series of workshops, photo tours, and online courses.
I’ve seen Wiggett’s work in a variety of magazines, including his regular column and contributions to Outdoor Photography Canada. In January, Craft & Vision released his latest eBook, Winter in the Canadian Rockies – The Print and Process Series. The eBook became tremendous inspiration that encouraged me to get out and shoot more images in the cold Canadian North. Shortly afterwards, I contacted Wiggett for my weekly interview series. Here is what he had to say:
1. I begin all my interviews with the same question. Was there an “ah” moment when you realized your life would be tied to a camera instead of a more tangible career. How did it happen?
DW: Well it all started with my discovery in 1986 of a book by Freeman Patterson entitled Photography of Natural Things – that book keyed me into the fact that people actually make a living taking pictures.
2. How long did the transition from amateur to pro shooter take and what lessons did you learn during the process?
DW:The transition took about 7 years – have a big savings account before you go pro!
3. Some Details:
a) Years as a shooter?
DW: I first got serious about photography in 1986. I got into stock photography in 1991. I went full time pro with out supplemental income (read starvation) in 1996.
b) What’s your market niche and what sets you apart from others in this area?
DW: Dramatic and stylistic landscape with a signature look. And sharing and teaching.
c) Breakdown of income: What percentage comes from editorial clients? From commercial clients? From other sources?
DW: 33% stock photography and assignments; 33% tours, seminars and workshops; 33% writing photo articles, and eBooks.
d) Time breakdown – What percentage of time is spent shooting? Marketing? Editing?
DW: Not enough time spent shooting! Maybe it’s 25-30%; the rest of the time is spent marketing, editing and office stuff.
4. Do you travel with pre-determined assignments or do you go to capture images and sell them after the fact? Is there a balance between the two?
DW: I only shoot what I like and what moves me. I do not do assignments. I shoot for myself and hope to sell the results later.
5. Where do you live and why? How does your geographic location help or hinder your business model?
DW: I live in Cochrane Alberta due to circumstances and serendipity. Cochrane is a great place to live as a nature photographer (close to prairies and to mountains) and great light.
6. If you could give only one piece of business advice to a young photographer, aside from finding a more lucrative career, what would it be?
DW: Learn how to be a good businessperson and learn about software from web stuff, to video, to photo editing.
7. What’s the harshest lesson you learned early in your photography career and how can others avoid falling into the same trap?
DW: Balancing personal life with the passion of photography – don’t forget what is really important and that is not necessarily the photography
8. Nature and outdoor photography can be brutal. Early mornings, late evenings, encounters with wildlife, patience, crap weather. What are the toughest and scariest moments to work through?
DW: Self-confidence and learning to shoot for yourself and not for others. Be true to your vision
9. Many entrepreneurs find it difficult to separate their work from their lives. What do you do to maintain a work-life balance? How does time away from the camera affect your work?
DW: The toughest part for me as a person passionate about photography is balancing personal life with my passion. It is an ongoing struggle. If I knew the answers I would let everyone know. I don’t.
10. What three people – be it friends, family, photographers, or anyone else – provide your greatest source of inspiration?
DW: I am influenced all over the place from music to art to personal encounters. But if I had to name the three biggest influences it would be Samantha Chrysanthou, Daryl Benson and Freeman Patterson.
As always, I’d like to thank Darwin for his time and answers. I’m overwhelmed with the support and cooperation of every photographer I’ve interviewed and Darwin is no exception. Cheers.
These interviews are a regular series on my blog, so make sure to leave me a comment with the types of questions you want answered by today’s top pros and I’ll do my best to include them. Check back every Monday for a new interview.