Passion play

Outdoor photographer Mark Weidman takes to the hills—and the lakes and the shores…

By Jeff Kent
Images By Mark Weidman
First published in February 2005

Longtime commercial photographer Mark Weidman talks about switching from standard corporate photography to outdoor-oriented advertising work.

Want to make a living photographing the great outdoors? Longtime commercial photographer Mark Weidman talks about switching from standard corporate photography to outdoor-oriented advertising work. It isn’t easy, but as in most everything, if you follow your passion and stay true to your goals, success will follow.

Tell us about your business. What is your specialty and how do you make that work?

After spending most of my career doing corporate work—annual reports and that sort of thing—I’ve made a concerted effort in the last two years to go after the more outdoor-oriented advertising work. You could say I’m in the process of reinventing myself with that specialty. The income mix is about 60 percent assignments and about 40 percent stock. The assignments are a mix of commercial and editorial with an increasing focus on the outdoor work. Under the stock umbrella are both traditional stock sales to agencies and a lot of work done independently, including fine art print sales, calendars and other projects we produce from the studio.

What is the business environment like in your new specialty?

The tough part is that there’s not a lot of pure landscape assignment work being done in the United States now. There is a good market for the human element in the landscape—an athlete or inanimate object like fishing tackle on a dock. Otherwise, there’s so much good stock out there that if an agency can find imagery that fits their needs, they’re likely to go with it. The issue’s partly cost, partly risk. When you’re shooting on location, there are all the variables and intangibles that you can’t control. I enjoy that, though, because if it were static and easy, I’d probably get bored. The stock end of it is a given. It you produce good work and get it out in the marketplace, it’s going to sell.

How do corporate and outdoor photography differ?

A lot of the elements are the same, regardless of the subject matter. Composition, movement, lighting—these are the things that make a photograph work no matter where you are.

What artistic elements characterize your work?

A lot of the images I create have a graphic quality. With the landscapes, a word that’s been coming up a lot in recent years is serene. I’m a very a high-energy person, but when I find myself in a landscape, I’m at peace. That feeling is often reflected in the images.

What are the most notable pros and cons about doing the work you do?

I love being outdoors during all four seasons. The flipside of that, especially if you’re on assignment, is that working outdoors can be frustrating if the weather isn’t cooperating.

Artistically speaking, what would be your advice to someone interested in doing the same kind of photography that you do?

If it’s your passion, follow it. There’s always room for one more person in the field. And shoot, shoot, shoot. Really good art buyers can tell if you’re passionate about what you’re shooting. If you create the time to shoot for yourself, it will show through in your form.

And from a business perspective?

Get some business training; the sooner the better. As a photographer, you spend a lot of time running a small business. It’s more important than ever to manage your expenses in that situation. These days, there’s very sophisticated estimating that goes back and forth for contracts. It’s important to be able to represent your interests no matter what kind of photography you’re in.

If you were to quit being a photographer today, what would you miss most?

That’s a horrible thought. I can’t. I can’t quit. It’s the process. There’s something about the whole process that’s life to me. I just can’t fathom giving it up.

See more of Mark Weidman’s work at www.weidmanphoto.com.

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