Jim Zuckerman left his medical studies in 1970 to pursue his love of photography and turn it into a career. Jim specializes in wildlife, nature, and travel photography, macro work, photomicroscopy, and digital effects. Currently, he is traveling to Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia leading a photography tour to take pictures of Victoria Falls and large game.
His diversity in technique and style is unique in the professional arena. He states that he only photographs beauty, leaving the dark side of life to other photographers. Jim is contributing editor to Photographic Magazine, and he is the author of 15 books on photography and has self-published seven ebooks.
His images, articles, and photo features have been published in scores of books and magazines including Time-Life books, publications of the National Geographic Society, the Economist, Omni Magazine, and Life Magazine.
Jim leads photo tours all over the world and is often a guest speaker to a wide variety of photographic organizations. He teaches all aspects of photography online as well.
1. Tell us something about your business and how long you have been a professional photographer?
I have been a professional photographer for 43 years. I specialize mostly in wildlife, nature, travel photography, and digital effects. There are three aspects of my business. First, I am a stock photographer. I submit images to various stock photo agencies and I derive income from that. Second, I teach photography in various venues. For example, I teach online courses, I give photo seminars, and I lecture to clubs and organizations on various aspects of photography. Third, I lead photo tours and photo workshops all over the world.
I am a Canon shooter. My arsenal of lenses includes: 500mm f/4 telephoto, 300mm f/2.8 telephoto, 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom telephoto, 50mm macro, 24- 105mm zoom, 14mm ultra-wide-angle lens, and 15mm fisheye. I use an Induro tripod along with a reallyrightstuff BH 40 LR ball head. My camera bodies are 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III.
3. Where are you located?
I am based out of Franklin, Tennessee.
4. What type of photography do you like to create?
My favorite types of images are wildlife, nature, spectacular architecture, primitive tribes, and digital effects. Most photographers don’t include in their portfolio such a diverse range of subjects, but I will shoot almost everything: fantasy, nudes, microscopy, fashion, and anything else that I find to be visually compelling.
I charge a minimum of $2,000 for a speaking engagement, and for a photography workshop or tour it varies depending on how many days are involved and where I have to travel.
6. When did you notice you had a passion for photography?
I realized I had a passion for photography the first time I went into a darkroom. That was 1968. A friend of mine showed me how to develop black and white prints, and I was instantly hooked. I sold my stamp album of American mint stamps and bought my first camera – a Canon FT QL – and all I wanted to do was take pictures.
7. What is unique to what you do or what you offer?
Every photographer has their own vision, but I think what is unique about what I offer is the diversity of my interests. Whenever I speak to a large group, there are people who have a wide variety of interests in photography. I feel they can relate to my work because somewhere in the presentation are pictures that they like to take. In addition, because I have photographed in so may different situations and I’ve had to deal with so many photographic challenges, my knowledge base is extensive. I thoroughly enjoy sharing my experience and knowledge with anyone who wants to learn.
8. Most awkward moment during an event?
The most awkward moment in a photographic event that I’ve experienced is when I was setting up the digital projector and my laptop and about to speak to 200 people, and I didn’t have the right connecting cord between the laptop and the projector. I had just purchased a new laptop not realizing that Apple had changed its connecting cord. Without photographs, it’s very difficult to lecture about photography! Somebody in the audience had to go out to a local Apple Store and purchase the right cable.
The most frightened I’ve been during a photo shoot was in Kenya. Photography in the game parks is always done from a vehicle, but in this one particular location we were allowed out of the vehicle for breakfast. Right below us was a river, and there were several crocodiles close to us. I walked down to the river’s edge to photograph a monster crocodile – it had to be at least 5 feet wide – and even though I was using a 500mm telephoto, I knew that I was really positioned too close for comfort. I was probably 70 feet away or so, and I looked behind me to see an embankment that I could scramble up if necessary. These reptiles can move a lot faster than I can run, and I was extremely nervous. I took a couple of shots and got out of there fast.
10. Best advice that you’ve been given in your photography career?
The best advice I was ever given was to join a stock photo agency. This was in 1987, and it made a serious impact on my business. With a continuous royalty income, I was able to pursue the kind of photography that I really love to do and not worry about paying monthly bills.
The best advice I can give to somebody pursuing a photography career is to follow your heart. Do what you love to do and learn how to market your work. Marketing is just as important as producing excellent photography. Most artists don’t like the business end of their art, but it’s necessary and you have to become good at it. In essence, you have to learn two things at once – the business side and the artistic side. Shoot what you love to shoot and this will keep your passion for photography alive and well for the rest of your life.
12. Best moment of your photography career?
The best moment of my photography career was when I held my first book in my hands. I’m most proud of the books I’ve written, so this was a very exciting moment for me.
I do about 15 events per year including photo tours.
14. Have you changed anything to adjust in the current economic times?
I’ve changed my business plan a lot due to the current economic situation. I’ve put a bigger emphasis on leading photo tours because they are still selling. There is a never ending supply of amateur photographers who want to take better pictures and are who willing to pay people like me to show them where the most awesome pictures can be found. This might be in the US or abroad.
15. Describe your shooting style.
It’s hard to describe my shooting style because it is so varied. Having said that, I like saturated color, strong graphic design, and exciting subjects. I would say these qualities characterize my style.
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