30: Varina and Jay Patel, Nature Photography Duo




Photo by Jay Patel

Varina and Jay Patel are wilderness and nature photographers, prolific writers, and highly-regarded photography instructors. Along with her husband, Jay, Varina has written a series of eBooks and recorded a collection of video courses on a wide range of topics pertaining to photography. Her award-winning work has been published around the world – by National Geographic, National Parks Magazine, Popular Photography, and many more. Varina travels frequently – shooting in beautiful and remote locations across the globe.

Today we cover quite a bit, such as the importance of evaluating yourself, knowing your target market, having a strong portfolio, tracking the results of your efforts, and making tweaks as you grow your business.

I want to give a huge thank you to both Varina and Jay for taking the time to chat with us! I consider myself as much a student as the listening audience, and appreciate them sharing their extensive knowledge.

“When you’re a photographer, you are your brand. It’s your personality that matters as much as anything else.”


Top 3 Tips From the Interview:

1. Track what works and what doesn’t in your photography business.

As much as many of us would prefer to be out and about taking photos, tracking your results is key to a successful business. It’s important that you know what marketing strategies are bringing in more business for you, and what areas aren’t yielding any results so that you know where to focus your efforts. For example, if newspaper advertisements aren’t getting you any new gigs, then why would you keep throwing money at it? And if you knew that putting a specific amount of money towards hyper-targeted Facebook ads was making you twice the cash than you started with, then wouldn’t you focus more on that strategy? Exactly.

Varina and Jay also mention how vital it is to track your income and profit margins. Don’t wait until your bank account goes negative before you realize you aren’t charging enough to cover your business expenses.

2. Put out more content than just great photos.

It’s a given that you need to have a solid portfolio with great photos, but that’s just the beginning. It’s also important that you put out content other than the photos you take, such as blog posts. Quick guideline: Jay and Varina mention that they strive to post 3 days a week. You can write about the planning process for an upcoming shoot you have, or you can jot down some takeaways on a past shoot you did. You could write about your post production process, or some cool techniques you’re using in Photoshop. You could even write about something silly that happened in your day. Just write, and do it consistently.

The key is for you to stay in front of your audience so that they get to know you better. It also keeps you relevant, so that your name comes to the top of their minds when they do need a photographer. Remember: they need to know you, like you, and then trust you before they ever decide to spend a penny on you.

3. Sit down and evaluate yourself, what you do best, and what type of photography you enjoy doing.

While this step may sound the most elementary, it is not to be underestimated. While perusing Facebook recently, I stumbled upon a ranting portrait photographer who was so fed up with shooting finicky, picky people (with her camera, of course!) that she was threatening to quit portrait photography altogether and go back to her first love – landscape photography.

Immediately this made me wonder why she hadn’t tried to make a go at landscape photography in the first place. It would seem like the natural thing to do, wouldn’t it?

Far too many professionals (not just photographers) get into a niche because it appears to be the most lucrative, or the most prestigious, or simply because everyone else around them is doing it. Don’t make that mistake. Do what you enjoy. Do what fulfills you. I firmly believe pursuing a creative avenue like photography takes some guts to do in the first place, so you might as well do the kind of photography you enjoy. It’s that profound love and passion for it that will see you through the (inevitable) tough times.


Varina and Jay Can Be Found At:

» PhotographyByVarina.com: Varina’s photography website.

» JayPatelPhotography.com: Jay’s photography website.

» VisualWilderness.com: Their online nature and wilderness photography courses, as well as their courses and blog. Get discounts for upcoming products. Also the gateway to connect with them on social media.


Their Recommended Resources

» Trello.com: A tool to help you stay organized and collaborate with other professionals.

»Wistia.com: An affordable, quality video hosting service. Especially useful if you’re looking to create online courses.

» WorldTimeBuddy.com: If you’re communicating or collaborating with people in other time zones, this tool is a life-saver.

» MailChimp: A tool for email marketing. Specifically, for having leads subscribe to your mailing list.