22: Photography, Conservation and Storytelling with Michele Westmorland

Freelance Photographer: Underwater, Conservation, Storytelling, and Commercial Assignments!




Photo by Mahmoud Abdella.

Michele Westmorland is a freelance photographer with a range of skills, including worldwide travel, lifestyle, and underwater photography. Her years of diving have led Michele to being an active proponent of marine conservation issues. In addition, she is passionate about cultural preservation as highlighted by her project Headhunt Revisited.

In our discussion, we talk about Michele’s successful photography career. We also talk about the importance of paying attention to the business side of photography, which includes marketing and networking.

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


“Does your image tell a story?”


Top 4 Tips From the Interview:

1. Being diverse in your skills and the subjects you shoot can work to your advantage.

Being diverse in the subjects that you shoot can be an asset to you, especially during an economic downturn. In Michele’s case, underwater photography is how she made a name for herself, but she was also able to shoot people, travel, and lifestyle photography. This helped her land more assignments and market to a wider variety of companies when opportunities were scarce in the U.S. economic downturn.

2. Doing your research beforehand is key if you’re looking to get photo assignments or pitch an idea to a magazine. Find out what they want first.

A stunningly simple idea, isn’t it? And yet so many creatives overlook this step. In order to get your photos into certain publications, blogs, etc., you have to produce what is desirable to your client, which is often quite different than what you might initially assume. Find out what their style is and what their readership enjoys. For example, while a photo of wildflowers may look like the greatest thing since sliced bread to you, it has absolutely no relevance to an online magazine that focuses on underwater photography.

3. Network. Get out there and meet people.

Social media and technology are constantly changing, but networking is will always be a key principle to utilize as you build your business. It’s about human connection. Connecting with individuals and businesses online is great (and often necessary), but face-to-face opportunities are priceless.

4. Align yourself with people who have different skills that you can work together with. This can truly benefit your photography business.

We’ve mentioned this numerous times in the podcast, and we’ll say it again: it’s about collaboration, not competition. No one person can do everything, so consider aligning yourself with individuals who can join your team and add their skills to move your business forward. For example, hiring an assistant who is great at marketing (something many photographers struggle with!), can take your business forward by leaps and bounds.


Michele Can Be Found At:

» WestmorlandImages.com: Her main photography website. Here you will find her commercial shoots, underwater work, cultural work, magazine tear sheets, and more.

» Find Michele on Facebook at Facebook.com/WestmorlandImages


Michele’s Recommended Resources

» CreativeLive.com: Excellent online courses for the creative mind.

» Lynda.com: online video tutorials covering business, software, and creative skills.


Michele’s Projects and Passions

» HeadHuntRevisited.org: The fascinating documentary she has put many years of work into. It’s also a book and exhibition that charts the cultural change of Melanesia through exposure. Check it out!

» Find Head Hunt Revisited on Facebook at Facebook.com/HeadhuntRevisited

» The International League of Conservation Photographers (www.ilcp.com) is an organization whose mission is to further environmental and cultural conservation through communication initiatives that create vital content and disseminate conservation messages to a wide variety of audiences.