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Who Is NANPA … besides You? A Look inside the 2020 Member Survey

By October 12, 2020No Comments
Photographers working in the field at NANPA's Michigan UP Regional Event © Tom Haxby
Photographers working in the field at NANPA’s Michigan UP Regional Event © Tom Haxby

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Every so often, NANPA surveys its members to find out more about who you are and what’s important to you. The answers you give inform NANPA board discussions, policies, programs and many other aspects of the association. So, who are you? Who are the members of North America’s preeminent nature photography association?


NANPA membership tends to lean a bit towards mature men. Our 2020 survey respondents were 63 percent male, slightly down from the roughly 65 percent average over the past half-decade. That would make sense as more and more women are entering the field, becoming successful pros, mentors and role models.

A shade over half of respondents aged 65 or over. That doesn’t make NANPA an old organization, though, as there are plenty of younger pros and enthusiasts, too. Looking around any of the sessions at the last Nature Photography Summit in Las Vegas revealed a nice mix of ages, from high school to Medicare-eligible. It takes a while to build a successful nature photography business and to accumulate enough savings to invest in the gear and travel required to make it as a pro. Even enthusiast photographers skew a bit towards the older side with many not having the time or resources to pursue their passion until later in their career, or when the kids are gone.

Speaking of enthusiast, NANPA is pretty well balanced between working pros and enthusiasts, with 14 percent being full-time pros, 26 percent part-time pros and 54 percent intermediate to advanced amateurs. Over the past ten years, the proportion of enthusiasts has remained remarkably constant. The number of full-time pros increased slightly over the decade, while the proportion of part-time photographers has declined a bit.

Once you’re in, you stay in. Fewer than 20 percent have been members less than five years, while 35 percent have been members for six or more years and six percent are charter members!

Problems nature photographers face

Not surprisingly in a pandemic, NANPA members face some hurdles. Their biggest challenge, even in a good year, is making money and building a business in nature photography, especially given the devaluation of stock and image prices. Increasingly, less access to public lands, the overcrowding of popular sites, dealing with government rules and red tape, and the ongoing loss of wilderness & wetlands are concerns. Members are also interested in honing their skills in particular areas, and keeping up with the ever increasing amount of new gear, new technologies, new techniques, and new information about a variety of topics related to nature photography.

NANPA members listening intently at one of the 2019 Nature Photography Summit sessions. Photo by Frank Gallagher
NANPA members listening intently at one of the 2019 Nature Photography Summit sessions. Photo by Frank Gallagher

Sources of income

While fine art prints, publications and stock are significant sources of their photo income, most (74 percent) never register their images with the copyright office.

Workshops are a significant part of the income stream for 30 percent of NANPA members, but the pandemic has put travel on hold for many. Most, if not all, 2020 travel workshops have been canceled, but a few are starting to go, albeit with a lot of precautions (see here).

Many NANPA members are not planning on travel, except for personal photography, until a vaccine is in widespread use. While 50 percent may go for personal photography, 30 percent aren’t going for any reason until a vaccine is common. Even fewer (25 percent) are considering group travel before a vaccine is in mass circulation and only about 40 percent even when a vaccine is prevalent. It will take a while for the travel workshop business to recover. All of NANPA’s popular Regional Field Events through the end of 2020 have been canceled but keep an eye on the website for the latest information about what’s planned for next year.

In the meantime, members are busy improving their websites and social media strategies. As one might expect, Facebook (80%) and Instagram (60%) are receiving a lot of attention as photographers bulk up the content they’re posting and work on increasing engagement. Over the years there’s been a steady increase in the amount of photographers using YouTube, with 45% of respondents putting some effort into that video platform.


NANPA members value being part of a group whose members share their passion for nature photography and a belief in the power of storytelling to affect change. They like meeting, networking, sharing with, and giving back to other photographers. They appreciate the access to the industry’s top pros and being part of an association where their own personal contributions are valued. Members like the recognition and feedback they get through Showcase, Expressions, the NANPA Facebook group, blog, Instagram, and the webinars, online Town Halls and Sip and Share conversations.

With the economic uncertainty of the coronavirus restrictions, NANPA’s discount programs scored high for value, as did information about photography-related products and services. NANPA’s series of handbooks, on topics like conservation photography, the business of nature photography, bird photography tips, and photo contest secrets have also been well received.

If all of this sounds like you, then you’re in the right place! We’ll look forward to seeing you at one of the future events, whether webinar, Facebook Live or an in-person event sometime down the road.

If this sounds good, but you’re not a member, well, what are you waiting for? Join now, get your hands on some of the members-only benefits of NANPA, and mingle with one of the nicest and most helpful groups of photographers you’ll ever meet.

Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He manages NANPA’s blog and edits NANPA’s annual journal, Expressions.

Facebook: @FGFStop
Instagram: @frankgallagherfoto