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Meet Susan Schmitz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Susan Schmitz.

Susan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
For over 20 years, I had a successful career in IT at a large mortgage company The technical nature of my job made me long for a creative outlet. So I started learning the art of photography by taking classes and working with local photographers. After a short while, I started a side business by taking family photos. I’m pretty introverted and was very uncomfortable with working with people, but I loved photographing their pets! Pet photography seemed to be a better fit, so I began to focus all of my energy there.

To build my portfolio, I volunteered my time taking photos of homeless pets at rescue groups. They use the photos in animal adoption ads and on fundraising items and I resell them to pet companies as stock photography. It’s a win-win.

Over the past 10+ years, I have grown my stock photo library to over 8,000 photos. This provides me with a consistent residual income flow which has given me the freedom to venture out into new areas. I recently started focusing my time on travel and wildlife photography. I have had the fortune of visiting Africa several times and have fallen in love with it. The land, animals and the people in it captured my heart and inspired me to do more with my photography business.

I have recently started on a new venture in partnership with my good friend and talented wildlife painter April Howland called Adventure Artists International. Our mission is to provide creative spirits with unique art and philanthropic centered travel experiences that inspire global impact through creativity, connection and conservation. We work with experienced tour operators and well-respected non-profit humanitarian and conservation organizations to curate life-changing adventures that make a lasting positive impact on the people, animals and land that we visit.

We are very excited to have recently launched a trip to Kenya, Africa in September 2020 to witness the great wildebeest and zebra migration. During this epic adventure, we will spend time in a Maasai tribe community meeting the locals and learning about very important community outreach projects that the Africa Foundation has in the works. This may include visits to primary schools, medical clinics and small businesses that are being developed by the locals with the assistance of the foundation. After the trip, we will provide ongoing guidance and support to anyone that wishes to put any of the art that they have created as a result of the experience into action to support the communities and wildlife that they met along the journey.

I am currently displaying some of my work at the Art on The Wild Side rotating art exhibit at the Phoenix Zoo/Arizona Center for Nature Conservation through January 15, 2020. A new collection that I created titled “In The Dust” is debuting at this show. This series consists of images of endangered wildlife that appear to be emerging from clouds of dust. This is meant to symbolize and spotlight the efforts that are being made by conservation organizations to prevent these species from dying off and being left in the dust.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s tough trying to make a living as an artist. Everyone with a smartphone thinks they are a photographer these days. People rarely print photos anymore and prefer 2-inch size digital files to share on social media. The perceived value of these tiny images is much lower than the actual costs to produce them.

I found it very difficult to run a profitable photography business that caters to private clients. This is the reason why I turned to stock photography. The agencies that I submit to do all of the marketing and backend work for me, which frees me up to just take photos. Since I make as little as 25 cents for a download, it took me over 10 years to finally get my portfolio large enough to make a full time living from it.

Please tell us more about your work. What do you do? What do you specialize in? What sets you apart from competition?
I am a photographer/digital artist that specializes in stock imagery for the animal and travel industries. I also work with companies ranging from small local Mom and Pop shops to major international brands by providing memorable visual assets for website development, marketing materials, blog posts, displays, product packaging and more.

I also love to meet and mentor fellow photographers. My online courses cover the business of stock image licensing along with classes on advanced editing techniques and compositing. I aim for a teaching style that is laid back, fun and informative while fostering creativity, action and prosperity.

Over the years, I have developed two separate bodies of work that portray my passions and compassion in unique ways:
A Dog’s Life Photography specializes in fun, whimsical and conceptual images of domestic animals. Most of the animal models used in this library of work were photographed through my Rescue Group Photo Program. This program was developed as a way to help animal welfare organizations to find fur-ever homes for pets by providing them with high-impact photos that give adoption ads greater visibility. To keep this program running, these images are then licensed through my stock photography library to the pet industry for their commercial marketing needs.

Wild Life Photography features a library of both documentary style and creatively composited images that are representative of my awe of nature and devotion towards animals of all kinds. A portion of proceeds of sales through this brand’s direct website are donated to various wildlife and nature conservation organizations worldwide.

A Wonderful Life is a collection of images taken during my travels across the globe. Here you will find landscape and adventure photos that are sure to invoke your wanderlust spirit.

I am also a partner in a company called Adventure Artists International. Our mission is to provide creative spirits with unique art and philanthropic centered travel experiences that inspire global impact through creativity, connection and conservation. We work with experienced tour operators and well-respected non-profit humanitarian and conservation organizations to curate life-changing adventures that make a lasting positive impact on the people, animals and land that we visit.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The photography industry is forever evolving as technology advances. It’s hard to predict what the demand for images will be soon. However, I truly believe that as social media platforms continue to grow, the need for good quality images will increase. Smart photographers will remain flexible and change their business practices to meet the needs of web-based businesses.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Susan Schmitz, Claudia Johnstone, Michael Laubscher,

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