Dan Moore of Green Bay was raised in a family that loved to travel. He visited national parks and historical sites, and as he fell in love with the scenery, developed a passion for photography.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2000 with a degree in graphic design, he got what he calls a “real job,” but also found time to travel and experience the national parks anew.
“It was particularly during a visit to Arches National Park in 2002 where my love for our parks system was rekindled,” Moore said. “Since then, I have visited over 100 national parks sites; many of them multiple times.”
The result was stunning photography, and in 2012, the start of a side business, Danillo, LLC (www.nationalparksartist.com), with a specialty in national parks photographs.
“I spent a lot of time the first year thinking about the business and how I could make it a business," Moore said. "I wondered what prints would sell and what the public would be interested in. I saw a video addressing this issue, and the instructor was saying that so many people want to make a living from this and what you need to do is to get really, really good at photography.”
Moore said the biggest challenge to photographers is that the onset of digital photography has made it easy for anyone and everyone to take photos.
“There is a golden age of photography that ended in the late 1990s or early 2000s when digital came out," Moore said. "The camera manufacturers have built their business on saying that you will be able to create images like those used in marketing materials.”
Because of that, photography as a business has become super competitive. He admires several friends who have been able to succeed by focusing on portraits and weddings, and turned to them for advice when starting his business. In talking to them, he learned about what does and doesn’t work, how to market a business and how to sell at shows.
He also learned that he could combine a full-time job he loves with a business. He is employed at UWGB as university photographer and videographer, tasked with photo journalism, feature photos, studio and environmental portraits, event photography, photo editing, and video and audio recording.
His business is operated in his spare time, and he focuses on art shows as the primary outlet for sale. An award-winning nature photographer, Moore and his wife are the parents of a 1-year-old daughter, and that has added to the constraints on his time.
“Sometimes it’s tough to do it all,” Moore said. “I am dedicated to taking care of my daughter and making sure my wife doesn’t have a burden.”
In the past year, he curtailed travel and participated in Artstreet in Green Bay and Art in the Park in Appleton. He is spending more time on marketing and has redesigned his website and worked on his Facebook page. Prior to shows, he does targeted advertising on Facebook and tries to set prices and selection based on what will sell.
“Some of it is trial and error — having a feel for what other people are selling and showing their prints for and what I think is fair based on the show and material costs," Moore said. "Pricing your own art is really difficult and almost everyone I know who sells art, especially when you are starting, is self-conscious about asking a fair price. But, if you don’t value your art yourself, you can’t expect others to value it.”
As Moore tries to find that balance, he has found success in business and attracted a following. But he also thinks that most artists will have a difficult time making a living at producing their art unless they branch out to other areas.
He suggests finding profitable niches, selling at more art shows, holding workshops or teaching. Regardless of the direction, the most important aspect is producing exceptional work, being able to look at your work objectively, and having the humility to accept criticism from someone whose opinion matters.
“My goal is to get continually better. I still have to figure out where the business fits into my life now that I’m a father,” he said. “Artists need to have their own vision and if you don’t get really good at your craft, no one will want your stuff and the business part will be irrelevant.”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.