If you asked 10 working photographers if landscape photography is a good way to make a living these days, it's a pretty good bet that 9 of them would give you a negative response. It's no secret that selling landscape photos is much more difficult in today's market. There are a number of reasons, including the fact that almost anyone can take a decent tourist shot with today's cameras and many people are simply creating their own wall art.
So, are the “good old days” of taking and selling superb landscape, seascape and cityscape photos gone? Not necessarily. There are a few important things you need to know, though and you may have to be willing to diversify a bit if you're going to compete in this genre. If you're the kind of person that would rather work with Nature than people, you can still generate profits with your efforts, if you change your tactics a little. Here's a short list of ideas to help get a good start in the right direction:
Find something different.
Most of the world's best-known natural wonders have been photographed to death. Heck, you can take a worldwide tour of every major attraction on the face of the earth without ever leaving the comfort of your favorite chair. If I want to purchase a photo of Niagara Falls, for instance, the hardest part will be choosing from the million or so beautiful photos I'll find.
Instead of shooting the same thing as everyone else, why not shoot some of the scenery in your own “back yard”? Those spots you go to when you want to get away will probably appeal to others, too. While you're visiting far-off places, look for those vistas along the way that everyone else overlooks. How about those farms just outside of your own town? There's a whole lot of the world that everyone hasn't seen. Show them something new and beautiful and you'll get their attention.
Find ways to make things different.
I'll admit right off the bat that this is a tough task. In addition to being photographed millions of times, most tourist attractions have been shot in hundreds of different ways. Still, if you're there, it's worth the effort to get creative and find an angle you haven't seen before. Someone just may appreciate your creative vision.
Go from wide to WIDE.
Panoramic prints are still one of the most sought-after formats. The really great thing about that fact is that they're easier than ever to create with today's sophisticated software. While a solid tripod and an indexing head certainly make the job easier, you can even get by without one in a pinch. The latest versions of Photoshop and Lightroom both give you intelligent panoramic merge capabilities and with the low cost of cloud-based versions, you don't have to invest a lot to use them. There are other software choices, too, of course. There are more than enough labs available to print them, too.
Create time lapse videos.
Why not set up your rig for a sequence of shots while you're having lunch or sitting around the campfire? With an inexpensive intervalometer, you can let your camera do the work and open up a whole new sales channel for your prints in a niche that's growing stronger every day. Add a slider or dolly and get some extra dynamics with camera motion while you're at it. Good motion rigs are also surprisingly affordable now. Now is a perfect time to be getting involved in this genre.
Create digital art.
While some photographers are put off by the idea of manipulating their fine-art photos to make them something else, the fact is that digital art sells. Try breaking some of your shots up into panels. Use a clipping mask with text to create unique wall art that features your photos. Try some enhancements with texture filters, outlined edges, posterization – the possibilities are endless. Don't be so proud of your work that you limit your options.
Sell photo products.
Look into putting your work on greeting cards, mugs, posters, cell phone cases, pillowcases, tote bags and the whole range of photo products. You'll find several printing services online that can create these for you reasonably and many will have shopping carts available for you, so you can sell the products directly from their sites and keep your markup. This is a booming industry and one that can put steady cash in your pocket.
Give your buyers more options for prints.
There are also many online printing services that can print your shots directly on metal, canvas, acrylic, glass, wood and other media. You'll be amazed at the difference these prints can make in your landscape photos. Most of these sites can also provide professional mounting, matting and framing as well as hanging hardware for the various styles. Most of these printers can also provide you with a shopping cart, so you can sell them easily. Check these sites out.
Sell digital downloads.
Some readers just frowned. Digital downloads have a reputation similar to stock photography; some people believe it devalues the work. It also comes with certain risks, like the possibility of copyright infringement. Nevertheless, if you're looking for ways to maximize your earning potential, this is a niche you need to consider. Interestingly, it's a good way to market digital manipulations of landscape shots you might otherwise trash.
There you have it – a little insight as to how the business of landscape photography has evolved and a few ideas on how to maximize the earning potential of your shots. Getting paid for doing what you love is still a possibility, but the game has definitely changed. Have fun playing!