The short answer is, making a living as a full-time pro landscape photographer is possible, but not easy.
Ever thought of pursuing a career as a professional landscape photographer? Then you might want to get some insights on what it will be like — straight from someone who has been there — before diving headfirst.
Photography, no matter the genre, has become so saturated that it will obviously not be an easy path to take if your goal is to do it professionally full-time. This is especially the case for more specialized or “niche” markets like landscape photography. While you shouldn’t be discouraged by all means, it’s worth listening to some words of wisdom of someone who has been there, and done that. Today, let’s hear it from Romania-based landscape/outdoor and travel photographer Toma Bonciu.
Once in a while Bonciu gets asked this question: How can you make a living from being a landscape photographer? You can tell from the way he answered this that he himself has gone through some pretty significant challenges to make it in his chosen industry. Many of these, are still the same challenges that affect both seasoned and aspiring landscape photographers today.
First and probably the most pressing challenge is that unlike wedding or events photogaphy, you don’t get the luxury of regular clients and projects. It’s not as easy as showing up to an event to cover it, and you get paid for your work (or possibly get the opportunity to get more clients from the event as well).
Second, there are now so many photographers doing landscape photography today. Some are professionals, but many are also mainly hobbyists. As Bonciu has pointed out, many clients and companies often don’t care if a landscape photo they want was taken by a pro or a non-pro. In some cases, these clients would even go after a hobbyist who may be amenable to either a small sum, or worse, social media exposure.
Third, how successful you become as a full-time professional landscape photographer will also depend on the country where you’re based. It won’t make sense, therefore, to push print sales in a location where there are simply no customers or clients who want to buy prints. The best you can do then, is to pitch your work to an art gallery. This is another serious matter, since prints are one of the major products that landscape photographers can sell.
How do you work around these challenges? There are a handful of things you can do, as Bonciu suggested. Mainly, you can sell your photos on stock photography websites, but be warned that even these have problems as well. The market changes so quickly, and more photographers are coming in to do the same thing as what you’re trying to do. So, don’t depend on just one stock photography website.
Also, he recommends avoiding the popular locations and the usual imagery already. Instead, find your own niche — something that you can specialize in. But you are encouraged to take note of the most important occasions of the year and integrate them in your own style and portfolio, as clients are always looking for photos related to these events.
Lastly, you may also want to consider doing landscape photography workshops and photo tours once you’re already far along into your career. It’s a big responsibility and not all photographers are effective teachers, so evaluate carefully if this is something you can do.
Want more landscape photography tips from Toma Bonciu? Do check out his YouTube channel to watch more of his video tutorials.