How to Sell your Landscape Photos




Photography: Hamad Darwish

We all do it. Even the sort of cutting-edge, super-cool street photographers who are more likely to get excited by a pile of concrete than a glowing sunset will find themselves in a spot of nature, holding a camera and thinking “That will make a nice picture.”

It’s why just about every photographer has a folder marked “landscapes” (or “nature” or just “outdoors”) on their hard drives, and just about every commercial photographer wonders what on earth they’re going to do with it. With the number of landscape images available clearly outstripping demand – even if only a fraction of them are professional quality – is it really possible to turn images of sunsets, woods and hills into hard cash?

There are ways, but the pictures have to be good and the photographer has to be prepared to put in the work to sell them.

Turn the Elements into Elements

The most effortless method, as always, is to upload them to a microstock site and hope that someone buys them. The effort though will come in being accepted. iStock is just one company that makes clear that it has little interest in “sunsets and clouds” or “forest snap shots.” That’s not likely to be because there’s no demand for them at all (this image of a lighthouse is currently the company’s highest rated file and has 69 downloads) but because stock companies will only accept images that are better than those already available. And there are plenty of others available.

Rather than uploading your landscapes directly then, a better option might be to look at your landscapes as elements rather than as finished products. This image by Eva Serrabassa, for example, has been downloaded more than 12,000 times. It might well have been shot as a complete composition but it contains two parts: the girl blowing a dandelion; and the rural background. If you can turn your landscape into a background that offsets an emotive foreground – even if it’s just one you’ve pasted on — you’ll have a whole new image that might just get you past the stock site’s selectors.

Tag your Pictures

Alternatively, you can regard the photo not as a work of art but as a beautiful recording of a beautiful place – as a travel image. Usually, travel photographs are as hard to sell as landscapes (people always take their cameras with them when they travel) but Backpacker magazine and the Bruce Coleman Photo Library take unsolicited travel images, and Everywhere Magazine is now in its fifth issue and invites open submissions.

As you might expect from the publishers of JPG Magazine, selection for Everywhere is made through a combination of peer voting and editorial decision-making but the prize for selection is a free subscription and a crisp one hundred dollar bill. Obviously, your chances of winning might not be huge but it costs nothing to enter and the odds are certainly higher than if you leave the image on your hard drive.

You can raise the odds of selling higher still by placing them on a public map. Google Earth can work but Flickr’s map is probably the best because it’s a site that buyers are known to browse. Either add the geotag data to your image before you upload it to your photostream, or you can simply drop the photo into the right location on the map.

At best, buyers looking for images of a specific location will be able to find you and at worst, you’ll help to show people what the world looks like. As Anita Gould a nature photographer who geotags her images told us:

“[Geotagging] might help someone else find a Roseate Tern or a Maryland Meadow-beauty… but beyond that, it contributes in a small way to an online ‘citizen science’ database.”

And who knows, you might get luckier still. Hamad Darwish, a Kuwaiti student studying in the United States, was commissioned by Microsoft to shoot landscapes for Vista after uploading his images to Flickr. That might not happen to you but landscape prints do sell on the photo-sharing site.

They sell even better though at art fairs, and these are always good places for ambitious photographers to try to make sales. You’ll have to apply, hope you’re selected and pay for the space. You’ll also need a good selection of photos and more importantly, a good selection of prices too. But if you’re looking to sell prints, that’s always a good idea anyway.

Selling framed prints for a few hundred dollars apiece is hard; moving postcards will bring you a steady stream of small money, especially if you’re also able to place them in local stores.

Landscape photography is one of the hardest niches in which to make a name for yourself. Supply is high, demand is low and the competition is intense. If you’ve already done the shooting though, there are a few ways you might be able to make at least occasional sales depending on how much effort you want to invest.


11 comments for this post.

  1. seattle wedding photographer Said:

    Thanks for the accurate and realistic assesment "Supply is high, demand is low and the competition is intense." YOu got to do this only becaue you love it. not with the expectation of making money.

  2. Paul Said:

    Just a note to let you know that as of 8/1/2008 Everywhere Magazine is no longer being published. It's too bad too, because it was a good idea and a good magazine.

  3. Urban Picasso Said:

    I'm a painter and I have a hard enough capturing the beauty of my own paintings let alone nature and Landscape. Finding a place to sell them would seem daunting. I have a ebay store Urban Picasso Art and I pay attention to the various visual art Categories. Ebay would seem like a great place to sell Landscapes. But the competition is high.

    Visit my ebay Store Urban Picasso art

    http://stores.ebay.com/urban-picasso-art

  4. Bryce Said:

    Great suggestions. I will start geotagging my images. You are right about the stock websites. I have not had any luck with selling my landscape images there. And selling your landscape photos, paintings or any other art at an art fair is a great place to sell. I recently went to an art fair, there I sold my first framed print two matted 8x10 photos and couple of matted 5x7 prints. Not to mention it is a great way to advertise yourself and your work. It gets you out to the public domain and allows people to get to know who you are. For those who are thinking of selling at art fairs, do't be discouraged if you dont do well the first time. Try again and you may do better. That's what happened to me.

  5. Kali Said:

    Thanks to this great article, I've discovered new ways of trying to sell some pictures aside from sites as Redbubble, wich are great as community but not always as an online store.

    This blog is marvellous, keep up the good work!

  6. Scott Ingram Said:

    I sell over at http://www.imagekind.com. It's a good storefront. But most of the purchases I generate there are from traffic driven there from my Flickr site or from my webpage / word of mouth.

    Landscape photography is just not where the $$ is at for the majority of people. As "Seattle wedding photographer" said above, you do this because you love it, not because you expect to make lots of money.

  7. Free Stock Photos Said:

    A great article. I sell my photos through http://www.free-stock-photos.co.uk which is a great place and get to keep 100% of the net revenue for your pictures.

  8. Patrick McHugh Said:

    I have to agree, do it 'cos you love it. I tend to print them and frame them and keep them myself.

  9. canvas printing Said:

    It was my love of landscape photography which made me setup a large format printing business which also gave me the opertunity to sell some of my best images.

  10. Glen Said:

    I agree, good article, but I still try to get my images in front of as many people as possible, all driving back to my website so people know me and can get in touch with me. Places like http://www.photoartgallery.com are cool because they are custom made for photographers, free to join, very pro looking and i can link to my website from my profile. It just means that when im sleeping and not selling hard copies of images, my work is still on display for sale to those that are awake, somewhere.

  11. Jim Said:

    after googleing "selling landscape photography" I came up with this blog. It is very informative. I admit that I did this just after uploading some of my landscapes to a stock photo site. After doing so I was reading the "after the fact" fine print and the company states in it's help files that they are not "Keen" on landscapes or flowers. Needless to say I was discouraged. I have also taken a lot of shots of people (mostly kids). I could not upload them because I do not have permission to share them at this time. While the photo's are all appropriate and Legitamate I still need to obtain proper documentation allowing me permission to use these photo's. Is there a specific form or document that I should be using when asking for these permissions? If so where would I obtain it? Do stock photo sites require the use of their own documentation? Any info on this subject would be greatly appreaciated. Thanks

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