So you like to shoot landscapes. When the weekend rolls around you like nothing more than to pack up your camera and head to somewhere pretty and photogenic, a place filled with trees and dappled sunlight or snow and rocks. You probably already have a hard drive filled with beautiful photos of beautiful places. It would just be great if you could sell them.
You can sell them. It takes effort and planning. The sales won’t pile in overnight. But it is possible to turn a love of landscape photography into a revenue stream — and possibly even a career.
First, though, you have to shoot the right images. Hikers might take their cameras with them when they walk but photographers plan their trips according to the time to see their subjects in their best light. To capture one image, Scott Leggo, an Australian professional landscape photographer, first visited the area around Mount Hotham, a mountain resort in Victoria. Having scouted the region for good locations in the summer, he returned in the winter to capture a shot of a tree buried by snowfall. On the first day, the weather wasn’t right. Nor on the second. It took several days of snowshoe hiking and several hours standing in freezing fog before he was able to capture the shot he had imagined months earlier.
Landscape images are common. Landscape images that sell tend to be unusual and difficult to capture. They also have a theme. Scott Leggo’s photos are instantly recognizable. They may cover topics including coastal, country, forests, mountains and outback, but whether they show snowscapes or woodlands they tend to have a letterbox format and a degree of tranquility. They have a style — and it’s that style that has allowed Leggo, a former military pilot, to build a business out of his photography.
Only after you’ve chosen a region whose beauty you want to document and created your style, you can start making sales.
Keep Your Marketing Local
For anyone shooting artistic pictures that usually means knocking on the doors of art galleries. You can call first, make an appointment and ask to show your portfolio. Gallery owners are always looking for new artists to take on and as long as the portfolio matches the sorts of people who buy images from their gallery they’ll give you a fair hearing.
The pictures have to be good, of course, but if you’re shooting landscapes, it will also help if you’re pitching to local galleries. Buyers are likely to be in the area and they’ll want beautiful pictures of the scenery around them. You’ll find it easier sell landscape images in local galleries if your photos show local scenes shot in outstanding ways.
But you don’t have to limit yourself to art galleries. When Scott Leggo started shooting, he told his friends and family in order to spread the word, but he also spoke to local businesses who used his images to attract people to the area. When you’re shooting locally, museums, bookstores, even artisanal food stores are all your allies. They can sell your prints and they can help to move calendars, postcards, photobooks and posters, helping you to spread your name even further.
Galleries and stores are relatively easy to approach and simple to supply. Art fairs are a little harder but can be very lucrative and for many photographers are a first step into a gallery. You can apply to show at your local fair but competition will be tight and if you’re accepted, you’ll need to invest in display materials as well as laying out for framing and printing costs. That may be expensive but if you become a regular, you can find that a few fairs a year adds several thousand dollars to your income.
From Stock To Commissions
Stock can also be an option for landscapes, but it’s not an easy sale. Commercial stock sites tend to be more interested in the feeling of a place than in the place itself. Inventories are saturated and for microstock, the quickest way in for non-professional photographers, returns are now generally too low to even pay for the cost of creating the image.
One exception is 500px’s new outlet, Prime. The recently-launched stock site sells licenses for its inventory of mostly artistic imagery, and according to a public workshop, landscapes are currently the top-selling category.
That might be because landscapes are also one of the most common kinds of images on the site but it’s also because the company’s buyers tend to be looking for artistic images rather than stocky commercial shots. They also want to see pictures of specific places. Prime’s photo desk often tweets requests for images of locations. If you make your landscapes available for licensing on Prime, make sure your keyword tags include the location. It’s worth it. 500px’s terms are $250 for a royalty-free license, with the photographer receiving 70 percent.
So you can sell your landscapes as prints, calendars, books and postcards promoted through local galleries and local stores. You can display them on your website, of course, so that people can see what you’re offering. You might want to apply to art fairs, and 500px’s new outlet will now give you a chance of selling usage licenses.
Create a series of pictures, and magazines may also publish your images as a story. You can check their masthead or website for submission details but expect to have the images ready and the story prepared. Editors are unlikely to commission unknown photographers to manage a shoot.
That’s true of businesses too, and that’s where the real money is in landscape photography. Scott Leggo might be a successful art photographer whose landscape images hang in homes and offices but he’s also commissioned by companies who have seen his work and want pictures with a similar look to promote their businesses. Once you’re known and established enough to win that kind of work, you’ll be ready to go professional.
Landscape photography is popular. Your pictures will need to be special if they’re to stand out. But start with a region and a style and promote your pictures locally, and you might well find that your passion turns into real money.