Professional Landscape Photographer?? You wish!
I’m often amused (and jealous for that matter) when I met somebody who claims to be a professional landscape photographer. I mean, why not, how hard can it be? You take a few photos, sell them and VIOLA! You’re a professional landscape photographer!
But seriously, how many photographers out ther are making money, and I mean serious money, out of landscape photography??? I know of four here in Australia – Peter Lik (USA), Ken Duncan (NSW), Christian Fletcher (WA), and Steve Parish (i’ve included Steve Parish here although I classify his photography more as travel photography than world-class landscape photography). To take a decent landscape photograph, find a buyer, then sell it for a decent price is not easy. I mean, if it was, everyone would be doing it. Although are they already, given that many people I run into are “professional landscape photographers.”
Let’s take a look at the definition of a professional landscape photographer. The Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) classifies a professional photographer as someone who earns the majority of their income (ie. over 50%) from their photography. Now there may be some out there who earn 50% of their income from photography, but is this all from landscape photography, thereby classifying them as professional landscape photographer? I doubt it.
Others would argue that their landscape photography is of a professional standard, which I have no doubt it is, and therefore they can claim to be professional landscape photographers. Not in my eye. For being a successful photographer is more than just taking professional photographs. Many students who come to me for advice on how to make it in the world of photography. I’m always emphasising the need to run a successful business first, take professional photographs second. There are plenty of professional photographers out there who take fabulous photographs who are penniless.
In an article 10 years ago, Peter Lik said that he wanted to be the most successful landscape photographer in the world. A high goal indeed. One that I doubted would come true – many people claim that they want to be the best, or the most successful, but don’t have the skill, courage, tenacity, or business nouse to make it. But I believe he is close to achieving this goal. Sure, his photography may not be the best in the world in his field, however his created a highly desirable product in many different markets to be a very successful photographer. He gets paid to take landscape photographers! What a life!!!
Being a professional landscape photographer is not about taking world-class, professional landscape photographs in my mind. It’s about identifying opportunities to market your product, shooting prolifically, and selling product (and heaps of it). Why heaps? Because there’s lots of beautiful landscape photography out there, and with so much available and little uniqueness to the imagery, the price is driven down by oversupply. It’s a low margin, high volume game.