You love to take pictures of everything around you. A sunset is a beautiful painting on a gorgeous canvas to you, and you must capture that. You’re the kind of person that wants to tell not just your story, but the world’s stories, through your photos. That means getting into landscape photography.
How do you do it, though? You might look at the whole idea and feel overwhelmed, especially if you’ve never done it before. What should you look for? What do you need for this? How do you tell the story you want to tell? Maybe you’ve wondered how landscape photography even became a thing.
What Is Landscape Photography?
The true definition of landscape photography depends on each photographer. For instance, photographer Nasim Mansurov says, “Have you ever been out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, without a single person around? It’s a crazy feeling. You can look around the world, and you feel like you’re a part of it — and that is landscape photography.”
In other words, you can take pictures of landscapes all you want, but landscape photography involves making art out of nature. Whether it’s a waterfall or prairie grass blowing in the wind, landscape photography involves making art out of that which is around you.
History Of Landscape Photography
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The history of landscape photography goes back to the days of the American frontier. Ever since photography’s invention, people have been trying to catch perfect photos of the landscapes around them.
If you’re familiar with the name Ansel Adams, it’s partly because he’s considered the “father of American landscape photography.” Professional landscape photographers know Ansel Adams’ name and work well. Adams created many of the most famous photographs of Yosemite National Park. His work is known for its simplicity and ability to connect to the earliest pioneers of that era.
In addition to Adams’ work, Jack Dykinga had a philosophy that you don’t become a photographer without reason. Long after Adams and his landscape photography became famous, Dykinga saw a problem with where photography was going regarding sales and profit. He put purpose to his photography: Protection and preservation. “If you don’t have a reason for your photography, then you shouldn’t take pictures,” he says.
Dykinga decided that, while photographers do have to make money, they should also think about how personal their work is. Landscape photographers should consider more than just how much money they can make from a photograph. He and others believe that landscape photography is more about discovery than money.
Why Photographers Photograph landscapes
These days, with digital cameras existing in everything, including our phones, why do photographers continue with landscape photography? You go to a beautiful place like the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Yosemite, or even Canyonlands, and a million people have taken pictures of the same things you’re after. What’s the point?
It goes back to why do you take the pictures? If you’re a creator, as photographers are, you’re creating an image that others will experience. You can show off all the great photos you took of fossilized dinosaur footprints in Canyonlands National Park while canoeing down the Green River in Canyonlands National Park to your friends and family. Are they going to experience the same sense of wonder you may have felt when you took the pictures, though?
A landscape photographer can hone in on those footprints, photograph them in very specific ways, and show them off to the public at large as an illustration of prehistoric America. The same is true for the way the sandstone in that part of the country erodes, how a river cuts through an unusually green valley in the Midwest, or the way a watershed like that of the Chesapeake Bay changes the landscape around it in Pennsylvania. People who have never seen these places feel the experience of them. That’s why landscape photography exists.
Equipment You Need For Landscape Photography
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So, now that you know what landscape photography is, what kinds of equipment do you need to do it yourself?
Best Cameras For Landscape Photography
According to photographer Patrick Mitchell, your camera’s manufacturer is less critical than the type of camera you’re looking for. Basically, whether you buy a Canon, a Nikon, or something else, is less relevant than the camera’s capability. You want a camera and lenses that give you the ability to control how much light enters the camera’s shutter. For landscape photography, for instance, a camera or a lens with an F-stop rating of 1.8 is better than that which has a rating of 2.5. You also want lenses with a wide focal range. A lens with a range of 18mm to 200mm gives you the ability to take close-up shots and distant views. Of course, your ideal range depends on what you want to photograph. However, lenses with extensive ranges like this are the most beneficial for landscape photography.
Even with all of those considerations, Ben Horton, another landscape photographer, says that the “best” camera is the one that works best for what you’re trying to do. Do some research into cameras to see what you think you might like before you buy one. Horton prefers Canon cameras, but you might find you prefer something else.
You need a good, high-quality tripod for landscape photography. According to Josh Miller on Shutterbug, “this is the most important tool of a successful landscape photographer.” Of course, it’s not nearly as much fun as finding good cameras and lenses, but it’s the best way to ensure you take the highest quality photos you can.
Tripods cut down on every problem you may have with keeping your camera stable. That includes wind and other vibrations, and challenges you may have holding your hands steady. You want a tripod that sits at eye level without raising its center column. That way, you can take great photos that are both at eye level and considerably higher.
Look for a tripod that’s rated for more weight than you plan to use. That way, you’ll always have something that can easily handle the equipment you plan to use.
Polarizing filters and neutral density filters will help enhance the colors of your images in ways that even the best Photoshop editor can’t. A polarizing filter reduces glare and reflection and allows image components — such as the sky — to really pop.
Variable neutrality filters allow you to create a more prolonged exposure, which can be very important for shooting moving water. This particular filter reduces the need to carry several different filters for a single effect.
Where Can Novice Landscape Photographers Sell Their Work?
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If you want to sell your photographs, you have many options these days, particularly with the internet giving you the ability to reach hundreds of people at once. Where do you start, though?
Your Own Website
One of the best ways is to set up your own website, which features your work. This is how you establish a professional image and start getting your name out there. Create a newsletter and start an email list to which your site’s visitors can subscribe. Photographer Rich Bivins says he prefers MailChimp for that because it’s free until you have 2,000 subscribers.
You should also give your visitors the ability to opt into your email list with a pop-up. Bivins says that WordPress has a plug-in that will allow you to set this up easily.
There are plenty of websites that are great for beginning photographers. Your best bet, however, is to work on growing your following on social media. Create a fan page on Facebook with your best images (watermarked to help prevent theft). Instagram and Pinterest are great for exposure, too. Lots of aspiring photographers can sell their pictures through Instagram and Pinterest.
You can also create portfolios of your work on places like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, and Fotolia. These sites pay you a commission each time someone buys your photo. According to Bivens, though, you should limit the number of sites to which you submit your photos. Remember to look into what these sites require for photo submissions, or you’ll get rejected repeatedly. Determine what keywords for which people tend to search those sites and use them as tags on your own photos.
Craft Fairs And Art Shows
A way to sell your photographs offline is to attend craft fairs and art shows. Thousands of photographers sell their work at fairs and shows, so you can, too, if you know what you’re doing.
Common Considerations For Shows
The first thing you need to know about this method of selling your work is how to choose your best photos. You might think having as wide a variety of photos up in your booth is good, but in reality, it’s not. You want the photos that capture a particular mood because your display needs to have a certain amount of continuity. If you’re going to sell photos of wild animals, stick with just those images and maybe a few photos of the landscapes in which you would ordinarily see those animals. Your pictures “interact” with each other from the perspective of your audience, and you want as natural an interaction as possible.
All your framing and matting should appear high-quality and professional looking. You can have someone else do this work for you, or you can learn how to do it yourself. Certainly, doing it yourself will save you some money, and you’ll earn higher profits. However, your photos’ appearance is your top concern. If framing and matting are difficult for you, have a professional do it.
You should also have unframed work you keep in bins. You should mat these photos and then put them in individual plastic bags or shrink wrap to protect them from people who want to handle them. Chris Maher and Larry Berman recommend Impact Images to find protective coverings that are easy to use.
Also, start small. Go to local shows and fairs and put up a small booth. Creating your brand is essential, and small shows will allow you to determine what works and what doesn’t before you try major shows. There’s a website that will help you find shows, called Arts and Craft Shows, where you can find pretty much every show there is.
Here’s a difficult truth: You’ll get rejected. People will walk past your booths without a second glance. Your online photos won’t generate much income right away. All of that is perfectly normal and perfectly okay. It takes time to get your name and work out there and to build the recognition you need to generate a good income for yourself this way. Keep working at it and don’t let failure stop you from pursuing this, either as a hobby or as a career.
Getting into landscape photography isn’t the easiest thing in the world. However, it doesn’t have to be impossible. Your most significant challenges will be capturing the feeling of a landscape in such a way that people will want to buy your work, and getting the exposure you need to sell your work. It’s art, and art requires a lot of passion. If you’re passionate about capturing landscapes, you can work your way into professional landscape photography.