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Author Topic: Anyone making a living with landscapes?  (Read 15563 times)
biggiesnows
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« on: June 18, 2011, 03:03:08 PM »
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Hi-

Is there anyone on this forum making a living shooting landscapes? I've been a professional sports shooter for 15 years and have been shooting landscapes for the last few years out of personal interest. There is an endless amount of inspirational literature on the web and in print about making a living by following your passion but is anyone actually doing it anymore? I've heard that even Art Wolfe has quit the business and has become a painter. I'd like to learn more about the business if there is one.

Thanks in advance-Bill Stevenson www.theoutdoorpictureswebsite.com.
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michael
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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2011, 04:49:02 PM »
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Art paints, but he has definitely not left photography. He shoots, teaches, writes and publishes books and videos.

While there are a handful of photographers making a solid living from shooting landscapes, most also teach, lecture, run workshops and write for web sites and magazines.

Even those that don't are busy running their own galleries, which in itself is a full time job.

Any way you cut it, lots of hard work. Still, most wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Michael
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ternst
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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2011, 04:59:35 PM »
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I don't know anyone who gets paid to "shoot" landscapes. You make money selling the products produced from those photographs (which includes the teaching part). Business, accounting, writing, and SALES are the skills that make you money in this business. I've been a fulltime nature photographer for 36 years - the shooting part is a lot of fun, but mostly I've been a salesman...
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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2011, 05:14:08 PM »
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There might have been a time when such stock was viable... even then, it was bound to be at the shooter's risk.

Some stock agencies eventually paid shooters to shoot (and then took copyright) but mainly lifestyle, not landscape, as far as I was able to discover. The more I think about it, the damage really did begin before digital posed its fresh threats.

Whether all the rigmarole of selling via the long list of extra functions that Michael mentioned constitutes being a pro photographer is doubtful; to my mind - it smacks of the impossibility to make it in landscape via photography alone. Frankly, with all the added jazz, I can't imagine wanting to do it.

Rob C
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biggiesnows
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« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2011, 07:07:59 PM »
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Thanks to those who've replied.

George Lepp is the middle of a series of articles about making it as a nature shooter and its insightful. It's no b.s..   www.georgelepp.com

Bill
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bill t.
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2011, 08:10:36 PM »
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I'm doing very well with local interest landscapes.   But I don't bother with merely pretty pictures, those don't sell.  I don't offer a single picture from more than few miles outside the city limits.

Antelope Canyon?  Sorry, don't want to go broke!  I connect with local people literally where they live, and they love it.  My images tie into and even glorify the life experiences of those who buy them...oh we got married there, this is near where we live, we used to go here when we were kids, we used to get drunk here, see this scar...I fell off that thing right there, etc.

I sold several hundred sofa-sized framed canvases last year, all to my local market.  I hope to double that this year.  It took about 4 years to get to that point.  But my fate is completely cast with the local wind, I would be an unknown 50 miles up the road.

This is a best seller, the scene is located a couple miles north of Albuquerque.  Usual size for this framing treatment is about 34 x 100.  Hospitals, institutions, boardrooms, doctors' offices, reception rooms, corporate headquarters, and all that ilk can buy this certifiably local interest piece without the slightest fear of disapproval or criticism.  That's what it takes.  It's safe, it's local, it's dramatic, it sells.  And it's fun.
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David Eichler
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« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2011, 08:33:21 PM »
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There are commercial photographers who have specialties in shooting such subjects as golf courses, resorts and landscape design. Commercial art, not fine art, but it is still landscapes, and it is still the same techniques and making stuff look pretty.
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biggiesnows
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« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2011, 09:36:00 PM »
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Wow, great feedback. Thanks everyone.
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tatibcn
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2011, 10:40:20 AM »
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The german Photographer Susanne Wegner is doing Landscapes for Assignments and Exhibitions ... with huge sucess ...
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biggiesnows
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2011, 03:19:09 PM »
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Thanks. I found her site; http://www.susannewegner.de/
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David Eichler
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« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2011, 12:26:29 PM »
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An example:  http://www.lonnatucker.com/3/artist.asp?ArtistID=28931&Akey=W47S3H5X
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louoates
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« Reply #11 on: June 20, 2011, 02:30:40 PM »
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I'm doing very well with local interest landscapes.   But I don't bother with merely pretty pictures, those don't sell.  I don't offer a single picture from more than few miles outside the city limits.

Antelope Canyon?  Sorry, don't want to go broke!  I connect with local people literally where they live, and they love it.  My images tie into and even glorify the life experiences of those who buy them...oh we got married there, this is near where we live, we used to go here when we were kids, we used to get drunk here, see this scar...I fell off that thing right there, etc.

I sold several hundred sofa-sized framed canvases last year, all to my local market.  I hope to double that this year.  It took about 4 years to get to that point.  But my fate is completely cast with the local wind, I would be an unknown 50 miles up the road.

This is a best seller, the scene is located a couple miles north of Albuquerque.  Usual size for this framing treatment is about 34 x 100.  Hospitals, institutions, boardrooms, doctors' offices, reception rooms, corporate headquarters, and all that ilk can buy this certifiably local interest piece without the slightest fear of disapproval or criticism.  That's what it takes.  It's safe, it's local, it's dramatic, it sells.  And it's fun.


I too am convinced you need to go local for consistent landscape sales. I have several galleries in the Phoenix area that consistently sell my landscapes particularly those of the Superstition Mountains. Most are large 64" to 96" canvasses. The key seems to be to have a much better print/canvas than the point and shoot crowd can produce on their own. Here is one of a dozen or so good sellers. Some have the words "Superstition Mountains" ala poster style. This one is one I customized for one of my galleries who requested this mountain scene behind Apache Junction AZ (pop. 35,000) without houses, roads, poles, wires, etc. The gallery sells both versions about equally. The scenes from within 50 miles outsell all my Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley scenes combined.
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kevk
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« Reply #12 on: June 21, 2011, 03:46:46 AM »
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Interesting topic this one.
Can you chaps make any useful generalizations about the sell-ability of mounted canvas versus framed prints?
e.g. Do home decorators go for canvas and office decorators go for framed matted prints? Do people go for bigger canvases but smaller framed prints?

Thanks for sharing this.
Kevin
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Mike Guilbault
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« Reply #13 on: June 21, 2011, 06:42:42 AM »
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Bill & Lou... I've just started selling my landscapes but so far my experience is pretty much in line with what you're stating here.  I'm curious to know if you are marketing yourself outside your immediate area other than through your website and how much business is actually generated via the website.  And conversely, how are you marketing yourself in your own area.
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bill t.
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« Reply #14 on: June 21, 2011, 11:19:32 AM »
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Only a modest amount of work outside my area, mere generic prettiness can't match local interest.

I tend to downplay my website.  Most of my sales are face to face of POS at about 6 local art fairs, and two galleries.  I have smaller but very lucrative venues in community centers, restaurants, city buildings, etc.  One of my best venues is a top-drawer community center where I have 200 feet linear feet of wallspace in conference rooms favored for meetings of doctors, lawyers, dentists, real-estate agents etc who feel powerfully attracted to local, city boosting art in wall-filling sizes.

Particularly in respect to the fairs and galleries, the mere mention of a website can work against me because an otherwise motivated customer may decide "to see everything you have on your website."  Bye bye sale.  Your website can be your enemy, if you're not careful.  I also don't push the site very much because it makes galleries nervous.  If you want to sell from good galleries, best not to have a selling website.

Less than 10% of my sales come from somebody seeing my work for the first time on my site.  I do get many email inquiries from people who would like to buy prints for about $10 (their idea of pricing) woohoo!

Marketing wise, the best thing I ever did was get into Art Fairs.  Nothing will get you recognition faster.  Go for up-scale, well-organized, indoor venues where you will get a high percentage of genuine, art-buying folks.  Start applying now, there are usually waiting lists.  After two or three of those you will find you have carved out a space in peoples' visual memory, recognition is everything.  A really good art fair can get you halfway to 6 figures, so don't anybody look down their noses at those things.  Except the bad ones (ie most of them) are wastes of time, you need to do some research before jumping.

So I guess what I'm saying is...in my case face to face beets the heck out of a website.  The Internet is common, and everybody on Earth is competing with you.  Face to face contact is special, and works for me in ways the web never could.
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louoates
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« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2011, 02:07:09 PM »
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I agree with all of billt's points. Especially his cautions about poor venues. In the Phoenix area there are countless very small local art fairs that cost nothing or just a few dollars to show. Lots of them are church and charity related or organized by shopping centers to drum up traffic for their tenants.  Avoid such shows like the plague. Most have only the smallest number of people actually coming to see art. I've seen many artists at such venues failing to make any sales at all, even with decent product at give-away prices. I've often recommended the larger shows that do indeed bring art buyers but the excuse, very lame, is that it costs $400-500 for a booth space. These artists are soon out of the business due to their failure to recognize that location is everything. So they turn down showing at an established show that draws 75,000+ people and waste their time at some pie-baking contest venture. The key here is that if you don't invest SOME money in such good shows you will never know if your work is salable. Simple as that. Don't fool yourself into thinking that you will get a feel for what your work can sell for. Dollars vote and you need enough potential voters to see your work.

I also see those artists who understand that you have to spend some money to make money. They are the artists who are at every one of those main venues. Year after year. Good economy and bad. What makes them successful beyond the location?
1) they have good solid values--good art at popular pricing
2) they have INVENTORY. You can't expect to sell 5 of your best items if you only have 1 that sells out on the first day.
3) they have multiple price points for the same image. Some framed, some prints only. All in 3 or 4 of the most popular sizes, usually 8x10 up to 24x30 image size.
4) many of the better selling artists have both canvasses and framed prints. And most have smaller note cards or mini-prints in the $10 range. Remember there are 75,000 impulse buyers streaming past your booth. 75,000 of them have at least $10 or $20 in their pockets.
5) they are sales-savvy. You won't hear them running off at the mouth about their art "qualifications" unless asked. They say things like "cash or credit card?" and "I've got only one of those prints left today".
6) you never hear them promote their web site. What can beat looking at their best work in person? "I'll shop on your web site" loosely translated means "you haven't got what I want."

 Sorry for lecturing so long about my personal views: One more topic.
I mentioned framing above. Who are terrible picture framers? Artists. Who are even worse picture framers? Photographers. If your work is not good enough to justify a decent frame job, sell only prints. You simply must find a good local framer that will give you professional work at a super affordable rate day after day. There are cost-aggressive framers who will value your constant business. Especially if you can standardize frame sizes and mat selection. Ditto for canvas stretching. You really need to find a good local stretcher that can cut wood bars to the exact size your work needs. At the decent art shows you will not see poor framing except at the booths of the poor souls who will never return.
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Mike Guilbault
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« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2011, 09:31:33 PM »
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Thanks guys.. that's very helpful.  I'm also looking for ways to attract customers to my own gallery. My studio/gallery is main street, small town (pop 1,700) in a rural area, BUT our drawing area (within 40 kms) is probably closer to 250,000 with a large 'drive-by' traffic of people on their way to their cottages from further away.

I'm actually starting up a local studio tour with other artists in the area. Not for this year, but hopefully next.  Any other suggestions?
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bill t.
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« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2011, 10:33:25 PM »
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Have you looked at the Andrew Collett interview in LLVJ-19?

Hope you do well with that gallery.  My wife had one years ago, and even in a 500,000 population city it was tough going.  Best traffic builder was to hold events designed to attract people BESIDES just impoverished artists!  If I were to open a gallery again it would definitely be in a well-established shopping mall.

Have you investigated framing styles that would go with the local cottage architecture?  I know a gal in Berkeley who does a good business with "arts & crafts" style framing of a design contemporary with the many restored and revamped "cottages" in the area.  She uses old California style, I'm sure your local equivalent would be different.  Here's a URL.  If you have a clientele with money to spend and a house to primp up, count yourself lucky.
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Mike Guilbault
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« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2011, 07:04:09 AM »
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Yes, I have Andrew's interview and it's very inspiring.  Unfortunately, I cannot afford the 9900, canvas stretcher, air-compressors etc. that he has to produce the large gallery wraps - not yet anyway.  His cottage market is probably 10 times what mine is - and with a higher level (read income) of clientele. 

However, I believe I do have a market and the framing styles idea is a good one.  Thanks for that link Bill.  Studio Tours are popular in this area, but there are none in my immediate area which is why I'm getting one started.  I've had a good response from artists so far, so when we have a solid base of quality work we'll proceed with those plans. 

As much traffic as a mall location would provide... I really don't want to be in one.  I worked in malls for many years (Radio Shack manager) and really don't want to go back.  Besides, you have to sell an awful lot of work just to make the rent!

My saving grace, I suppose, is that the gallery is also a working studio and I also shoot portraits, corporate and commercial work.  So far, it's been enough to keep me afloat.  But I have this body of work, landscapes, etc., that I've built up over 30 or so years that I've never marketed because I never had the location.  It's starting slowly, especially since I just moved to this location in December, but right now it's a growth area of my business and I'd like to expand it along with my photography workshops which have been quite successful as well.

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bill t.
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« Reply #19 on: June 22, 2011, 03:57:57 PM »
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Studio tours should be helpful in your upscale area.  Something about seeing the cobbler at work. I have never done one but the fabric artist across the street participates in a tour at six-month intervals and makes several sales each time, even though she is in a suburban neighborhood way off the beaten path.  Same goes for artists way the heck out of town in some rural communities.  It's like driving out to buy veggies at the farm.

We also have gallery events here in Albuquerque like First Friday which is moderately promoted by a semi full time staff.  Stay open late, food & drink, meet the artist, stuff like that.  Also usually tied into openings.  The results are mixed.  Galleries already in a relatively high traffic area near other venues get really good attendance.  But those in more isolated areas hardly see a bump.  The effect is that whatever traffic level is already in place gets magnified, but there is no special pixie dust for the out-layers.

So basically, studio tours are the better promotion scheme for outlaying galleries, "art crawls" are better if you happen to be in a cluster of venues near a location that is already a night-life destination.  People generally don't like to drive away from the bright lights on Friday night.

Mike it occurs to this is nothing new to you, I mention it for the benefit of the newbies.
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