Ten things nobody told you about landscape photography

Tips & Techniques

Landscape photography is one of my favorite genres and also something I gladly do. Of course, I’m far from being pro – but what if I wanted to become one? In this video, Toma Bonciu aka Photo Tom shares ten things about professional landscape photography that probably no one told you about. So if you’re thinking of turning pro, this is something you should watch.

1. You need a lot of gear

Before you start to worry that you only have one camera and one lens, let me tell you: you absolutely can take landscape photos with those. But if you want to turn pro or expand your niche to astrophotography, nightscapes, and so on, you’ll need at least three lenses, filters, a sturdy tripod, a decent backpack, wireless remote, or wired trigger… In other words, you need a lot of gear if you decide to jump into professional waters and make landscape photography your full-time job.

2. Landscape photography is expensive

Relying on the previous point, it’s easy to conclude: landscape photography is expensive. I’d say every photography is expensive even if you only buy basic gear… But with landscape photography, it’s not only the gear we mentioned earlier. It’s also the travels you’ll go to, which in most cases aren’t cheap. What Toma forgot to mention are clothes, as you might need specialized clothes, shoes and a jacket for cold weather, rain, wind and snow, and those are also not exactly cheap.

3. Nobody will hire you directly

Nobody will hire you directly as a landscape photographer. Chances are very slim that a person will contact you to shoot a specific location during a sunrise or sunset. But that doesn’t mean you should get discouraged. Landscape photographers should focus on other things to earn from their work, such as selling prints. Many of them also do workshops and make awesome YouTube videos.

4. Selling your photos is painfully hard

As we mention selling your prints, it’s time to slide into the fourth point. It is hard. In Toma’s words, it’s painfully hard. But once again, please don’t get discouraged. This only means that it’s not likely that people will contact you directly to buy your prints. Instead, you should sell your photos through stock sites, or even better – sell prints through your web store, via Instagram, Saatchi Art, and the like.

5. You need to be physically fit to be a landscape photographer

If, like me, you live in the flattest area possible, lucky you – all you need to do is walk and carry your gear without climbing. But if you live near mountains or you travel to mountains for landscape photography, you need to be more physically fit. I’m not saying you should be an Olympics competitor kind of fit. But count on carrying heavy gear long distances while walking and climbing up and down.

Carrying this backpack uphill was a pain in the neck (also literally), and I was fit back then. Today I’d drop dead after 200m 😀

6. You’ll hike in the dark

If you want to be in the perfect spot when the sun rises, be prepared to walk in the dark until you get there and set up your gear. You won’t be spared of walking in the dark even if you shoot only sunsets – you still need to pack your gear and return to your car or accommodation.

If landscape photography is your job, you may often do this on your own. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it. I’d always bring along a friend who enjoys hiking and nature and who’s insane enough to walk in the dark with me.

7. The backpack and the tripod alone cost more than other people’s camera

A good backpack for landscape photography is a must, and so is a sturdy tripod that you can trust. Both of these will set you back around $500 each, more or less, and that’s higher than the price of some cameras. Of course, you don’t need to buy all the gear at once and become a professional as soon as you decide to shoot landscape. Go one step at a time and buy and upgrade gear as you have money and need.

8. The learning curve is pretty long in landscape photography

If you ask me, the learning curve is never-ending in every genre of photography. But with landscape, it can take you a little longer to grasp the basics and put them into use properly. What’s more, field experience is priceless, and it usually comes a little more slowly with landscape photography.

9. You may be hiking for nothing and you’ll need to come back

Sometimes you’ll hike for nothing. Weather can be very unpredictable, and the weather forecast isn’t always 100% accurate. Sometimes you should just go out and shoot in the rain, and you’ll get gorgeous sunlight coming through clouds, or maybe a rainbow. Other times you’ll go out on a perfect day and the weather will suddenly tell you to buzz off and go back to bed. All of this can happen and that’s simply something to always have in mind.

But don’t let your hike be in vain. You can take some great photos even in the bad weather. And even if it’s that bad that you can’t even get your camera out – well, at least you had a walk.

10. Your state of mind will be more important than the gear you have with you

This may sound a bit contradictory since we mentioned the gear in the beginning, but let’s put it this way – there’s no gear that will help you get good shots if you aren’t “feeling it.” In other words, you need to be mentally prepared, focused, in the right mood. You might arrive at the location to photograph something, only to realize you can’t see it due to the fog. In this case, you’ll need to shift your focus and make the best of the situation.

Other times, you may be overwhelmed and start photographing everything impatiently, without even thinking it through. This will end up with a bunch of photos, most of which will be average, even bad.

What Toma didn’t mention and I’d add here is your mental state. If you are having a hard time, if you’re depressed or anxious, it may affect your photography.  Whenever I traveled somewhere during a depressive episode, I didn’t come home with many good photos and many photos in general. I simply wasn’t inspired and didn’t enjoy photography as much as I do when I feel well. So, this is another thing to have in mind. If you’re going through any of this, perhaps leave the trip for another time and do everything you can to feel better first.

Personally, I’ve never aspired to become a professional photographer in any genre, including landscape. This is why I always find it interesting to hear the perspective of someone who does it for a living. If you’re a landscape photographer, I’d like to hear from you. Do you agree with Toma’s points or your experience is different?

[10 Things about Landscape Photography Nobody Tells You | Photo Tom]

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