There are few photography subjects more breathtaking than the world around us. But capturing stunning imagery isn’t as simple as grabbing your camera and pointing it at a pretty sunset. To become a landscape photographer, you need to understand light, composition, and how to turn your image into a work of art that tells a compelling story. Looking at making this your career? Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of this field.

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What Does a Landscape Photographer Do?

city at night
Both rural and urban settings can feature in landscape photography.

Landscape photography is about capturing the essence of the great outdoors on camera. Some photographers specialize in one particular genre or style of landscape photography, like mountain shots or silhouettes of nature reflected in water. Others may focus on the landscapes of a particular country or continent, particularly if travel opportunities are limited. Staying in one location doesn’t prevent you from taking stunning photos of your surroundings!

In most cases, landscape photographers take pictures of nature by itself, with no humans in the shot. If they do include people, it’s typically a stylistic choice to emphasize the scale of the landscape. Well-known landscape photographers like Elizabeth Gadd seamlessly integrate people into their work, with innovative portraits based in natural settings.

misty shoreline
Source: instagram
Some landscape photographers, like Elizabeth Gadd, use people to emphasize scale.

The best landscape photographers make viewers feel as if they’re really standing in the wilderness. Whether it’s land, sea, sky, mountains, or even urban environments like cities, landscape photographers take pictures that make viewers feel a deep connection to our world.

How to Become a Landscape Photographer

Consider a Photography Degree

While there’s no formal degree required to become a landscape photographer, having a solid background in photography or art can help to advance your career.

In any undergraduate program, you’ll learn how to use both digital and analog cameras, how to set up shots for different photography styles, and the history of photography. Some online and in-person photography degree programs and schools, such as the Savannah College of Art and Design, offer classes specifically in landscape portraiture.

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Composition is a fundamental skill taught in art and photography degree programs.

Many colleges also offer art degrees focused on media and photography. This is the ideal choice if you have a broader interest in art, especially if you want to explore different mediums or learn the basic principles of composition and artistic presentation. 

If you’re already comfortable with your photography skills, an art degree can give you a more traditional artistic skill set that can be adapted into your work as a landscape photographer.

Opt for Experience Over a Degree

Thinking about how to be a landscape photographer, but not sure a college degree is for you? Most landscape photography jobs hire based on portfolio and experience rather than educational background.

misty tree
Shooting in bad weather can give you dramatic and unique shots.

Whenever possible, practice your landscape photography skills and start building up your digital portfolio so you can show off your work to prospective employers. It’s also worth getting out there and learning how to shoot in all kinds of weather conditions and learning how light, rain, wind, and snow affect your craft. Plus, capturing the natural world on the coldest and gloomiest days is something only the most dedicated photographers will do and can lead you to capture some unexpected shots.

Take Courses to Hone Your Craft

Workshops and courses are one of the best ways to learn new techniques or get feedback from other photographers. They’re not as intensive (or expensive) as a full degree program, but they can be valuable for new and professional landscape photographers alike. 

Particularly if you’ve been building your career on experience alone, courses can offer you the opportunity to level up your skills and apply for more competitive jobs in landscape photography. There are countless courses out there to help you develop your landscape photography or general photo editing skills.

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How Much Does a Landscape Photographer Make?

Like most creative jobs, the first few years are more about gaining experience and making connections than earning a high-dollar salary. But with a few years of practice behind you, you can start to charge more for your work.

The average landscape photographer salary is around $39,000, according to ZipRecruiter. But many of the top photographers can earn well over six figures, with a mixture of photography, teaching, and commercial work. 

If you’re working as a freelancer, publications like National Geographic usually pay a rate of $400-$500 per day and contract photographers on a per-story basis.

Landscape Photographer Jobs

mountain valley
Landscape photos can be used both commercially and as personal art.

Travel and Tourism

One desirable in-house position you can take as a landscape photographer is in the hospitality and travel industry. Hotels, ski and beach resorts, tourism centers, and national parks all need photographers to help with their marketing and promotional materials. While some work exclusively with freelancers on an as-needed basis, many companies will hire a photographer to expertly capture their location throughout the year.

Magazines and Media

Some magazines focused on the natural world have landscape photographers on staff. These individuals are paid an annual salary and often sent out on assignment with the writers to capture images to accompany a story.

Getting a job at a major publication can be competitive, so consider starting smaller with local or regional newspapers or magazines. Once you’ve got a few projects under your belt, you can start to approach larger publications that pay for landscape photos on a regular basis or are hiring for in-house positions. 

Freelancing as a Landscape Photographer

Many freelance landscape photographers don’t work in-house, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. Building a freelance business gives you the flexibility to work in different ways and around your own schedule, as well as to add new income streams whenever you’d like.

One common way for freelancers to work is to shoot images and sell them to media companies. If you can build a few good relationships with editors at these publications and websites, you’re well on your way to creating a lucrative freelance business.

These aren’t the only opportunities out there, though. Many landscape photographers:

  • Sell their work online through their own websites as prints to decorate homes and offices
  • Create coffee table photography books, cards, and calendars
  • Exhibit in local galleries or art museums
  • Run photography courses online and in-person
  • List images on stock photography websites to be used commercially

There are endless avenues for you to explore, but before you dive into the world of freelance landscape photography, there are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind.

Decide Who Can Use Your Image

If you choose to list your images on a stock photography site, you’ll receive a commission each time a sale is made. But after that, what happens to your picture is no longer in your hands. The copyright will still belong to you, but any business can buy images on a stock site and use them in their own marketing.

Don’t Forget About Travel Costs

For freelance landscape photographers who want to travel, you’ll need to remember you’re in charge of covering your own travel costs. If you don’t have the means or desire to travel, no worries! You can capture stunning natural and urban landscape portraits just by walking around your neighborhood or city.

If you do plan to take a work-specific outing, remember to keep a record of any expenses like transportation costs. You’ll be able to write some of that off as a business expense come tax time.

Grab Your Camera and Head Out Into the Wild!

With your camera in hand, there’s nothing stopping you from getting outside and taking your first landscape pictures. Even a rainy or blustery day can give you new angles and artistic settings to explore in the great outdoors. So, what are you waiting for?

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