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Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources
Digital Photography Tips, Tutorials and Resources
by Alex Coleman on Jan 4, 2020
You’ve started your landscape business with some images you’re proud of. But now what? Selling your images is key to running a successful landscape photography business. And, it can also be a great way to support your hobby. Have you wondered how to sell your landscape photography?
Fortunately, you can sell your landscape images in a variety of ways and places. Some of the most popular avenues for selling photos include stock photography sites and fine art sales.
Stock photography includes photos sold for commercial use. This avenue is a great way to begin selling your photography, though it requires a few surprising considerations. We’ll talk more about stock photography later.
Fine art sales, on the other hand, can be more complex and require a bit more effort. Both options, however, are rewarding artistically and financially for landscape photographers.
This guide will breakdown:
Landscape photographers benefit from being involved in many markets at once. As a photographer, you’ll be responsible for both the quality and promotion of your work. Check out our guides for shooting landscape images and building a brand on social media to get ahead of the curve.
Whether you’re a full time landscape photographer or have just gotten started shooting, check out these tips to start earning money with your work!
The first step to selling your landscape photography is building a portfolio and a market. You must have a number of saleable images to offer that cover a range of subjects or showcase a niche. The images in your portfolio must draw customers to your work. Without eye-catching images, you won’t attract any traffic to your social media profiles or to your professional photography website.
Building a market is a bit trickier than developing a portfolio, because it means different things to different photographers. Depending on where you choose to sell your images, you might decide to market yourself primarily through social media, professional networking or through searches on stock photography websites.
Each of these avenues will require different ingredients for success. We’ll discuss selling through each of these channels in more depth later, but keep in mind that all markets are different and will require different marketing techniques.
Don’t forget, selling your landscape images doesn’t have to mean selling printed photos. Whether it’s stock photos or commissioned shoots, the digital nature of modern photography has opened up a number of opportunities beyond traditional prints.
If you’re just getting started, you might feel intimidated by the number of ways you can sell your landscape images. Whether it’s contacting clients or working to secure the releases necessary for copyrighted works, the work involved in selling shots can require interpersonal skills.
Fortunately for introverted photographers, some of the best options to sell your landscape photos require little face to face communication and only a small effort to set up.
One of the best avenues for selling your landscape images is via stock photography websites. Stock photography websites supply photos for commercial use to businesses, art directors and an increasingly wide range of users, including other content creators.
Buyers from stock websites can choose from a variety of images and easily secure the rights to use them for their own purposes. It’s important to keep the issue of image rights in mind when thinking of where to sell your photos. If you don’t mind forfeiting rights to your images, then stock photo site sales might appeal to you.
Most consumers like buying from stock photo sites because they can obtain the images they need at a much cheaper price than paying for a photo shoot. That means, in general, stock photo websites see a high volume of traffic, which boosts your exposure.
Examples of stock photography agencies include Adobe Stock, Shutterstock and iStockPhoto. Working with large, established stock agencies can help you better understand the stock photography market, and the best practices for you as a landscape photographer.
If you’re just getting started with one agency, I recommend Adobe Stock. While it’s associated with a creator-focused company, it offers one technical feature that puts it above the others for beginning landscape photographers. We’ll discuss that feature later in our pricing section!
Stock photography solves one of the biggest challenges facing landscape photography sellers — setting the price of your images. Stock photos sites typically set a number of price points for you, and buyers know exactly how much they’ll spend. This makes purchase conversions so much easier.
When you upload images to a stock website, you’ll have to remember a few key things, including the marketability of your image. While each stock agency will have different requirements, they’ll all require that you release some of the rights of the image, that the image is suitable for their clients’ needs and that you supply keywords and other information to help clients find the photograph in their catalog.
Each stock agency comes with its own advantages, but many will let you list your images across other sites while continuing to use those same images for your own purposes.
Certain stock agreements will include a clause regarding exclusivity. These agreements will prohibit using the photo in other places but could generate more money for you in the long-run if the image sells.
All stock photo sites will require you to release the usage rights of the image to the buyer. This means that, while you retain copyright over the image, the buyer can use the image however they want in accordance with the contract.
Of course, each stock photo agency also has their own criteria regarding acceptable images. Some are more critical of the subject and technical quality of the image than others. But, all agencies will require the landscape photography image be sharp, in focus and properly exposed.
Typically, best-selling stock photos are ones that are relatively plain. That is, overly-artistic photographs have a reduced commercial value because they can be used in fewer situations than less artistic photos. Increasingly, social media styled photos are popular on stock sites, as well as shots that include people in the foreground and background.
Fortunately, many landscape photos make for great stock subjects. Keep in mind that a good stock image should not only be technically strong, but also have qualities that make it suitable for commercial use. Elements like negative space that may be suitable for text might not be second nature to a landscape photographer, but are important selling points for buyers.
To get a better sense of what works in a stock image, browse through the site’s catalog. Search keywords related to your favorite subjects and see what images are selling. Also, keep an eye out in your daily life. Take notice of the images used in commercials and brand’s social media so you can better identify what makes a good commercial landscape photo.
As we mentioned, social media plays a large role in stock image sales now, so keep that in mind. How can you take landscape photos that would perform well in social media marketing campaigns?
Once you’ve got some great landscape images, you have to get them in front of potential buyers. Stock websites help buyers discover landscape images via searches, typically based on keywords. Usually, the photographer is responsible for supplying the keywords when he or she uploads their images to the site.
For example, a buyer could search “tropical beach,” “landscape photos” and “daytime,” and find many thousands of images that meet that criteria. So, you can see how important it is to have both a large number of keywords and to make sure those keywords are accurate to your photo.
Tagging your photos with a bunch of random keywords may seem a good strategy at first, but eventually this approach will backfire. The agency may remove your photo or entire account, and you won’t generate sales because the photo won’t appear to buyers with the needs your photo meets.
Instead, focus on accurately keywording your images. Keywords for stock images are almost their own language.
While a number of tools exist to manage these keywords, including support for adding keywords via Adobe Lightroom Classic, Adobe Stock offers one of the best tools for beginners. This tool uses AI to examine at your photo during upload and automatically generate relevant keywords. This feature works almost like magic, generating accurate and useful keywords with no user input.
While you might want to double check these keywords before you hit submit, the sheer ease of use makes this a great way to build a stock photography portfolio. If you’re looking to build a general photography portfolio, check out our guide to store your photos online.
Getting started in stock photography can require a significant investment in time, but it can pay dividends for years to come. Often, one photo will sell multiple times to different clients, earning you revenue each time. As a result, stock photography should be the first place you consider when looking to sell your landscape photography.
You may also choose to sell your landscape photography within a fine arts market. While fine art photography prints can sell for much more than stock photos, they require much more effort on the part of the photographer to make the sale.
Fine art prints might be sold in galleries, via art fairs and even online through social media. Each one of these sales channels requires different skills and carries different requirements. Depending on your starting budget and even location, one venue may be better suited to you than another.
Consider the following points when choosing your starting fine art photography sales channel:
Sales via galleries represent one of the highest achievements in a photography business. To many, making a gallery sale signifies the utmost success, because it means they have a large audience and a substantial demand for their work.
Gallery sales can be a great goal to aspire to, but it is one of the most difficult ways to get started selling photos. Gallery representation for photography can be difficult to achieve, because demand is lower for photography than it is for other popular mediums. Once you’ve made it into a gallery, you may find that sales are slow and inconsistent, and you always owe a cut of your revenue to the gallery itself and other agents.
Art fairs, for the average landscape photographer, represent a much better sales opportunity than galleries. Arts organizations, city councils and other groups host a number of art fairs in most areas, which make them accessible to nearly every landscape photographer.
Here, you can share your work directly with art fans in your community and in neighboring regions. These art fairs provide an opportunity to connect with potential future buyers, build your reputation and network with other photographers.
Just like other avenues, participating in an art fair requires a bit of advanced preparation. Typically, you have to apply weeks or months in advance, as well as hold a sales tax license for the area in question. You’ll have to understand which photography prints are likely to sell; social media engagement can be a great way to evaluate this!
These fairs can be juried or open, but will all require some investment in equipment like display boards, tables, brochures, business cards and, of course, photography prints. Fortunately, virtually all of those resources can be reused. Juried fairs will require you to submit representative works to be evaluated for quality, while open fairs will just require you to meet the rules and pay a fee.
Both types of fair can present good opportunities. Juried fairs will typically allow for a higher price and bring buyers with a higher price point, but they can be more expensive to participate in. Open fairs are a great way to get started and gauge client engagement before entering a larger show. Don’t forget to promote your attendance at the fair via your social media!
If you’ve built up a following on social media, selling photography prints online can be a great option. While the price point will be lower than a gallery or art fair, your website is always open for business. And, your marketing, via social media and your website, is basically free.
You don’t even need to have inventory on hand, like you would for other options, because many labs allow you to print and dropship direct to your customer. Taken together, selling online is definitely worth adding to your sales mix.
There are a number of ways to sell online. Some services, like Smugmug, allow you to create a website that your customers can order directly from. Also, check if your favorite lab offers dropshipping. These labs allow you to upload the file and select the options before they print and ship to your buyer. You can then set up a simple sales website, which allows for easy integration into your existing website.
Lastly, check out the app called 8×10. This app enables you to sell signed, limited edition works with a single post. It effectively turns your Instagram into a gallery and showroom. The company then handles every aspect of e-commerce, including printing and shipping. It doesn’t get much easier!
There are plenty of options for places to sell your landscape photography. Whether you want to see your work hanging in a gallery or enjoy interacting with the crowd at an art fair, selling your work in person can be a fulfilling experience. Don’t rule out online options, either. Outside of stock photography, each of these channels will require some understanding of how to price your photography. For more on that, keep reading!
Like any other product, a number of factors can affect the price of your landscape prints. Your reputation as an artist, the print medium and the market you’re selling in all have a big impact.
One of the biggest challenges to selling your art is finding a price point that’s neither too high nor too low. There’s no sense pricing yourself out of the market and getting discouraged, but you also want to make a profit off your work. Making a sale gives you confidence, opens the door to repeat purchases and can even serve as free advertising, depending on the product you sell.
Unlike wedding photography or real estate photography, you can typically sell your landscape photos multiple times. Selling the same image multiple times through different channels can make each photo even more profitable. There isn’t a lot of overlap between the stock agency, art fair and social media markets, so you’re likely to find unique customers in each.
As we discuss in our guide to becoming a successful freelance photographer, managing your finances is very important. When you’re getting started, you’ll have to make investments in equipment, editing tools and even the prints themselves. But don’t let these costs overwhelm you. Your initial sales may be slower, but landscape photos can have a very long marketable life.
Pricing largely depends on the market you’re selling in. As we discussed earlier, stock photography prices are typically set by the agencies. They want to sell photos to everyone that comes to their website, so they set low per image prices.
For art fairs, it’s helpful to think about your sales price as a function of cost. Add the cost of the individual print and some portion of the participation cost, and then charge a bit more. You want to see a profit. If this price is significantly higher or lower than your fellow participants, consider why that may be and adjust accordingly.
When you sell photos in private and gallery sales, there are no rules. High end art prints can sell for thousands of dollars as part of a limited release. But if you’re just getting started, you may be better served by making the sale at a lower price. Having a good understanding of your costs is important, since you don’t want to ever lose money on a sale.
Don’t forget all the other expenses involved in a business beyond just the print price, however. Costs like business licenses, equipment repairs, equipment upgrades, taxes and most importantly, your time; should all factor into the price of your photos.
When quoting for a photo shoot, remember they’re paying for your time and your experience as a landscape photographer.
Once you’ve built up your portfolio and set your prices, you still have a few more decisions to make as an independent landscape photographer.
Stock photos require an ongoing effort on your part to keep updated. Each new shoot you do should produce at least a few usable shots to upload. To help keep track, try using a digital asset manager. This is a software tool, like Lightroom Classic, that helps you keep track of your digital files. You can use keywords and tags to see which photos you’ve uploaded to your stock collection.
Refreshing your print inventory is key. You don’t want to be out of stock on your best selling photos. Also, don’t be afraid to mark down older prints. It’s better to get some money back on the print cost than none at all.
Also consider budgeting and taxes. As a business owner, you’ll have to pay a substantial portion of your revenue in taxes. Save for this in advance and don’t spend all your income on new gear!
The same goes for budgeting. While upgrading equipment and investing back into the business can be a great use of funds, remember you also have to pay yourself out of the proceeds.
For more tools and resources for starting a landscape photography business, read these guides:
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