I've written about the different ways you can turn your passion for landscape photography into a business and even broken down quarterly results for my first year on YouTube. This time around, I wanted to approach my results as a YouTuber rather than a photographer that makes YouTube videos. This past year I transitioned away from being completely photography-centric and dabbled more in vlogging, personal content, and travel with a heavy photography influence. Whatever direction you decide to go in your own journey, YouTube can be a great way to garner an audience and develop an engaged following for anything you're passionate about.
Revenue Directly From YouTube
I made 110 videos in 2022, accumulating roughly 550,000 views. Many of my videos average about 1,000-3,000 views which is quite small for doing it full-time. As you can tell from the info above, this netted me roughly $3,100 from ads, which is nothing to write home about considering the amount of time and effort it took to make those videos. This is why you have to diversify your revenue streams if you decide to dive into making videos.
When you're a "micro channel" like mine, views are not ever going to be how you earn a full-time income. Even many of the largest landscape photographers making YouTube content wouldn't earn a full-time income just from views. With that in mind, let's take a look at how much I made because of the audience I have developed over the last few years.
Revenue Because of YouTube
The majority of my income last year came from a supportive audience. The summer of last year, I transitioned from making a weekly video about photography to making almost daily videos about my life on the road traveling to Alaska. In that time, I built a connection with quite a few viewers, which you'll see reflected in my revenue breakdown in the form of donations and support. I can't suggest this method for everyone, as it will greatly depend on your personality and what you want your channel to be about.
- Donations: Between direct and YouTube donations, I made roughly $5,600. I had an absolutely massive influx of support during my travels through Alaska, with one person donating over $1,200, something I am still in disbelief about. Keep in mind, this is very specific to my own experience and is also a wildly inconsistent income resource.
- Patreon: I didn't start my Patreon until the last quarter of the year, and it netted me roughly $900.
- Calendars: $1,000. Living on the road means I can't store and ship my own calendars, thus it's difficult for me to sell them at a reasonable cost and profit margin, but I still love making them every year.
- Digital Assets: Roughly $4,500. This includes presets for my calibration video ($5 each), a few phone background packs ($10 each), and most importantly, my Lightroom Editing Companion ($99), which is something I put an immense amount of time into developing, which reflects here, being the majority of this revenue.
- Affiliates: Roughly $700. This is a combination of different software along with Amazon affiliates. I do a really poor job at shilling affiliate-related material, so that reflects here in my small amount of profit.
- Sponsored Ad: I forgot to include this in my video above, but I made $300 from including a sponsor in a video. This is one of the best ways to earn a consistent income through YouTube and absolutely one I'm continually trying to grow.
- Reviews: I tried doing one paid review for a company you can discover in the video above along with my thoughts on the experience, something I will never do again, but it netted me around $400.
Revenue Unrelated to YouTube
Even though these streams aren't directly correlated to my YouTube channel, some of them are still the result of the audience I made by disseminating my work through YouTube.
- Fstoppers: Yes, that's right, can you believe Fstoppers pays me to write this drivel? Jokes aside, Fstoppers is one of my most consistent sources of income, while also helping gain a follower or two, which is extremely valuable. I made roughly $4,000 last year.
- Reels: I made $2000 from Instagram last year but this is a somewhat misleading stat. You can find my breakdown of this here, but after they moved my view goals, I just aimed for the minimum $100 payout per month as easy money.
- Workshop: I hosted a workshop in Colorado last year that was a wonderful learning experience and all-around perfect event that netted me around $2,000. This technically could be related to YouTube, as the people who attended the workshop mostly found me through there. However, all the work and effort was more for a service, so I've included it here.
- Prints: I spent an absurd amount of time curating and developing a seamless print shop on my website last year and ended up selling a whopping five prints for a gain of roughly $500. Most of those prints were to friends or family, which is why I've included them in this section. The reality is prints just don't sell that well, and it's why if you follow any other landscape photographers on YouTube, most of them stopped putting effort into individual print sales.
Once you add it all up, it comes out to about $24,000, which is almost enough for a single guy living in their car without health insurance. Jokes aside it's a solid amount of money when you look at the larger picture, but it is wildly inconsistent. I worked harder last year than I have in my entire life, and it was rewarding in so many ways. The support I felt was absolutely incredible, and I'm still at a loss for words about how it even happened. However, the creeping thoughts of trying to earn a livable income continue to grow, as the buildup is slow and inconsistent.
One thing to keep in mind about my own personal experience is that I'm a terrible businessman that does an awful job at leveraging profit. I turn away many products, reviews, add or anything of that nature in hopes to figure out how to continue to do this "my way" rather than the more profitable way. If I focused my channel more on gear, made more Lightroom tutorials, and created more evergreen content, I could easily double my statistics right now.
My reasons for choosing an avenue that actively hurts me in those metrics is because photography to me is much more than gear and editing tutorials, and there's an immense amount of saturation in those areas. Combine that with knowing if I leaned into those areas more and things would just feel like an unfulfilling job. The result is accepting I might not "succeed," but I sure as hell tried to find my own path. Thanks for reading, and I hope these insights and numbers shed some light on the realities of doing YouTube full-time.