Becoming a Full-Time Landscape Photographer: Six Months on YouTube

Becoming a full-time landscape photographer can be difficult to navigate, especially in the modern era of photography. I've focused heavily on developing a YouTube channel to hopefully turn my passion into more, and in this update, I go over my revenue, progress, and future steps.

Three months ago, I wrote my first installment of this series about why I chose YouTube over other avenues and went into a lot of detail on other directions you can take within this genre of photography. I won't be restating most of those details within this article, so if you're interested, feel free to navigate to part one. This article will cover my statistical updates, my breakdown in revenue, and things I've done to continually improve my presence online. 

My goals three months ago were: 20,000 subscribers, create at least one video a week, don't burn out, try to find sponsorships, start a website newsletter, and explore other ways to monetize content. Let's dive in and see what goals were reached while others fell a bit short.

Stats and Progress

three month youtube stats

Stats from the first three months

We'll start with a quick recap of the first three months, which was from roughly September 17 to December 18. I went over these stats in much more detail in part one, but I think it's good to reference the first three months to see how momentum either continued or dwindled. These first three months, I was still working full-time outside of photography and focused quite heavily on simply making content to find my place in the YouTube space, which still hasn't necessarily happened. The biggest thing to keep in mind regarding this data is the majority of the views and huge spike in subscribers came from one video that YouTube decided to promote.

Past three months of stats

Now, let's take a look at the last three months, exactly December 19 to March 18. Views were much more consistent, but most of those continually came from that one video that YouTube decided to suggest, more on that below. During this period, I started live-streaming around January 14 to hopefully provide a better connection with my audience. It doesn't generate very many new subscribers, as most of the viewers are subscribed already, but it's quite enjoyable and has even given me ideas for new videos.

View count breakdown for past three months

I didn't share these stats last time around, but I think they are important to include for this breakdown. You'll notice that the majority of the views I've gotten in the past three months still come from the calibration video released in November. Nothing else has really been pushed by YouTube. This is just part of the algorithm game, and I'll continue to say that I got very lucky those first three months, because it's not typical to grow as fast as I did during that period. I knew coming into this quarter things would slow down and numbers would fall off, but they haven't completely dwindled, which is fantastic. 

While growth is always welcomed, I will say it has come at a small cost. Gaining so many subscribers or views from a singular video potentially hurts other content I create. As much as I love editing and providing education regarding those topics, it is not what I want my entire channel to be about. There's a lot to photography, and my personal enjoyment comes from making videos in the field and chasing light. I'll always make in-the-field videos, but I have to be aware that the majority of my current audience likely subscribed to me for Lightroom tips or editing techniques. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful for any growth and the potential for a bigger audience. I just wanted to bring this up because I still genuinely believe that if you can gain a small following that watches everything you release it will always outweigh a large audience who only checks in if you release a specific video.

Revenue

In the last three months, I have put a lot more focus on trying to find different ways to monetize content. Keep in mind that during this time, I was still earning a full-time income, but that is soon to come to an end; thus, it was more important in trying my best to continue making good content while looking for ways to earn an income. Let's start off by looking at revenue from AdSense on YouTube.

Revenue earned via YouTube ads

In the past three months, I've earned $1,029 from YouTube ads. Notice that more than 60% was earned from a single video. This is very close to the same amount I made in the single month I had ads enabled for the first quarter. If it wasn't for the one video YouTube pushed, I'd be barely over $100 a month in revenue, which is just enough to cover the internet bill! Jokes aside, the point is that you can't have a single source of revenue,e and YouTube is intended to be more of an outlet for an audience than it is to be a huge stream of money.

amazon affiliate earnings

Amazon Affiliate Earnings

Close to the end of the last quarter, I started affiliate links through Amazon in quite a few regions. As you can see above, I've earned $247, which isn't half bad for affiliate links! That being said, the majority of that comes from whoever the kind soul was that bought a Fujifilm GFX 50R and earned me roughly $180 all by itself! If you're reading this, thank you, stranger.

Other sources of revenue thus far:

  • Fstoppers Articles: I write roughly four articles a month, and the return I make is dependent on how well they are received; this averages out to a few hundred dollars a month.
  • Stream Donations: During my streams, people are able to donate in support of the stream. During the 11 live streams I've had so far, I have earned a total of $307. Huge thanks if anyone reading this has tuned in and donated!
  • Lightroom Preset: I discovered a cool trick for Lightroom mobile that I discuss in this article and sold a preset for both desktop and mobile installs if someone didn't want to do it themselves. This earned roughly $210 so far.

Altogether, it's roughly $2,300 over the last 90 days. It's not quite enough to live off of yet but certainly no small amount either. Something to keep in perspective about these numbers is the costs involved to make the content. For example, to be able to sell those Lightroom presets on my website, I had to upgrade my plan for an extra $170 a year. Thankfully they paid for themselves, which means anything else I sell for the rest of the year won't incur those costs, but it's something to remember.

Current Progress

My goals three months ago were: 

  • 20,000 subscribers: This was a very optimistic goal, recognizing that growth would slow down after the color calibration video died down. Thankfully, I got quite close, with a sub count of 19,077 as of writing this article. 
  • Create at least one video a week: This was accomplished and then some!
  • Don't burn out: Not feeling burnt out yet but certainly feeling more stressed than I'd like, more on that below!
  • Try to find sponsorships: So far, I've really only reached out to Squarespace three times. Mostly because they are a sponsor, I actually already use them, and I personally would like to work with companies because I opted into their platform rather than them paying me to use them. I believe I'm still a bit too small of a channel, especially in terms of average views per video to really gain a lot of traction here. I'm not sure where the break-in point is, but I can say I'd love to find it. 
  • Start a website newsletter: Never got to this, mostly because I started focusing more on ways to monetize. I think this is still important, though once I figure out what value I can actually provide in a newsletter.

Prints soon!

The last goal was to find other ways to monetize, which I am currently in the process of doing. I've got a logo design that I'm going to use to hopefully make shirts but need to find a local vendor to work with to meet the quality I want. I have established a relationship with a local print shop and am on the cusp of selling prints on my website but still figuring out the details. Lastly, I'm working on enabling viewers to join membership tiers on my channel to mostly support me while hopefully providing them with perks that are valuable to them, especially during live streams. I don't expect any of these to generate large flows of revenue, but having them established and in place while I continually create content will help me continue moving forward.

The next three months are crucial because my full-time job has come to an end. I never expected to try to turn this channel into a career this early, and I'm not entirely sure I'll be able to. One thing I'm trying to balance is not burning out and losing my enjoyment of making videos or talking about photography. Currently, I'm weighing the options of just getting another job and making YouTube a bit slower or simply pushing myself in the next three months to find ways to earn a steadier income. My largest concern is making sure the quality of the content continues to improve, which can be very difficult if you get lost in trying to figure out ways to earn an income.

Conclusion and Future Goals

At the end of the day, I want to take landscape photos, make videos, and build a community that provides value and entertainment to the people who take the time out of their busy day to hear what I have to say. I never want to take money from a company I wouldn't use just because it helps myself, I will never sell preset packs that I don't personally use myself, and overall, I never want to approach the content I make by thinking about how much money I can earn. Keeping that in mind, my new goals are:

  • Reach 25,000 subscribers: Ideally, subs that watch more content rather than a very specific material
  • Make at least one video a week and host one live stream 
  • Get print sales online
  • Develop a Lightroom course
  • Plan a workshop, which is tough while restrictions still exist and may have to be something for later

The future is a bit uncertain for me, and just as I stated in part one of this series, it can be very difficult to balance the enjoyment of what you're doing with the pressure and anxiety of trying to monetize it, thus burning you out of what you love. Hopefully, I can continually incorporate ways to help pay bills that are not intrusive or overbearing to viewers. 

If you're looking to start a channel or trying to turn your passion into a career, I hope there was something here for you. I try to be as transparent as possible and hope in doing so it sheds some light on the journey I'm on that may help you on your own. Thanks for reading or watching, and as always, I'd love to know your thoughts down below.

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12 Comments

Tony Northrup's picture

Congrats, you're doing awesome!

You seem optimistic but here's a little more optimism: When you're calculating how much you've made in the first 6 months, you need to extrapolate forward, because your existing videos will continue to get more views and earn more. They've probably earned only a small fraction of their lifetime earnings... so don't think of it as, "I made $1,000 in the last 3 months" but rather, "Over the next 5 years I will earn $4,000 for my content."

It's harder to quantify, but you're also leveling-up your skills: presenting, producing, creating clickable titles and thumbnails, etc. Long-term, those skills are FAR more valuable than the money you're making.

And making content you can sell is a GREAT idea because then you'll always have a sponsor for your videos. Enjoy the journey!

Alex Armitage's picture

Thanks for your continued support Tony! Not everyday someone in your position takes the time to encourage those of us just starting out.

It's good to think about content that builds on itself rather than expiring a few weeks after it's posted. Let's just hope I can get things off the ground while still balancing that enjoyment :)

Toby Seb's picture

Dude, thats awesome. Hope you get to selling prints soon ! Where do you plan on selling your prints ?

Alex Armitage's picture

Toby, on my website! Unless you mean where do I plan on getting them made?

g coll's picture

What about NFTs? You could add an NFT option alongside the print option on your website and best of all the NFT could include a large print for hanging on the wall. I think once you get a decent following you'll be able to sell NFTs as you'll have the platforms to market them and drive people to the NFT site. You could also mention it during your streams and have a link added to your YT descriptions.

Alex Armitage's picture

I think if I felt more confident in that market I would but personally not entirely sure of it's sustainability.

Also considering I'm desperately trying to get a graphics card right now, not sure how I feel about supporting crypto haha :P

Brent Daniel's picture

Great article Alex! Thanks for the behind the scenes look at what it takes to get things started on YouTube!

Alex Armitage's picture

Thanks Brent! Not entirely sure it's quite a guide but hopefully it's helpful!

Jan Holler's picture

What about your expenses? I fear with such numbers this will never be a base for a regular income. While I wish you all the best luck I'd be looking for a part time job (50-60%) to secure a regular income.

First thing you do when opening a business: Be honest with the numbers by looking at all numbers. As a self employed you need much more gross income than as an employee.

You are not doing awesome. You are doing well under the circumstances. But if that (a few dollars) is already awesome we run out of words if you are (hopefully) going to do better.

Tom Anderson's picture

Thank you for sharing your experience and being so transparent about everything. Very helpful :)

Alex Armitage's picture

Thanks Tom!

PC B's picture

good youtube info.... but landscape photographer or youtuber? do you want to be a northrup or a mangelsen? get your tail into the mountain towns to your west and whore yourself to their local galleries. don't take no for an answer.