Erin Babnik on Going Pro: Making Landscape Photography Your Business

Erin Babnik on Going Pro: Making Landscape Photography Your Business

Have you ever considered going pro as a landscape photographer? What does that even mean in today's business? Professional Landscape Photographer Erin Babnik shares the often obscured truth about the genre.

The truth is that the rock star days of zipping around the world on commission are largely behind us, partly because of the saturated industry and partly because that industry itself has changed. To make a living from any genre of photography today, is to be a star at social media. Your clients are out there in the virtual world, whether they're potential customers for prints, shoots, or are aspiring photographers themselves. In landscape photography, there are just a handful of professionals who still work on commission from, let's say, National Geographic. But let's face it, getting paid to return with stunning imagery from the most remote locations on the planet is a career not everyone is cut out to pursue.

Babnik has been there though. Before transitioning to wilderness photography and teaching through workshops around the globe, she produced photographs on assignment for years. She has seen the shift in what landscape photography is about, while having to move with the flow of change herself.

In her latest blog entry on Photo Cascadia, Babnik touches upon this change and opens up on the real world of professional landscape photography. And it's far removed from the rock star stigma frequently associated with it, from the difficulties of communication due to a lack of data and phone signals and different time zones, to spending most time away from home and loved ones. The article is written in a touching and heartfelt manner, and full of bits you could relate to if you spend a lot of time living in the outdoors. A personal favorite is her description of the permanent marks on her hips caused by the waist belt of a heavy backpack while trekking.

If you're an outdoor person who isn't in the world of landscape photography, the benefits of going pro outweigh the potential hurdles this life may throw at you.

View more incredible work on her website.

Image used with permission from Erin Babnik.

[via Photo Cascadia]

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16 Comments

Chris Ramsey Jr.'s picture

Read the blog post and it's a great in depth view of what goes into landscape photography.

Thanks for reading and for your kind words, Chris!

Anonymous's picture

Do you realize we see your name hovering over the up-thumb? You up-thumbed a straight up compliment containing no critical thoughts. So, you approve of and encourage compliments ... lol;)

Is that a bad thing? I always like compliments. Perhaps I'm just more accustomed to Facebook, where liking a comment is a way to say thanks.

Anonymous's picture

I guess it's a point of view difference. To me, an upthumb is "approval" not "thanks." If the comment is well written with good ideas, I approve with a "like" whether it is complimentary or critical, because I appreciate all forms of quality criticism as essential to making progress in art. I'd be embarrassed to thumb up a simple compliment someone gave me with no grounds as egotistical. That's why I wondered if you knew your name is displayed.

I did think it appropriate you thanked the person in your reply.

Simon Patterson's picture

This comment seems very weird. I would have hit "like" too, if the complimentary comment was about my blog post. Simple courtesy.

Anonymous's picture

I see, and so you'd hit thumbdown if the comment was critical of your blog post, no matter how correct it was? Humility must be a lost art.

Simon Patterson's picture

Logic is clearly not your strong suit.

Anonymous's picture

Ha ironically enough it is lost on you that that particular reply, where your own statement is delivered back to in converse form, is perfectly syllogistic.

The blog post was great. I'm often asked why I don't open up my own brewery. People think it's all about making and drinking beer when it's really about running a business, dealing with the government, marketing, and a lot of cleaning. Brewing is maybe 10% of being a brewer.
Likewise, being a pro photographer (or pro anything) involves a lot of unexpected realities. Though as an amateur landscape photographer, I still don't see how it can be greatly monetized to where you can earn that middle-class lifestyle. Giving classes is a great idea, but who buys photos especially when there's either the ability to take your own or to find anything on the internet? I've shot for the PGA and also one wedding, but even that wasn't worth the effort
Erin has amazing work and I understand the talent and patience/persistence needed to achieve those shots. But I'm just going to admire them, not hang them on my wall. I think the market has just changed in the last century.

Bryan, thanks so much! You make a good point about selling prints, that most people aren't looking to put photos on their walls. While that is true, it’s nothing new, and domestic decor has only ever been one target market for printed photographs. There have always been styles and genres of so-called "fine-art" photography (i.e. non-commercial) that are more aimed at collectors and museums. Some landscape photos may not be the sort of cheerful, pretty landscapes that work well in a living room but may be visually and conceptually forceful, making them valuable for other types of display. So while I agree that the overall market for photography has changed, I don't think that the market for prints has become any smaller or weaker; it's probably the same as it ever was.

The main changes that I see are shifts in stock photography and an explosion of new uses of "fine-art" photography, such as the development of the social media 'influencer' who accepts payment in return for mentions, hashtags, and posting ads. In my view, there is a lot of expansion and shifting happening, and landscape photographers who are adaptable are most likely to be able to sustain themselves financially.

At any rate, it certainly isn’t the easiest profession in which to gain traction, but it can be done. Thanks again!

Anonymous's picture

Nice article.

Observations on the image for this story; large heavy tripod off-kilter ie used almost (not properly) like a monopod, pack on the back in a semi-crouch causing imbalance, human legs around two tripod legs instead of one, all together forcing a fast shutter anyway. So why use the tripod if you are not going to set it? You'd be steadier quick-releasing the tripod and standing upright with the camera hand-held properly. Conversely if you set up a tripod, you take off the pack. So it seems illogical & contrived, nothing like any experience I've had, which is a lot.

This outing was definitely one of those exceptions. I did eventually take my backpack off of my back, but only to try to use it to stabilize my tripod in gale-force winds. Have a look at this behind-the-scenes video of this very outing to see why putting the backpack down on the ground would not be a great idea (it just fills up with blowing sand that way). VIDEO HERE: https://youtu.be/AXIrMIK3gNY

Anonymous's picture

Thanks for the vid. I shoot camera & tripod in the White Mtns of NH, where it is always windy (highest recorded wind speed on Earth - Mt Washington).

You would agree, in the vid you have your tripod legs backward, vis a vis the wind. The long low legs (two) should be set out forward and you stand (or go low & kneel) over one leg between your legs. Then pull down very hard on the center column to add your weight, and fire with the timer.

I agree you are in situation there that pushes the limit, and it's very hard to get any setup when you can barely stand so nice work going at it at all. I suggest short snow gaiters & a tightened down hard shell in that situation, gaiters keep the sand out of your shoes, hard shell & you won't get flapped to death:) A good technique with so many people is to gather up in a wind block for one teammate, and let someone get a shot off that way.

David Harris's picture

Dude your mansplaining is top notch, keep it up!

Anonymous's picture

I hadn't noticed the columnists gender nor does it matter. I can't share your gender bias, you're on your own with that.