The Secret to Success in Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is arguably one of the most popular genres of photography while also being one of the hardest to find success in. After working full-time in the profession, I've finally found what the secret to success is.

If you're a landscape photographer and struggle within your own work, you absolutely are not alone. Maybe you're just a hobbyist on the verge of taking things more seriously, or maybe you're toying with the idea of monetizing your time. Regardless of where you're at, you've probably struggled with feeling successful in your work. These feelings go hand in hand with being an artist and generally drive many of us to improve on our craft.

Success can be defined in many different ways, and it's mostly personal to your own journey. Success could be waking up for sunrise and taking a photo, success could be recognition from your peers in the field, or success could be monetizing your time and effort into a profitable way. Within the context of this article and video, I'm defining success as taking pride in your own work. You would be a successful photographer if you looked at your portfolio and could confidently think you take professional photos. 

Here's the secret: volume. Maybe this is a boring and obvious answer to some of you but hear me out. When I was shooting as a hobby photographer I found that I really only took photos when I went on trips. I even pursued more trips just so I could take more photos, yet at the end of year, I still only had a few sets of images to work through. I would compare my work and my portfolio to a group of photographers I looked up to without accounting for the fact that they were taking images all the time. On top of that, they were being paid to do it! 

Some of them are doing repeated workshops in the same locations every single year, meaning they've got decades of images year over year in spots like Iceland, Patagonia, The Pacific Northwest, etc. I went to Iceland for a total of seven days back in 2017 when I was still shooting as a hobbyist, yet I was comparing my work to people going multiple times per year every year. 

When I started doing landscape photography full-time, living on the road eating and breathing photography, that's when a lightbulb went off. It's not about taking spectacular photos every time you release your shutter. It's simply about taking a lot of photos, consistently being out there in case the conditions are good, returning to the same locations over and over. It's a privilege to earn a living making images. 

The reality is that you just don't take nearly as many photos as all the people you compare yourself to. The famous quote, "comparison is the thief of joy," couldn't be more true in this case.

So, what can you do to change? I know many of you reading this can't instantly change your life to allow yourself to take more photos, to drop whatever responsibilities you have and just go out to shoot all the time. Something you can absolutely do, though, is continually work on revisiting your idea of what success is within your own work. Stop comparing yourself to people in general, which I realize is easier said than done. Don't set expectations for yourself based on those around you. Try to direct your energy and enjoyment into finding improvement within your own work. Take the time to look back on your older work and realize just how far you've come.

Remind yourself that amazing images don't come from the best camera, the most skills in Photoshop, or even a specific location. Amazing images come from being able to be at the right place at the right time with your camera ready. 

Alex Armitage's picture

Alex Armitage has traveled the world to photograph and film some of the most beautiful places it has to offer. No matter the location, perfecting it's presentation to those absent in the moment is always the goal; hopefully to transmute the feeling of being there into a visual medium.

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It is all about the light...waking up way before dawn..and staying on during sunset....

There are no "professional photos". The image may be subjectively beautiful or brilliant or bad, but it can never be professional. The photographer can be professional, but not his pictures. Professional means nothing else than "I do it for money", in this case a professional photographer. That has nothing to do with the quality of his pictures. The opposite would be amateur. This is someone who does something out of "love or passion" (amare, Italian for love). This also says nothing about the quality of his pictures, only about the motivation why he does it. So much for professional photos.

And yes: it is absolutely crucial how well someone can edit a picture with a picture editing programme (e.g. Photoshop). If we saw the RAW data of every "awesame" photo, everyone would immediately want to take a course in Photoshop. A "bad" picture can very easily be turned into an exceptional photo with image editing. Everyone should realise that. If you don't believe this, borrow an analogue camera, insert a slide film such as Provia or Kodachrom and look at the slides you've taken. This is what comes out when you have no image processing at your disposal. I'll bet that 95% of all the oh-so-great photographers out there won't create a slide that will look as great as a digitally processed photo of the same subject. Think of popular things like focus stacking, brightening shadows, restoring highlights, creating drama with local contrasts, etc. ... Show your pictures as they come out of the camera and you will realise: nothing works without image processing. And the better someone masters all the tricks, the better the "photo" will be. That is the reality. A beautiful motif is useful, but skilful image editing is essential for a promising photo. Even though many may now disagree - just do the slide test ...

At the moment I do absolutely minimal processing to the images I take like adjusting exposure and that it.

There have been a few times, I have taken 'test' shots with the plan to delete them later only to see them on the big screen and I go "I'll keep them" or I'll take a shot to see what happens.

A few mornings ago, driving through the fog in a forest, the sun was just beginning to shine through the trees, I looked up and saw cobwebs sparkling like jewels as the sun shone through the droplets of dew captured by the strands of web silk.

The mist added an almost ethereal element to the scenery.