It's Time to Capture New Landscape Images

It's Time to Capture New Landscape Images

If you're an aspiring professional landscape and outdoor photographer, it might be time to stop capturing those iconic landscape scenes. 

If you've ever been to Zion National Park, then you're aware of the bridge leading into the Park and the classic photo of the Watchman with the Virgin River in the foreground. Refer to the cover photo of this article if you're unaware of the bridge or haven't been to the park. 

While leaving Zion around sunset a few weeks ago, I watched as countless photographers lined the bridge with tripods and professional-level DSLR and lenses in hand, waiting to capture the right light over the mountain and river. I definitely have captured the same scene before on a less crowded evening, but know that it was just out of enjoyment for being in the place and wanting to have my own memento from the time I was there. I highly doubt I'd ever attempt to sell the photograph or use it in a positive way for my photography business. 

photographers-on-zion-bridgeI know that some or maybe even most of the photographers on the bridge may not be professional photographers or even aspiring professional photographers, but for those who were and for those who want to take the shot in the future for your photography business, I ask you to rethink that shutter click. Before clicking the shutter of such an iconic spot and overshot scene, especially if you're hoping to sell the image and better your business, ask yourself if you're creating anything original. Will potential or existing customers truly be blown away at your image, or will they sigh and pass over it because they've seen the same exact photograph from countless other photographers in the past? Or, can they just buy that image from a different photographer? What's unique about your image? 

Creating original images in iconic places such as Zion or any other national or well-known state park can be extremely difficult. It's something I'm personally always struggling with in my own photography pursuits, and I'm certainly guilty of capturing and attempting to sell the "iconic shot" of public lands. I'm not saying it's bad to capture a beautiful moment with the right light, but if that same scene is already overshot and images are already being sold, commercially or privately, then how do you think your vision will add to an already overshot and over-publicized location? Maybe it's time we start looking at landscapes with a new creative eye and vision. 

I think that one huge way to help in seeing the world differently is by viewing portfolios that do just that. For inspiration in looking at the world a bit differently, someone whose work I always look at is Chris Murray on Instagram.

What do you think of this idea? Do you find yourself struggling in the same pursuit? Or is capturing and selling an image of an iconic and overshot scene something you don't mind doing? 

Photo by Tom Gainor on Unsplash

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20 Comments

amplighter's picture

I'll never consider myself to be an "inspiring photographer" or a "professional photographer". I'm merely a self taught artist that uses broken or outdated cameras that happens to be at the right place at the right time. I've never encountered a time or an area where it was so crowed with others claiming they're photographers yet they are all taking the same picture.

BTW, the intro image, looks as if you've substituted broccoli instead of trees..

Tim Behuniak's picture

The intro image is not mine, it was taken from Unsplash, a stock photo site.

What part of the world are you in/where do you photograph mostly?

amplighter's picture

Depends on the time of day and what season it happens to be. Another factor is what camera I happen to have on me at that time. As of late, its been a single dimensional crap camera that takes good tourist photos. Sadly this will make the last time I'll participate in any of these articles as several of those I've responded to have taken offense to my suggestions.

Any examples from your artistic collection?

Simon Patterson's picture

I prefer the Thomas Heaton approach - be actively creative but don't be afraid to get the iconic shot, too. The two options are not mutually exclusive.

I prefer the Thomas Heaton video as well. This is just like a textual version of it.

Well, fstoppers has landscape tutorials that show mostly, sometimes only, iconic and crowded spots. So it's paradoxical to see an fstoppers writer telling people to not go to these places. If you look at Photographing the World 4, there's Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, Mesa Arch, Angel's Landing, Thor's Hammer... and they tried to even do a lesson in Antelope Canyon, the most crowded spot ever.

That being said, of course I agree with you, stop visiting those crazy spots everyone flocks to. There's plenty of space elsewhere. If you're European, go for Finland, Scotland, even in my country, France, it's so easy to be alone if you avoid the overdone places like the lavender fields or Paris... If you live in America, there are so many great national forests, state parks and less visited national parks where you can take great photos.

Tim Behuniak's picture

This is an opinion article ... my own opinion differs from those who film and direct Photographing the World. Also, I never said to not visit these places. I'm simply suggesting that when we are in these locations we look a different direction or at a new subject.

Ryan Luna's picture

Yeah...but in 100+ years, my grandchildren and so forth can say, "my grandpa was there and took that picture you see hanging on our wall." #legacy

Kyle Medina's picture

"but know that it was just out of enjoyment for being in the place and wanting to have my own memento from the time I was there"

Your article is now null and void.

Tim, I appreciate your article. If someone wants to take that iconic picture for their own wall, legacy, etc., Great! Your article never said otherwise. However, that same picture may have little, it any, value to others. I have a friend who is an aspiring photographer. He is constantly posting pictures of over shot landscapes, which offer no new value. It's almost comical. If one we're to Google the location of any one of his photographs, they would find many other pictures that are much, much better. This article is precisely what he needs to read.

Chris Ward's picture

Create, shoot, and sell whatever you want...the market/customer will decide if they like your take on it or not. The thing we photographers tend to forget is that the general public doesn't surf instagram, 500px, fstoppers for landscape photos constantly. They may have seen some spots here and there, but most seem amazed by some of these locations that we photographers take for granted.

Taking ANY photo doesn't guarantee sales, but that's not to say that iconic/cliché shots will never generate income.

To caveat, I photograph as a hobby and to hang images on my walls. I do rotate some of these into a gallery or two from time to time and have sold unique compositions as well as cliché shots. The extra income is nice to cover gear and some trips. If I was doing it to make a living, then obviously im shooting for whatever the market wants (and less for what I like). Its a catch22.

Tim Behuniak's picture

thanks for commenting, I appreciate and like your insight.

Steven Magner's picture

While the premise of this article is great, the problem I have is referring to Instagram for that photographers portfolio. If you find his work so great, send us to his website, rather then that rabbit hole of Instagram.

I know a photographer who was upset that another photographer had copied her shot, until I pointed out that the EXIF data showed his shot to be older! That is the problem with taking shots in iconic locations!

Duane Klipping's picture

I shoot a lot on the Great Plains and it is a challenging place to shoot landscapes in. But if you scour the countryside you can always find new scenes and angles and new light.

I never try and shoot the iconic locations. I went to the Badlands last spring and not did any of my shots have the intent of copying something else. Originallity is where it is at with Landscapes.

Tim Behuniak's picture

I agree! It's definitely a conscious effort, too.