All merchants who sell anything, which I believe is all of them, have something that is in demand. The demand must be greater than zero for them to stay in business. If you as a merchant need 30K to live a year, then you must make 30K profit each year. That can be from selling 1 print for 30K or 3000 prints for 10.
But if demand is zero, you make zero. Figuring out how much demand there is for a product is the absolute heart and soul of any business. High demand and low supply = high priced goods. High supply and low demand = low priced goods. How many people do you know, personally, who have ever purchased a landscape photograph? Let's exclude poster-buyers. I mean a real person who bought a real photograph from a photographer who takes landscape photos. I don't know about you, but for me, the answer is zero. Ultimately there are things in life which we do simply for fun. Those avocations will never become our vocation.
Most of the big name artists that do sell work and books of their work are faculty at colleges and universities for their income. Those that aren't faculty are taking commercial jobs. For example, Jim Stone, author of A User's Guide to the View Camera just recently retired from the University of New Mexico's art department. Jerry Uelsman is Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida's art department. Keith Carter is the Chair of the art department at Lamar University in Texas. Stephen Shore is a professor at Bard College. Abellardo Morell is teaching at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Alec Soth has a commercial studio and does work for Magnum. Gregory Crewdson teaches at Yale as adjunct faculty. They all went to school and earned an MFA in photography. This wasn't to teach them to take photos, it is the required degree to be able to teach and earn a faculty income while making their photos.
You won't find your answer here. Successful full time photographers who are making a living at it don't hang out on photo forums. They are too busy. 85% of their time is spent marketing themselves the rest actually doing "photography". The only time we see one of the them here is when they have something to promote. ie. marketing themselves.
The formula I see is; Be very good, develop a following, get some work out there, then die.
Not a great business plan, but it works for your kids.
Regarding modern landscape photography for sale, I cannot imagine making a (decent) living off non-commercial/magazine "art" landscape photography alone, not today. Short of working for Nat Geo, it must be almost impossible, as an independent photographer. The market is hypersaturated and the buying population is bombarded with images.
Plus, as an analogue person selling individual analogue prints, there is a lot of ongoing overhead expense and you're up against people who use digital and have much less overhead in the long run. Some will say that the upfront premium for high end digital gear equalizes that, but I suspect that $50k is a drop in the bucket if you consider the cost of arranging access and travel working in the field at the kinds of unique sites that will sell magazine images. All of us landscapey analoguers have run the numbers and concluded that $50k buys a vault of medium format velvia, but... velvia in your fridge is not worth as much as velvia at a base camp in the Karakoram with a team of guides and sherpas ;) We're probably talking $50k just for one 1-week trek.
Now, on the other hand, I can easily imagine making a living off of people who are trying to make a living off of their photography. There are agencies and online picture-pushing services like flickr etc. that profit handsomely from people's dream to be the next AA or Rowell or whatever. That's where the money is- servicing other people's passions!
Fortunately for me, these financial concerns don't enter the considerations, I simply do what I like and work at the rate that my (modest) fun-budget permits. So basically I am one very lucky bloke. I have been super-blessed by jobs that allow me to go amazing places and slip in a little photography on the side. One of these days a meteorite is going to slam into me and my gear and average things out.
"The only time we see one of the them here is when they have something to promote. ie. marketing themselves."
Are you sure?
That's not my reason for being here.
I'm here to help others and to learn as well.
I've been fairly successful in business. It's my turn to help others, if they want to listen; that usually is the tough part. I guess I can try to lead to them to the oasis but it's up to them to drink.
It can be done, but it's not easy.
If there's a flea/farmers market near you, rent a space. Have about 20+ different images, in a variety of sizes, matted and bagged. Frame a few. Be there every weekend. It may take awhile to start selling but, with time, people will buy. You won't get rich, and may only recoup your material cost, but you never know...
Years ago, I started selling my work at a flea market on Cap. Hill, in Washington DC. The space cost me $20/day. I didn't sell a thing for 5 weeks. On the 6th week, people who had been looking the previous weeks bought. I sold about $250 that weekend. The following weekend it went to $400. By the time I stopped setting up there (to do Art Festivals), I was averaging about $750 per weekend. I also booked the occasional portrait session, adding to my total.
If it's something you'd really like to do, do it. You won't know until you try. Do you really want to be sitting in your rocking chair, in your old age, thinking "what if"?
Knowing nothing about the landscape photography business, in my less than expert opinion I think you would need a 4X5 at least or an 8X10. I don't know how you enlarge an 8X10 but enlargers are made for 4x5's. Can't you photograph young pretty gals? They are more fun. Ric.
And even so, they do a lot of other business on the side with their Lodima press, selling Lodima paper and archival products, as well as giving work shops. So their revenue is most certainly not prints only.
Originally Posted by seadrive
But that just proves the point. You would have to be Michael Kenna or Alec Soth to be able to make a living off of the photography part of it only.