When Should a Landscape Photographer Go Pro?

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On April 1st of this year, I quit my job as a full time accountant at a high-end resort on the island of Kauai to pursue a career as a landscape photographer. I had worked there for almost five years. To be honest, I was absolutely miserable working there. I found myself drained and depressed. My office was located in a basement with no windows behind a locked door. A bad situation for anyone that loves the outdoors and photography. It felt like prison. The decision to quit was far from easy or simple. I want to share my thought process as I quit my job and share how the first few months have gone.

Focusing on being a landscape photographer

Waimea Valley, Kauai, HI

When Is It Time to Quit?

The answer is simple really… when you are no longer happy. Retrospectively, I should have quit three years ago. Imagine where I would be now. I found myself constantly upset that I had to say no to photography opportunities because of my regular job. “Hey can you photograph whales this Thursday?” “No sorry I cant. I work M-F.” This added to my extreme frustration. I was scared to quit though because I appreciated the financial stability and the benefits.

Have Your Back Covered

I decided to responsibly wean myself off the Monday-Friday job. I took a part time job doing marketing and design. I work three days a week and still qualify for health insurance. The other four days, I can do whatever I please. This way I don’t have to worry about not making rent. I made sure I have just enough to squeak by on a monthly basis. I can cover all my costs, but that leaves me very little expendable funds. So I rarely eat out anymore and I don’t pay $35 for tickets to a show. I go as a volunteer to events, so I help out in return for free access.

Be Flexible

My first four months have been slow, but I am booking work. While I would like to be a full time landscape photographer, I don’t find it to be the most profitable avenue. I have sold two prints so far. I have been booking commercial work which has generated the most income. From magazine shoots to real estate work, that’s where the highest income has been coming from. I find any type of photography to be rewarding, but the commercial work has been preventing me from going out and shooting the creative landscape work that I love. I have lots of editing to do and find myself on the computer 90% of the time. I am always looking for work and reaching out to places. Trying to network and build relationships with magazine editors and local businesses. I rarely take pictures.

I hope to be completely free and a full time landscape photographer one day. The income is far from consistent and I am not sure how long it will take to generate stable financials. I have been told it takes a couple of years from people that live in my area. My greatest lesson learned is to not let fear prevent you from quitting your job. I wish I would have done it much sooner. It took me three anxiety-riddled months until the advice “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” convinced me to just put in my two weeks notice.

About Author Lace Andersen

Lace Andersen is a Kauai-based landscape photographer. She grew up in the farm town of Templeton, California and majored in Graphic Communications. She started taking basic photography classes in 2008, and discovered her passion to create and be outdoors. The major turning point in her life was April 2012 during a family vacation to Kauai. She decided to rent her own car and spend the entire week photographing the island from sunrise to sunset. It was a life changing experience. Kauai either accepts you or spits you back out. Lace was lucky to be accepted by the island and relocated immediately. She has built an award winning portfolio over the past four years and has been published numerous times. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, you can find her hiking with friends, camping, and playing ultimate frisbee.