Arizona Landscape Photographer - Arizona Landscape Photography by Travis Neely
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Arizona Landscape Photographer: Creating Compelling Imagery

TravisShoots® is a Phoenix Commercial Photographer specializing in  lifestyle, environmental portraits, and landscapes. His work has helped brands tell their stories for over 10 years.

 

I’ll start off this article by getting right down to brass tacks… there are A LOT of photographers shooting landscapes… A LOT. This is especially true in certain regions of the country like where I live in Arizona. Almost all of those photographers are active on social media sharing their images with the world… mostly Instagram and Facebook Business pages where the vast majority have hung out their shingle saying open for business. Realistically, there’s a lot of really good landscape photography being shot and shared… so how does one stand out from the vast sea of photographers?

 

 Compelling Imagery.

 

Notice in the paragraph above I used the words “there’s a lot of really good landscape photography being shot” and not “there’s a lot of really GREAT landscape photography being shot”. This distinction is absolutely key. Back in 2007, I read a book entitled “The Cult of the Amateur” which rightly predicted that with the rise of blogging, DIY websites, accessibility to technologies, and especially social media our culture would be flooded by content of all kinds. Where in days past writers, photographers, and other types of content creators were generally legitimate experts in their craft and had earned the platform of being published to large audiences it is now the reality that anyone anywhere can self publish their content to massive audiences easily. This has resulted in a ‘lowering of the bar’ across the board in content creation within our culture. This change has both its pros and cons, but that is for another article entirely.

 

So how does a content creator truly stand out these days and not only get attention and eyes on their work, but get the RIGHT attention and eyes on their work? Compelling Imagery. Simply put… your work has to stand out from the vast crowd of content creators all shouting to the same audience. Marketing tactics aside I still believe creating truly top notch content beats all.

 

So how do you create compelling imagery? Speaking from a photography standpoint I believe it starts with studying the past and current masters of the craft and even painters. These artists stood out from the crowd in their day for a reason and many of the building blocks of modern image making are based on the principles they pioneered. Really study their work… spend some time with it pick it apart and understand the dynamics of what makes it a successful image. Knowing WHAT makes an image go from GOOD to GREAT is the first step. Practice your craft… have reverence for it as a CRAFT. Join a photo group online or in real life, participate in that group’s photo challenges (challenges are designed to build your image making skills). Be more selective with the images that you share instead of sharing every shot you take. Some photo outings might result in zero images worth sharing and that’s okay… even legitimate pros sometimes come back from a day of shooting with nothing of value. I believe it is a giant misstep for any artist to not study the old masters of their respective craft. If you don’t know why an image is great how do you create one yourself?

 

 Strive for uniqueness and scarcity.

 

Let’s be honest… everything has been over shot… to death. Literally, billions of landscape photos of Arizona exist. The popular spots are even more over shot. Most of it ranges from just okay to GOOD. Very little of it is GREAT. ALL of it is being shared to the masses every single day. To illustrate this I will use an example of my own work and how it led to success. Below is one of my Arizona landscape photos of Cathedral Rock in Sedona. Cathedral Rock is one of the most over shot locations in the state. I go there to hike often, but rarely shoot it for this very reason. However, on New Year’s Day 2015 Sedona got caught up in an extremely rare blizzard. At the time I was living just south of the Phoenix Metro area so Sedona (in good weather) was a 2.5 hour drive. In heavy snow in a region that rarely gets it I knew it would be a much longer more difficult drive. Nonetheless I set out because I knew this was an opportunity to make beautiful landscape photos of Sedona in a rare weather situation. The drive took me 5 hours and when I arrived in red rock country there was 9-10 inches of pristine virgin snow on the ground and it was still coming down. Cars were stuck in ditches everywhere… the roads were a ghost town. The entire drive up I expected it to be a photographer’s playground and that they’d be out in droves, but I found the exact opposite. I shot Cathedral Rock that day in a super rare blizzard and I didn’t see a single fellow photographer the entire time… I had this wonderland to myself. I could have sat home that day in the comfort and safety of my home, but I felt it important to go the extra mile and do the hard work to get some truly unique images. I held onto this snowy wintertime photo for almost 2 years before I shared it with the world. I had just recently launched my Explorizona brand dedicated to my landscape sales and the Facebook page I had set up for it only had around 100 fans… despite this it was picked up by several major regional media outlets and shared on their pages. Their fans then shared it, and those people’s fans then shared it. It went viral. Between my page and other media outlets pages that post received 9-10 thousand ‘likes’ and was shared thousands of times. I loosely estimate it was seen by a million people or more in the local market. Traffic to my Facebook page and more importantly to my dedicated web store skyrocketed. I received a lot of very nice emails from people and sold a lot of prints. If this had just been an everyday photo of Cathedral Rock… even a GREAT one it most likely wouldn’t have gone viral. It was the uniqueness and scarcity that caught people’s attention and in turn caught their wallets attention.

 

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Another example from my body of work is another one of my most successful images. The below photo of Superstition Mountain was one that took many misfires and fruitless days of shooting in this location before I came away with a truly unique image. Superstition Mountain has been shot to death and rightly so… it’s an awesome scene. It’s also my neighborhood mountain. I shoot there several times a week. However, I only go over to shoot when there’s unique weather anymore. Even then many times the lighting just doesn’t work out or some other factors cause me to go home with nothing of real value. There’s a million and one nice photos of Superstition Mountain, but I’m after the really unique and scarce images of it. This particular morning an immense cloud formation billowed up over top of the mountain just as the Sun was coming up directly behind one of the peaks. It made for an angelic light show and is easily one of my most successful Arizona landscape photos from 2016.

 

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To summarize. If you’re a content creator, in my case an Arizona landscape photographer, and are looking for the magic bullet to stand out in a crowded marketplace you have to first know WHAT makes a GOOD image become a GREAT image and then you have to take your skills and put in your due diligence in finding ways to create COMPELLING IMAGERY of places that have been shot countless times. It’s not for the lazy and it takes a desire to go the extra mile to create photographs that display UNIQUENESS AND SCARCITY. Pay your dues and put in the extra effort and I guarantee it will pay off personally, financially, or both.

 

TravisShoots® is a Phoenix Commercial Photographer specializing in  lifestyle, environmental portraits, and landscapes. His work has helped brands tell their stories for over 10 years.
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