Q and A With Landscape Photographer David Johnston

Just like me, landscape photographer David Johnston got hooked on photography back in the film and darkroom days of photography.  Once he got his first digital SLR, he decided to make photography his career.

Now he helps others improve their landscape photography. David was nice enough to contribute to the better-digital-photo-tips website through a questions and answer about nature and landscape photography.

David Johnston - Landscape PhotographerDavid Johnston - Landscape Photographer

In this post you'll also find some sample images taken by Mr. Johnston. Where can you find David Johnston? Links to his website, YouTube channel, Instagram account, and email contact form are posted at the end of this article.

What first drew you to nature photography—and how did you first start?

I started just by enjoying nature, although I didn’t realize that I was enjoying photography at the same time. Once my parents got me a digital camera as a gift I started taking it on hikes and I was immediately hooked. I became a sponge and couldn’t soak up information fast enough.

I’d say the thing that drew me to photography, in general, was the ability to show how I saw nature in a frame. I had never been able to convey that before and it was honestly very freeing for me.

What makes a great nature image?

That’s definitely personal to every photographer. I’d say number one, it has to be the photographer's enjoyment of the process. I believe you can tell when a photographer enjoyed their time in the field taking the photo and when they didn’t.

It comes through in the photo. Second is light. Dynamic light can shape a photo and create depth and contrast. Third is composition. Knowing how to arrange things in a photo takes a good photo to a great photo.

David Johnston landscape photoLandscape photo by David Johnston

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: If you want to improve your own landscape photography, you may be interested in reading this article:  Beginners Guide To Landscape Photography.

What is your favorite subject and why?

Whatever is challenging me at the time. I photograph a lot of waterfalls and they are fun, but they aren’t always challenging. I actually enjoy travel, adventure, and street photography a lot because I’m not good at them. The challenge and the process is what drives me.

David Johnston waterfallWaterfall photo by David Johnston

If you were giving advice to a photographer wanting to make money as a nature photographer what guidance would you offer?

To eliminate money from the equation. This is honestly what I’m most passionate about. We are living in the most exciting age for photographers. If you think about the entry to starting your own business 20 years ago, it cost a lot of money.

There were TV and radio ads, mailing, and much more that cost a ton for someone getting started. Today, those costs don’t exist thanks to the evolution of social media. You can do the exact same thing for free today what would cost thousands in the past.

If you want to start a business with nature photography, you have to add value to your audience, and it doesn’t matter how big your audience is. You might be tempted to use the excuse of “I don’t know how to use social media” well you didn’t know how to drive a car, pay your bills, or do taxes, but you figured it out.

You have to be willing to add value before taking money, you have to be confident enough to not care what anyone else thinks, and you have to show up every single day knowing you’re going to make it. If you do that for 12-24 months, something great will happen.

Do you have an interesting story about a memorable situation during a nature shoot that you’d like to share?

There isn’t one single one that stands out to me. Besides the countless memories of breaking a piece of gear in the field, I’d say my memorable moments would be spending extra time in the field and not taking photos. Just enjoying nature and my time there.

And I would encourage everyone to do that. Great sunset? Awesome. Watch it without grabbing your camera. It’ll make you a much happier person.

What do you want your viewers to take away from your work?

David Johnston lighthouseLighthouse photo by David Johnston

I want them to pass me, to be better than me. People want to retain followers so they keep watching their content. My goals are different. I want to create content that is going to help you graduate out of my information so you can go take more photos.

There is always a point in which you have seen enough and you are able to leave someone’s content. That’s amazing. I want people to watch me, but I want people to also improve so much that they become a better photographer than me.

Have any well known photographers had a big influence on your work?

Definitely. There are several and for different reasons. For friendships, TJ Thorne, Anne Belmont, Jerad Armijo, John Barclay, and Sean Bagshaw have always been there for me even when it’s not about photography.

Inspiration-wise, Michael Frye, Sarah Marino, and Michael Shainblum are constant sources of inspiration. When if comes to business, I think Chris Burkard is the best out there.

Wildlife photo by David JohnstonWildlife photography by David Johnston

Biggest challenge with nature photography.

Confidence. You have to know in your soul that you are talented. Imposter syndrome can creep in. Doubts can creep in. But you have to know deep down in your soul that you are talented. You know, comparison is the thief of joy as said by Teddy Roosevelt.

Take that to heart. Enjoy other people’s photos, but know that their view of the world is different than yours. Be confident in your work and more importantly in yourself as a person.


WEBSITE: DavidJohnstonPhotography


YOUTUBE:  DavidJohnston

INSTAGRAM:  Instagram/DavidJohnston

Thank you David!

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

Digital Photography Education Location on Google My Business

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