Hawaii, with 1,759 photography businesses, has the highest number of photographers in the country when analyzed per capita. With more than 123 visual artists per 100,000 residents, one of America’s smallest states has more than enough land and sea vistas to inspire a prominence of photographers.
Montana, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Vermont, Oregon, South Dakota, Idaho, and Maine comprise the rest of America’s photography capitals. These states have a depth in the photography field and a plethora of stunning wide-open spaces. These top photography states also have most of America’s National Parks, with 38 out of the country’s total 63 parks.
What is driving so many photography businesses in these states? Five professional photographers weigh in.
Honing in on Hawaii’s Beauty
Do stunning images of incomparable beauty on the grandest scale come to mind when thinking of Hawaii? With its unique landscapes across volcanic mountain terrain, lush rainforests, colorful Hawaiian flowers, snow-covered peaks, and world-renowned beaches, it is not a surprise that The Aloha state is a never-ending inspiration for visual artists.
One such artist is Zak Noyle. Born and raised in Hawaii, he has traveled the world capturing the best waves and best surfers, but Hawaii is still his favorite place to photograph.
“Being an ocean photographer, Hawaii is the most ideal location in the world to live and shoot! It would be easy for many to overlook a sunset in Hawaii or a beautiful tree or clouds. Still, I am constantly stopping and admiring the amazing beauty surrounding me in Hawaii,” Noyle said. “I’m fortunate to have my work displayed in real life size covering the walls of the Outrigger Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel so guests can feel immersed under our waters.”
Hawaii visitors can drop by Noyle’s favorite photography spots and take their pictures to remember their vacation. His top places on his home island are Queens Beach in Waikiki, Sandy Beach at sunrise, and The Pipeline on the North Shore of Oahu, where he first fell in love with surfing photography.
Montana’s Mountains and More
Montana had the second-highest number of photographers in the country per capita, with a total of 1,172 total photography businesses statewide.
“I like to say that it’s easy being a photographer here; you just point your camera at Montana and press the shutter, said Eric Heidle, Photographer and Communications director for the Montana Arts Council. “Montana’s beauty comes in many shades, from its spectacular mountains to its stark, austere prairies, to dramatic river canyons and dense but forbidding forests.”
“I like photographing Montanans as much as I do Montana. Last week I spent a few hours taking pictures of a deeply gifted blacksmith turning a bar of steel into a work of art, moonlighting as a humble fire poker. I’ve had the chance to take portraits of a saddle maker who’s a working cowboy, a luthier building stunning guitars at his shop in a Montana ghost town, and the owners of a grand piano that came up the Missouri on a steamboat the same year Custer lost the battle at the Little Bighorn,” he continued.
The analysis revealed that Colorado has the third-highest number of photographers, with 5,961. Colorado is also home to four of America’s National Parks — Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, and some of the world’s most jaw-dropping and diverse scenery.
“I didn’t move to Colorado to become a photographer, but moving here inspired me to choose photography as a profession,” said Elopement Photographer Sean Oblizalo. “I am very fortunate to have Colorado as my photography playground with its jagged peaks, turquoise lakes, aspen trees, and wildflowers. It’s the perfect place for a photographer to call home; It’s probably the most photogenic state in the U.S.
“I firmly believe that it’s highly difficult to take a bad photo in Estes Park. It’s a valley surrounded by mountains. Living in Estes full-time is a true blessing. I feel like I’m always discovering amazing new places to explore,” said John Berry, Staff Photographer of Estes Park, Colorado, and Estes Park resident.
Utah’s Untouched Beauty Captured
Utah, with the Mighty 5 group of national parks, has the fourth-highest number of photographers, with 96.25 professionals per 100,000 residents. Mike Shubic, a travel writer and photographer for over a decade, believes it is one of the most scenic states in the country with an incredible diversity of landscapes.
“Arches National Park is known for its more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches, making it one of the most popular places for photography in Utah, Shubic said. “The park offers several viewpoints and hiking trails that provide great opportunities for photography, including Delicate Arch, Landscape Arch, and Double Arch. In addition, the park offers the famous viewpoint at sunset, the Park Avenue Viewpoint, a great spot to take photos of the setting sun.”
Do Photographers Develop More Photographers In These States?
According to U.S. Census Bureau data, there are 38,420 professional photographers in America, and various elements can attract them to live and work in certain places. For example, some states can offer more job opportunities, subject matter, and customers to those looking to make a living as photographers. Those factors can help explain why Hawaii tops the list and Mississippi, the poorest state in America, has the lowest number of photographers compared to its population.
Flytographer, a company that connects vacationers to local photographers in destinations worldwide, reports that their biggest market is the Aloha state. With over 10 million annual tourists, many families, newlyweds, or those getting married hire a photographer to capture their trip to Hawaii.
“We professional photographers aren’t innocent bystanders, either. We’ve been capturing and sharing for decades, so we can’t pretend to be surprised when more folks want to share a wonderful place, including more photographers,” said Heidle.