10 Tips To Help You Capture Sellable Travel Stock Photos

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10 Tips To Help You Capture Sellable Travel Stock Photos

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Despite what people may think, travel photography is like any other business. It has its high and low points, and just like any other business, it requires the same level of professionalism, administration, and marketing to become successful. Although it can look pretty glamorous from the outside, the life of a travel photographer is pretty lonely, and involves a lot of very early mornings and late night,s with little time to relax. For me though, it is the most interesting branch of photography, and I wouldn’t swap it for anything else. Having said all that, like any other business, it needs to make money, otherwise it wouldn’t be sustainable.

Here are my 10 tips to help you capture sellable travel stock photos on every trip.

1. Know as much as possible

Not only will you need to research your destination, but as a travel photographer you will also need to be aware of travel trends and potential hotspots, as these are places from which clients (and stock agencies) are likely to require images.

2. Cover as much as you can

Unless you are sent out on an assignment with a specific brief, you will need to try and cover as many subjects as possible on any given destination, whether it’s a country or a city. Obviously, it is impossible to photograph everything, but by researching the destination and creating a shot list, you can cover a broad range of subjects.

3. Maximize every location

Stock photography is a numbers game, the more photos you have the better your chances of selling some. So it’s vital to try and capture as many different photographs as possible, at every location. A big part of this is planning and research, but once you have taken that first shot, look for the second, third, and fourth – utilizing different angles or perspectives that can add variety, and tell a completely different story.

This is the main scene that I was photographing.

This is the main scene that I was photographing.

But behind me was a stack of chopped wood. This image has netted me more sales than the photo's of the scenery.

But behind me was a stack of chopped wood. This image has netted me more sales than the photos of the scenery.

4. Make every photo your best

Although it is important to take as many photos as possible, you still need to keep the standard high. It doesn’t matter if you have 10,000 photos that are not good, as no one will purchase them, so always try to make sure every photo you take is the best it can be. That means photographing the subject in the best possible light and composition, and also returning to the same spot again and again, if that is what you need to do (time permitting).

5. Look for minimum effort photos

Some of my best selling photos are ones that were taken with minimal effort, and cost. Try to keep your eyes open for potential opportunities around you – that means you capture photos without having to go out of your way to get there, or spend money.

Whilst photographing the London skyline, I noticed a market vendor selling these apples. This image has recently sold for $460

While photographing the London skyline, I noticed a market vendor selling these apples. This image has recently sold for $360!

6. Imagine the story

One of the most powerful elements of photography is that a photograph can tell a much more interesting story than trying to describe it to someone. So, for every photo, try to imagine what the story would be, and what is the narrative that the viewer will take away from it.

A far more interesting story than the standard view of the mountains.

A far more interesting story than the standard view of the mountains.

7. Think about usage

Will the photograph work as a double page spread, or is your point of interest in the middle of the image? Have you got permission to sell the photo if it is private property? You need to think about all of the different usage elements while on a trip. It’s best to capture the photo in a few different crops, and in both landscape and portrait orientation, just in case (if the composition works).

8. Shoot first, re-shoot later

If the composition and lighting works, make sure you capture the photo. Never assume that you can re-create it later. Sometimes you will be able to capture a better photo the second time, but don’t rely on that.

I took this photo as a walker passed me through this narrow walkway. I then waited and waited to see if I could capture another shot with other people, but no one else walked past. Never miss the shot, you may not get another chance.

I took this photo as a walker passed me through this narrow walkway. I then waited to see if I could capture another shot with other people, but no one else walked past. Never miss the shot, you may not get another chance.

9. Get model and property releases

Although you don’t need releases in majority of cases for usage of photos in editorials, simply put, photos with model or property releases, “multiply the value of the shots at least 10 fold” – Rick Carlson, President, DesignPics – so do your best to get releases wherever possible.

10. Be ruthless

When editing your photos after the trip, be your own critic when assessing the quality of the photos, and only send or upload those of the highest standard. Every photo should stand on its own merit, not the time or effort it took to take it.

This is a competitive industry, and selling photos is tough. But, with the right attitude, hard work and planning, not to mention practice, over time you will be able to get a sense of the type of images and compositions that sell well as stock photos.

Have you got photos that have sold well? Please share them below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and travelling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, American Express and many more. Follow his travels and imagery on Instagram and Facebook.

  • Ved

    great tips. If I can ask, what type of images sell the most?

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi

    Difficult to choose one type of image that sells well as obviously trends change, news stories comes and go. Really depends on what photography you do. For example current news images will do well but so will travel images of usual destinations with a twist or something unique. The key is to stay up-to-date in whatever field you are photographing.

    Kav

  • me

    $360 for apples? Tell me where you sell your photos! I get just 25 cents per image through the stock site I sell through 🙁

  • tommy5677

    I think I’m one of those lazy photographers. When I travel I never take my 35mm DSLR because I just don’t want to lug all that stuff on vacation. Instead I take my Olympus Stylus I, the sweetest P&S camera I’ve found. The question would be, is this camera capable of taking stock quality photos?

  • tommy5677

    I think I’m one of those lazy photographers. When I travel I never take my 35mm DSLR because I just don’t want to lug all that stuff on vacation. Instead I take my Olympus Stylus I, the sweetest P&S camera I’ve found. The question would be, is this camera capable of taking stock quality photos?

  • Varunjith

    Did you get model release for image in point 8?.

  • Ved

    thanks for reply Kav!

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi, no for particular image I didn’t get one as the man didn’t speak any English. But the image in point 6, I did get one. I do try to get one whenever I can.

    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    That particular image sold through Alamy. I personally don’t work with Microstock image libraries that sell images for very cheap.
    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Tommy

    Most stock libraries will have a list of accepted cameras that they would accept images from. So you should check with them, but generally speaking all the ones I work with wouldn’t accept images from P&S cameras. I would suggest you always carry you DSLR. 1 camera and a couple of lenses doesn’t take up a lot of room.

    Regards
    Kav

  • Kinson Cheng

    Do you think MP of the camera matters?

    Reason I ask is for creative image stock agency such as Getty determines the price based on size/dimension, so theoretically speaking the higher the MP (and therefore dimension) the higher the possible sale.

    Also do you think the size plays a role in the kind of licensing your image gets?

  • Ralph Nardell

    Hi and thank you for the tips, and great photos in the article. My only question is, do you have any recommendations for where to submit travel stock photos for sale? Right now I use Image Brief but I am wondering if there are agencies dedicated to travel that you’d recommend. Thanks!

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Kinson

    Yes it does. If your image can’t be used at a big size because it isn’t taken at a high enough resolution then it won’t be.

    Stock agencies usually have a list of cameras or minimum megapixel, resolution etc that all images have to be. This is because they need to ensure that images can be used at big sizes as well and small. This doesn’t mean that for example if you have a 24 megapixel camera your images will sell for higher that someone with an 18 magapixel camera as 18 megapixels would also be capable of capturing images at a high enough quality to be used at bigger sizes. Hope this helps?

    Kav

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Ralph

    Getty, Corbis, Alamy cover all subjects. I would suggest having a look at the British Association of Picture Libraries & Agencies. This is the trade association for stock agencies in Britain and have a list of the stock agencies who are members. You can search by subject which will help you find the relevant stock agency.

    http://www.bapla.org.uk/en/pages/show_subject_search.html

    I would then look at their images and see if they fit your style and contact them with an initial submission if suitable (they would all have how to contribute section somewhere on their site).

    You may have similar in your country of residence if you don’t live in Britain.

    Hope this helps.

    Kav

  • Kinson Cheng

    Hi Kav,

    Thanks for your reply. Well I’m currently using a 24mp camera, but still considering whether it’s worthwhile to go higher for stock imagery (The beasty 42mp A7RII).

    Overkill you reckon?

  • Kav Dadfar

    Don’t buy it purely on the basis that you will make more sales or greater amounts per image. If someone wants to buy an image at 72dpi for website use it won’t make a difference if it’s taken with a 42mp camera or 18mp. Most of the common stock agencies will require images at 300dpi and file sizes of around 50MB. So as long as you have a full frame camera you are fine. The more important element is the quality of the photos themselves.

  • Ron Ginther

    Great tips! I am currently shooting raw at 12 megapixels with a Nikon D300s. I have had several images published in books. Most recently in the book Missouri’s State Parks and Historic Sites. I would like to submit images to travel and nature magazines. Would images shot at 12 MP be suited to their publication needs?

  • Kav Dadfar

    Hi Ron

    Depends on the magazine and the size they wish to use the image as but I think you probably will be OK with that camera. The only way you’ll know for sure is by trying. Good luck.

    Kav

  • arkhunter

    Do you get more money for Rights Managed vs. Royalty Free licensing?

  • wri7913

    There are several websites that list trending stock photo types that you may narrow focus on. Also be aware of shooting schedules. There is an infographic floating around that shows typical stock photo schedule for most photographers. Such as shooting july 4th stuff now rather then when its too late and the advertisers already printed all their brochures, billboards and such.

  • wri7913

    There are several websites that list trending stock photo types that you may narrow focus on. Also be aware of shooting schedules. There is an infographic floating around that shows typical stock photo schedule for most photographers. Such as shooting july 4th stuff now rather then when its too late and the advertisers already printed all their brochures, billboards and such.

  • This is great and very helpfull article! I have worked a lot with food in microstock but I am also planing to start with travel and landscape microstock. Thanks!

    http://shutterstock.com/g/stockphotographer

  • Kav Dadfar

    No worries glad you found it helpful. Kav

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