Like any profession, over the years and countless hours of working and talking to people in the industry, you will pick up tips, advice and even things to avoid. This will ultimately help you improve and possibly make your photography business more profitable. Here are some of the main tips that I have picked up over the years from people in the travel photography industry.
#1 – Blue Sells
If you were to line up a whole load of travel magazines next to each other, you will notice that the vast majority of their front covers have something in common, the color blue. Whether it is the sky or water, magazine covers tend to feature photos of gorgeous sunny days rather than moody, dark and atmospheric conditions.
I had always noticed that my “gorgeous sunny weather” shots outsold the photos with other types of conditions. But it wasn’t until the editor of a travel magazine told me the reason that I understood why. They found that historically, issues with beautiful sunny shots on the front cover sold much better than issues with dark and moody conditions. The reason is that most people going about their day aspire for tranquil and beautiful holiday conditions. So, while a stormy landscape photo might look more dramatic and striking, the average holidaymaker doesn’t want to go somewhere and experience a storm.
#2 – Avoid “Tourist” Shots
I remember asking a picture editor once for the single biggest piece of advice they could give me and they responded with, “Don’t send me tourist shots.” But what does that mean? After all, if you are in a city and have to photograph the most famous landmark then how do you avoid tourist shots. Once I delved in a little deeper, I realized what he meant was that he didn’t want just another shot of the famous landmark taken at eye level because he could get thousands of them through any stock agency.
Instead, he wanted to see a photo that demonstrated an experience, feeling or mood. This was a few years back and more and more I have been asked by picture editors and stock agencies I work with to try to show these “experiences” in the photos. So rather than taking a photo of the landmark, it might be worth photographing a couple enjoying an ice cream in its shadow. The key is to look beyond the obvious shot and look for a moment or composition that can convey an emotion.
#3 – Give Them People
Often the easiest way to capture unique photos that don’t look like tourist shots is to include people. But including people in your photos can also convey a sense of scale, portray an emotion or a feeling and often tell a much more intriguing story. One of the best bits of advice I was given was that including people can also help you capture different types of shots from the same location. That, in turn, means you can maximize your stock shots from a single location.
For example, take any scene in front of you. If you capture that scene with a couple admiring the view holding hands it tells a completely different story than capturing the scene with someone running or cycling. So you suddenly go from one photograph per location to three. Move slightly around the scene and capture a few different scenarios and you can suddenly end up with a whole load of different stories from practically the same spot. As any stock photographer will tell you, it’s a numbers game and the more photos you have the better your chances of selling some.
#4 – Check Every Photo, Every Time
Photography is a competitive industry. You are often competing with pretty much everyone with a camera to try and get work or make sales. The last thing you want to happen is to have a photo that has been chosen by a client come back to you because it isn’t focused properly or you haven’t removed the dust particles. Not only is it embarrassing, but it can also hurt your chances of working with that client further down the line.
So don’t try and cut corners. You worked hard to capture the photo so do it justice and make sure it looks its best when it’s going in front of someone else. Check every inch of the photos you intend to send out to clients. View them at 100% in post-production and make any corrections or edit as necessary. Be professional in your approach from start to the finish.
#5 – Face the Opposite Way
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, there will usually be a spot marked “sunset viewpoint” or similar where everyone will go to capture their photos. Often this is because that particular spot offers the best view. But sometimes it is because it is the easiest and most convenient place for lots of people to get to or stand.
One bit of advice that has been floating around for many years and has been said by numerous photographers, is that when you get to one such location, face the other way. Go against the crowd and photograph what is behind everyone. Clearly this advice shouldn’t be taken literally as sometimes photographing the other way wouldn’t give a good photo. The point is to look beyond the first and most obvious location and viewpoint.
If you are prepared to do your research beforehand and are willing to put more of an effort in than the average tourist, you will undoubtedly end up with better photos.
#6 – Step Closer
The world famous war photographer, Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”. This is something that most amateur photographers struggle with for travel photography and photographing people. It often means having to get close to your subject and they then might notice you.
The truth is that usually, the worst that can happen is that the person you want to photograph will just say no. But getting closer means having to be right in the middle of the action and that you also have to engage with that person and build a connection, if even briefly. This, in turn, will transfer into your photographs and give you a much better and more intimate photo than if you were standing 300 yards away with a telephoto lens.
#7 0 Don’t Be Shy
One of the biggest things that you may realize as a photographer is how accommodating and intrigued most people are about your profession. I have not kept a tally of the number of conversations I’ve had with total strangers all based around photography, but it’s been a lot. One thing I learned is that sometimes when you have a camera on your shoulder it can work to your advantage (and sometimes it can work against you) as people may help you capture the photo that you want to take.
But you have to be willing to ask. If you don’t ask you will not get. For example, one of the best places to take photographs of a city is from your hotel room. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have been upgraded to a room with a better view by simply asking and explaining the reason for it. This extends to if you want to photograph people, places, and so on. Don’t be shy, just ask. The worst that could happen is being told no.
Over the years you will pick up your own tips and advice that you have been given or have derived from your own experiences. In the meantime, hopefully, the ones above can be as helpful to you as they have been for me.
Do you have any other bits of advice that you have been given? Please share below.