Make Money with Your Travel Photos :
Many of us who love travel also enjoy documenting our traveling experiences with our cameras. And yes, I know this may be the understatement of the year. Some of us absolutely love taking pictures while we are on vacation. And some of us are pretty darn good at travel photography!
Whether its pictures of the places and people you visit or pictures of yourself at those same places, many of you come home with some beautiful images. So wouldn’t it be great if you could make some money of your photographs and fund your next trip?
Camera Gear and Software
If you want to get started in travel photography then it’s important to have a camera that is capable of getting good quality images. Fortunately, most cameras today take incredible pictures and the quality is getting better every day. You don’t have to break the bank, particularly if you just want to dip your toes in the pool.
I believe the most important requirement when purchasing a new camera is the capability to shoot “raw” files. A raw file is a type of file format that allows for flexible processing on software once you get the picture back home.
Indeed, raw files provide you with the ability to easily correct mistakes made with exposure, white balance, etc. For amateur travel photographers the ability to work with a file in software can be the difference between a great image and a throw away. Just make sure you set your camera to raw before you head out!
Currently, my go to camera is the Olympus EM-1. Check out Olympus’s full line up here. It’s what is known as a mirrorless micro 4/3 camera.
This type of camera produces professional quality images, but comes in much smaller size than a typical DSLR. I can easily pack this camera in my carry-on luggage and I walk around all day without getting a sore back. For a full description of what I take on holiday check out my gear page here.
As I mention above, you will want to shoot raw files and get them back home to process on your computer. There are lots of great programs that can be used. And some are free to download.
I use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. This software costs $10 dollars a month through a subscription service with Adobe. I do 90% of my processing in Lightroom and its super easy to use. If you don’t already have a software solution, I recommend you look into something, get it and get comfortable using it.
Once you have the right camera for you, the next question is how you take a few travel photographs along with your personal holiday pictures? The important thing to understand is that certain pictures work for a reason. Our brains, yes we all have ’em, are naturally drawn to certain types of images. The qualities that you find attractive in a photograph or painting can be broken down into rules of composition. You can learn these rules. Anyone can. And you can apply them well with practice.
A full article on composition is not the purpose of this blog post. I hope to write something more exhaustive for my readers in the future, but for now I will list the main rules or guidelines used in travel photography. If you’re hungry for more on composition now go ahead and google these concepts or search them out on Youtube.
The following are the principles that you should consider learning:
- Rule of Thirds
- Leading Lines
- Including foreground, mid-ground, and background
- Framing or frame within a frame
- Focal points / depth of field
- Colour and colour theory
- Negative space / copy space
This is a pretty significant list and some of these concepts are difficult. However, understanding these rules will help you make photographs that appeal to other people (including buyers).
Practice Makes Perfect
Whether you buy into the 10,000 hours theory or not, I think we can agree that practices makes perfect. Some of us are naturals. Some of us have to work at it. It can be slow and painful and humbling. That’s my experience anyway. Here’s hoping you fall into the natural category!
If you want to be great then you need to get out and shoot. One of the best ways to practice and start getting images that can be sold right away is to practice in your home town. You don’t have to live in Paris. In fact, it may be better if you don’t. Keep reading below for more on that point.
Just get out there and photograph your home town. Start with sunrise and sunset skylines. Then go shoot the most important attractions in your town. It could be an old museum or a zoo. Go to festivals and holidays and photograph everything from people to fireworks.
I live in Calgary, Alberta and the photographs of my town are what I sell most. The great thing is is that if you mess up then you can just come back next weekend. No harm done and lots of room to practice and experiment with different settings and composition rules. Currently, I am teaching myself time lapse photography and I am primarily doing that here in Calgary.
Time and Location
There are four things that I want to say about time and location.
The first is that people will tell you that you need to shoot locations at sunrise, sunset and the time immediately before and after both. Many professional photographers will only shoot these times. And so you should shoot these times as well. At sunrise and sunset you can get some of the most beautiful light. This will help you create magical images.
However, (and this is the second thing i want to say) photographs taken during the day can be just as compelling. They can also be compelling from a commercial sales perspective, particularly because so many pros stick to sunrise and sunset.
The third thing I want to mentioned is that photographing awesome places will undoubtedly be rewarding for you. But don’t think that every picture has to be of the Golden Gate Bridge or the Louvre. In fact, famous locations have been so heavily photographed that it can be pretty much impossible to sell even the most amazing photograph. The numbers just work against you. And this was the fourth thing I wanted to mentioned.
You can take an amazing photograph of Saskatoon Saskatchewan at sunset and make more money that an awesome photograph of Big Ben. And you can do it because there is a demand and a lack of supply. And that’s much better than demand and oversupply.
Personally, I have sold far more Hawaii related shots than anything taken in Europe, and I think its partly the result of the fact that so many more people visit and photograph the major European destinations. So get off the beaten path!
Sell your Images
So once you have some photographs there are a number of options. I will be writing a more exhaustive overview of how you can sell your images, from pitching articles to magazines and newspapers to selling through micro stock websites.
For the time being, I will focus on micro stock websites because this is the least demanding and intimidating way to get started. Micro stock sites allow you to upload photographs. And then you receive a small royalty when the photograph is licensed on a non-exclusive basis. Essentially, the same photograph can be licensed over and over again, but for a relatively small amount.
Usually you have to ‘audition’ by submitting a sample. So go get 10 really great images and then go through the application process. Once you are accepted then upload, describe and properly keyword those images. It can be tedious, but once they’re online then you can be sit back and make some passive income.
The micro stock web sites I currently use most in order of money that I receive are:
If you apply to only one, then my recommendation is Shutterstock. It’s a good site with good sales.