Getting into travel photography is more challenging than breaking into other genres of photography. Bigger investments have to be made, in terms of time and resources, because a lot of travel photography jobs are dependent on having “image banks” or image libraries.
The rise in popularity of travel bloggers in the past few years have made it rare for companies to commission photographers for shoots, preferring instead to have a bank of images to choose from. This means many photographers often take images while on personal holidays at personal expense and then try to sell the images after they return home.
The types of companies travel photographers can sell images to include:
- Travel/tour companies (for brochures, websites, etc)
- Publishing companies (magazine editors, book publishers, etc)
- Image stock libraries (Getty, Shutterstock, etc)
If you can build a relationship with certain companies you will be able to approach them on an ongoing basis as you build up your image library.
1) Build an image library
When starting your image library, it is best to take photos of where you live first (unless you’re planning a trip). Use your local knowledge to your advantage. Take photographs of places or features that only locals know about to make your images more marketable to an international market.
Most of the time, travel photos aren’t time sensitive so you can gradually build up a collection of images of a particular place or event for your clients to choose from.
2) Keep up with trends while keeping an eye out for up-and-coming locales
In line with building up an image bank, you need to research the changing preferences and needs of your clients. You need to strike a balance in your image bank with in-demand content and locations that may be popular in the near future.
Be aware of fresh or up and coming locations for your image bank. When overseas, talk to people in your local hostel to find out where their customers are travelling or search through different financial and government blogs and websites to see where new resorts are being developed. The key to being a successful travel photographer is being being able to anticipate market trends and have plenty of relevant images.
3) Travel photos need to be shot in high resolution
Last year, I was contacted by an international airline that found me through Instagram. They were interested in using some of my photos of Melbourne for their in-flight magazine, but since I was away travelling at the time, the only versions of these images that I had with me on my laptop were compressed. In the end, even though they liked my images, the job went to another photographer because the resolution of my images weren’t big enough for the magazine’s needs.
With that in mind, make sure you always shoot your photos using the high resolution setting of your camera in RAW and store these images in a cloud that is easily accessible to you and any potential clients.
4) Composition is key
Keeping in mind the different uses for travel photos, it is important to be deliberate about your composition. Take a diverse range of shots that cover both portrait and landscape orientations to ensure that your images are versatile for all types of clients. For example, with magazine clients you need to make sure that you always leave a lot of negative space for text, and remember that landscape photos will most often be divided by page joins.
5) Pack light
Tailor your gear according to your needs. It’s not practical to be climbing mountains and navigating strange cities with lots of camera bodies and flash units and heavy tripods. If you get to your destination, tired and weary from carrying around all that unnecessary equipment then surely it will affect your final image.
Invest in a heavy duty, waterproof camera bag that has good back support and lots of pockets to avoid theft, and insure your equipment. No one wants to damage their gear while in a foreign location so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
6) Be realistic
The competition and the constantly changing demands of the market make travel photography a very volatile industry. It’s not like being a wedding or family photographer where the market is more consistent and there are minimal logistical demands.
With this in mind, it can be difficult to make a living as a full-time travel photographer. Be realistic about your prospects and make sure you diversify your projects to stay financially secure. You’ll probably enjoy travel photography most when you do it as a sideline project as part of your own personal travels.