Can you make money as a travel photographer?
The answer is, in a pandemic-free world, yes you can.
The thought of traveling the world and making money from photography is very appealing. You really need to know what sells, who to sell to, and how to plan it all out.
Well, this is where you need to think outside the box. If you think you are going to take a trip to Paris, take some killer photos of the Eiffel tower, and sell them when you get home, think again. All of the world’s best-known landmarks have been photographed by everyone and their dog. I can guarantee you there are no magazine editors saying if only I could get my hands on a photo of the Eiffel tower. Every stock website has thousands of images of the Eiffel tower available to purchase for a few dollars.
So what you need to think about are all the other possible photos you can take that tell a different story of Paris. Heck, don’t even go to Paris, go on a tour of the small towns and villages of rural France.
What about photographing all the small towns and villages in your state or province. This might be a good place to start, and it won’t cost as much.
If you avoid the obvious tourist spots you will have a better chance of selling your work in a less crowded marketplace.
Who is going to buy your photos?
Well, the first option is to put the photos on stock websites. Once uploaded your photos can be sold for use in magazines, websites, ads, etc. The buyer is paying for a license to use the image, they are not buying the photo outright.
Selling on stock websites is a numbers game, you need to sell a lot of licenses if you want to make a good living off them. 15 years ago two of the top photographers on the stock websites were Yuri Arcurs and Andres Rodriguez. They both made over 1 million dollars a year but each of them had uploaded over 25,000 images to the sites. So don’t think you are going to make much money from 50 photos. You have to be prolific.
Check out some of the stock sites and see which offer you the best deal. I use Adobe Stock currently because they allow me to set my price. Other sites are Shutter stock, Big stock, iStock, and Pond5. Pond5 is aimed more at the videographers.
Another option to make money from your work is to sell it yourself. Let’s say you have just got back from a vacation in Greece, and have a collection of 2000 images. Contact every Greek restaurant in your state, province, or county and offer your images for menus, wall art, or advertising. Register a website domain, such as ImagesofGreece.com, and let the view your work and order online. Selling this way can be very lucrative.
Yet another example: Take photos of your town or city and try to sell them to all the local businesses for their offices. I know a photographer that did that and sold some to a local real estate company for their new offices.
Planning is critical, you have to know who you aim to sell to so you know what photos to take.
If you are taking a photo of a cathedral don’t role up at noon and expect to get an image that sells. Turn up early and get your shots before the tourists have had breakfast.
If you take a photo with people in it you need a model release form for everyone that is identifiable. Otherwise, it’s considered an editorial image for non-commercial use. So it can only be used in newspapers and magazines for news and opinion pieces.
If your images have no one in them or they do and you have a release signed, they can be used to sell products and that can get you more money.
Before you decide what you are going to shoot, write down ten different types of businesses. Then make a list of what kinds of images you could sell them. Once you have identified your potential customers, then shoot with them in mind.
When you know what you are going to shoot you will know what equipment you will need.
If you are traveling abroad you might want to scale down, but will you have everything you need? You want killer images that you can sell and you need the right equipment to get those images.