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It’s true that selling travel photography isn’t easy, at least in the beginning, but it’s not completely impossible…
It’s the same when starting any new business, in the beginning things are going to be hard but you just need to push through it, work hard and eventually you’ll get there. It does help knowing what to push though so you’re not wasting your time on things that aren’t going to go anywhere. When you first start looking into selling travel photography you need to make the best use out of the time you have. Getting into travel photography is a time consuming process but with a little direction you can make things easier for yourself.
There are two main reasons why I say that.
Firstly it has a very low barrier to entry, all you need to do is signup as a contributor, fill in the application with a few sample images attached (make sure they represent your best work) and once you’ve been accepted you can start uploading.
Secondly, even though you might only make a small amount, the motivation you get from seeing a few dollars roll in is massive. Seeing first hand that people are actually willing to pay for your photos is a great feeling.
The bad thing about micro stock is the time it takes to upload, title, tag and add descriptions to every photo. Not only that, but it’s mind-numbingly boring.
Once it’s done though it never has to be done again and if you have enough good quality photos, it becomes a form of passive income. All you need to do is upload more as and when you take them.
What I mean by editorial is selling your images to magazines and websites.
Any magazine or website that publishes regularly is always hungry for fresh content, trust us we know. Again though, it takes a lot of time to chase editorial work, just sending editors sample images and hoping they want to buy isn’t enough.
You need to pitch your work really well. That means taking a bunch of images and writing a background story to bring them alive.
So you need to become a travel writer as well as a travel photographer. If you can write a captivating story about a destination that goes with a few amazing photos you have a much better chance of selling them.
Unlike micro stock, you get to set your price. It’s difficult to set a price especially at the beginning but a good rule of thumb is to use the Getty Images Pricing Calculator. If you’re just starting out and don’t have many references then you might want to charge a little less but use that as your starting point.
When quoting a price for editorial work let the publication first say if they are interested.
If they are, then talk numbers and don’t skirt around the subject, just be upfront about it and give them a number. At first that can seem a little daunting to some people but they will take you more seriously if you are confident in the value of your work.
Selling travel photography prints is maybe one of the most obvious ways to make money, but also one of the hardest.
With micro stock the agency you sign up with is doing the marketing for you. With editorial you’re doing the marketing but your client (the magazine or website) is making money either directly or indirectly from publishing your work, so they will see a return on their investment.
But with selling prints you’re not only having to do the marketing yourself but also sell to people who won’t ever see a monetary return on investment, so you really have to sell the artistic value in you work.
The best way to sell prints is to already have a following, normally on social media.
People buy from people, so if you are already familiar with them and they like you enough to follow you then you are going to have a better chance of selling to them. Your work also has to be really high quality to sell as prints as people are going to hang them in their homes.
That means not only high quality images, but high quality printing, high quality paper and good packaging to protect it in the post.
All of these things aren’t cheap. So you’ll need two things, followers and money to be able to produce quality work that people will be expecting.
To sum up
As a beginner you really have 2, maybe 3, options when it comes to selling travel photography.
You can go down the micro stock route, editorial route or the harder route of selling prints.
Also, make sure you have a good beginner mirrorless camera as that will help when it comes to satisfying the quality requirements of stock photo sites and editors.
I would suggest trying the first two and seeing how you get on with that whilst building up a following on social media.
If you want to know more about what it takes to become a successful travel photographer other than just the selling photos part then click here.
I’m a professional travel photographer, and I’ve been living the digital nomad lifestyle since 2016. I make money by working on client assignments, selling stock photography and helping other photographers by sharing my experiences on this website. I move around at my own pace (I hate fast-paced travel) and like to spend a few months getting to know each place I base myself in.
My writing and photos have been featured on industry leading websites such as Digital Photography School, Atlas Obscura and the world’s leading underwater photography resource The Underwater Photography Guide. I authored an eBook called “Breaking Into Travel Photography: The complete guide to carving out a career in travel photography” that has been published on Amazon. My stock images have also appeared in ads promoting destinations and companies that sometimes has been a surprise, even to me. But I guess that’s the nature of stock photography, you never know who will license them!
I’m always happy to connect, so feel free to reach out!