Making Money From Travel Photography?

Travel Forums Travel Photography Making Money From Travel Photography?

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1. Posted by chrisavfc (Full Member 104 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Hi all,

Can you really make some money from travel photography (or at least enough to keep you travelling) if your just an intermediate photographer

if so how do you go about it?

It sounds to good to be true!

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5760 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

From everything I've read, it is too good to be true.

There are millions upon millions of other intermediate photographers with 5-8 megapixel cameras out there right now. Stock archives would literally be overflowing with random sunsets and waterfalls and skylines... if they would accept the output from these photographers. Since they're not, I'd say that it's a pretty safe bet that they don't. They want 'lifestyle' and models (with release) and abstract and maybe architecture, but 95% of what us travellers would produce is completely irrelevant to them.
Then the alternative are sites like shutterstock, which will give you pennies for your shots. All your avarage photographs will never be downloaded, and if you happen to have one or two really good ones in your collection, you'll be getting less than one percent of what they'd properly be worth. Definitely not a good way to go either.

Now if you're really good, you could still make a living as a travel photographer (though photography will never be a job you can get rich from), but you'd have to really good.

That said, all this knowledge won't prevent me from keeping a very careful eye on my tens of thousands of photographs as I sort through them for printing when I get back home, and maybe deciding that a few of them are good enough to give submitting them to a stock library a try anyway. And who knows, I might get lucky and get accepted and manage to actually sell them and recoup a tiny percentage of my travel costs...
But definitely don't go and rely on something like that. Photography is a job like any other, and to make a living out of it, 80% of the effort will have to go into marketing and trying to sell your pictures - and that'll be the end of the travelling...

3. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5586 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

I've read quite a bit about istockphoto but like Sander says, it would be VERY tough to make a living from this. It would be more just for kicks if I ever thought anything I had was good enough to submit...

4. Posted by georgep (Respected Member 201 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Of course some people do it :)

But like the others said before it's very very very difficult and it takes thousands of good shots to start making anything.

And then there is always the thing like PAY for instance for some pictures i sold i just will get paid when the customer start to use it. For instance i sold a picture for a book and i will get paid when the book is ready. So often that can mean that you don't get that pay for a year or so.

My advise if you want to get rich keep out. If you want to try just do but keep away from the cheap agents that pay you like less then a dollar for each sold picture. And if i was you i would even stay away from royalty free.


5. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5760 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

George, out of curiosity - how did you research stock libraries / decide upon those you're going with? (I've come across that american site before, but the new zealand one was completely new to me.) Did you purposefully select agencies which were okay with non-exclusive use, or was that more coincidence? (Hmm, or are the two collections completely separate, with just similar images from the same shoots being uploaded to the two? I didn't look that closely...)
When you first submitted images, were they immediately accepted, or did you try multiple sites (or submitted multiple batches to the same sites) before you got lucky?

6. Posted by Joao (Budding Member 29 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Hi guys,

I've been wondering around the same question, trying to finance or at least get some extra funding to help on a RTW trip.
Most of us have some nice pics but far from being full pros, competition is tough!

What I am trying to do is to approach a couple of magazines and sell them photos + articles. I know people who have done it and got decent extra money, after the trip. So instead of just selling pictures, you sell them a story. I guess if it's not only about the pictures but about a story, about some different angle you have on life, travel, or some area or country not many people have covered, you could try this writing + photos "pack" to sell to a magazine. Still you'd need to write decently, but that's a different approach.

I'm going to try it, let's see.


7. Posted by georgep (Respected Member 201 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Here is a small list of what me made choose my agents:
- Small enough not to be a number.
- No exclusive rights
- Good percentage of you sale (something you really need to watch)

Till now i am lucky enough to be accepted by all the agents i applyed to accept one that just stopt takeing new photographers.

And of course lot's of work will be rejected by agents. I now work with 3 agents (and some small once for the left overs)
So how i work is i send my work to agent 1 (the one i like to work with best) if they don't accept then they go to agent 2 and 3 (yes both) so that way i put away like 80-90% of what i think is good enough. But that also means that still a lot is in my archives that is not placed out.

Normaly i would keep simulars away from other agents. you con't want one agent competing with the other, that is not good for your sales.

And like Joao says competition is tough and if you want to make a decent living you really need to work hard.

And i think that the income level will be higher if you sell story's with the pictures then just selling pictures trough agents.

Ok hope this helps you guys,


8. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5760 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Thanks. I had already been looking at the percentages, yes, but the "small enough not to be a number" thing is definitely a worthwhile observation.

'course, it's still at least six months away before I'd ever have enough time to go and sort through my originals, and then probably several months before I have a decent sized batch for submission, but it's good to think ahead. :)

9. Posted by stevieh (Respected Member 617 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Hi Chris,
Any freelance work takes persistence, so there are no guarantees.
Ideally, you'd have a brief to work to, but this is highly unlikely. So you are going to have to travel, take photos and do your best.

The key is to find in advance what publications are likely to want, and most importantly, how they want it submitted. I did a RTW trip, took loads of digital photos, and discovered that the glossies simply won't entertain anything other than transparancies. Not even prints are good enough.

And don't describe yourself as 'intermediate'. You are a photographer.
Don't get hung up on what camera you have (as long as you can achieve the format your potential customers want). I belong to a travel writers forum, where someone said "Photography is as much about the camera as writing is about a word processor."
What matters is your composition and your imagination.
Good luck.

10. Posted by georgep (Respected Member 201 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Verry Funny how some places still like Slides.

Specialy if i noticed that most agents these days only want digital. (all my agents only accept digital files)