Many travel photographers start their careers trying to earn extra money with stock photography.
It was the same for me.
I started by making a careful selection and uploading some photos of my first trip. Then the first sale came, together with the surprise and enthusiasm that motivated me to continue. Over time this methodical work has given its results. It took me a long time to improve my stock portfolio and put together an effective and diversified collection of travel images, but it worth the effort as it helped me to be more critical and organized with my work.
With that said, let’s face the truth, making money with stock photography nowadays is not easy, just as it is not easy to maintain a balance between quantity and quality of images, but with commitment and dedication you can still make it and create your own space. There’s always a need for new content and it’s a constantly evolving industry.
To help you get better results over time and improve your workflow with stock travel photography I’ve wrote a list of 6 tips, product of my personal experience.
1. Research and Analyze of the Work Done by Others Photographers
Observing and analyzing the work of other photographers is fundamental and helps to feel inspired and produce new ideas.
Let’s see a practical example: just imagine that your next destination is Paris and you don’t know anything about the city. Where do you start your research?
First of all online: study the library of the agency you collaborate with. Surely they already have a million vertical photos of the Eiffel Tower, all similar to each other, but maybe by adding other elements of the city with the tower in the background you could generate a unique and more marketable content. Make a note of it for the trip.
Take a look also at the portfolio of local professional photographers in the destination you need to photograph, the libraries of other stock agencies and search on Instagram through hashtags. You should try to be creative and improve the content already available, not copy it.
Once you’re at destination, it would be good to rely on a local photographer who can guide you to the right places during the best moments of light, increasing your chances of getting the images you need. Not only that, you can also move more safely in a place you don’t know.
2. Write Down a List
As a travel photographer in Buenos Aires I spent a lot of time back and forth through the city trying to improve my portfolio. So much that sometimes I feel that I lack inspiration to generate new travel content about the city, but for my work I have to force myself to get new images and always be creative.
What do I do?
I check the images I already have and I write down a list of elements or situations to photograph, which can add value to my portfolio, always thinking about light. Writing a checklist pushes me to order my ideas and put them into practice, thus finding the inspiration I was looking for.
3. Photograph Around Home
It is obvious that one of the best ways to improve a travel portfolio is to travel often, but not everyone can do so and if at first you find yourself in this situation, try to take advantage of your surroundings. No one knows your home better than you do. By building a portfolio locally, you can improve your skills and knowledge and it won’t cost you anything except time.
Keep in mind that travel photography includes many genres, from portraits to festivals, landscapes, etc. and you will have many possibilities in terms of content to expand your work. Make a list of what you could photograph and try to complete the task, it will be a useful exercise, not only for the stock travel photography portfolio, but also to create more direct connections at a local level, perhaps for agencies or companies related to the tourism industry. It will be the first step towards international travel photography!
4. Think Like an Editorial Photographer
If you want to increase your chances of getting good sales and publications so that your photos can be published on the cover of a book or magazine, you will have to put yourself in the shoes of an editorial photographer.
It is certain that generally the elements of a photograph should be in a compositional balance, but think beyond that. Think about your photograph printed on a publication and try to offer versions of the same photo that left space for a cover title.
5. Shoot Also in Vertical Orientation
Many people tend to photograph mostly in a horizontal orientation.
If you are one of these: do not forget to shoot vertically. Choose the orientation that best suits the situation and if that same image looks good in both of them, even better.
Trying to photograph with different orientations, angles and points of view increases the variety of your work, the amount of images and the possibilities of selling.
6. CLE: Composition, Light, Emotion
To be visually strong an image must generate an emotion in the person who is looking at it. The composition and the use of light play an important role in this dynamic, try to keep it always in mind to produce images that stand out from the average.
If you’re just starting out and don’t know much about theory yet, you can learn a lot from a well written manual. That’s how I started too, as a self-taught student. But over time I have learned even more from direct experience with other photographers. If you have the chance to take part in a photography course or a 1-on-1 workshop, it will be a good opportunity to remove any doubts.
Travel Photography is an inspiring genre and must bring the observer on a imaginary journey to remote places, intrigue him, make him dream. You will have to do it with your own style, according to your vision and experience. With the right determination, your stock Travel Photography portfolio will improve with time and you will develop a critical eye on your work.
If you are interested in learning how to build a photography portfolio step-by-step take a look at this guide I wrote recently.