The Business Of Travel Photography; Great Work If You Can Get It

Jill Rahn's picture
There’s no question that travel photography has long been a top pick when photographers look at career paths. The promise of seeing the world, making images, and getting paid for it all is a very attractive proposition. But does reality meet fantasy here? To find out we interviewed four photographers from the travel field to get their feedback on sales, marketing, and how they feel about the changes in the travel photography business. It is not an easy road. Photographers have had to adapt to new technology, to changes wrought by eCommerce, and to the shift from assignment work to stock sales.

Each of these photographers have made many changes to compete successfully in this business. They include Glen Allison (www.glenallison.com), Justin Bastien (www.justinbastien.com), Lorne Resnick (www.lorneresnick.com), and David Sanger (www.davidsanger.com).

Shutterbug: For your travel photography work each year, how do sales break down in income from assignment, stock, fine art, etc.?

Photos, © Glen Allison

Justin Bastien: I would say 90 percent of my travel photography is sold as stock. That being said, most of the time when I am traveling I have several things in mind that I am shooting for clients based on their current needs. Before I leave for a trip I often check in with commercial and editorial clients to let them know where I will be going, what I will be doing, and who I will be working with to see if I can fulfill their needs while I am away. Even though there is some financial risk in this approach, it does provide me with a lot of freedom.

On a commercial assignment the entire experience is extremely focused on a single objective, which leaves less room for exploring and catching those magical, natural moments. For example, this morning I woke up on the front deck of the sailboat to a beautiful rainbow spread across the bay. I also like this approach as it allows me to come up with fun project ideas and pitch them to clients. Plus, I am not locked into shooting and submitting to a single client. I find that a lot of clients are really looking for cool, inspiring ideas. The more you can bring to the table in this area the better.

Glen Allison: Currently about 95 percent of my travel photography is sold as stock imagery and the balance of my income is generated from sales of fine art prints and Photoshop Actions sold through eCommerce on my website.

Photos, © Glen Allison

Lorne Resnick: Right now I’d say it is 10 percent assignment, 40 percent stock, and 50 percent teaching travel photography workshops around the world.

David Sanger: Initially, years ago, I started out doing only travel stock, licensing individual images (actual slides!) directly to travel clients and publications. Once I got a good portfolio together I approached magazines and tourist boards and my assignment work steadily increased until it was about 50 percent of my travel photography revenue. Then, as I placed more and more work with stock agencies, revenue from stock increased significantly. As the editorial market changed some of my older client publications changed hands (or staff). I decided to move 100 percent into stock, financing my own travel trips. This gave me much more freedom to select destinations and shoot specifically to get comprehensive stock coverage.

Photos © Justin Bastien

SB: What are the best ways you have found to sell your work?

Lorne Resnick: These days travel photography that sells as stock must go above and beyond the “I was there and saw this”—even in great light. It needs to provide an emotionally compelling visual that is different from what is out there. People are bombarded with visuals these days and you need to craft images that reach out above the crowd and communicate a powerful message.

Justin Bastien: I have an existing client base who I work with that keeps me pretty busy. Most of my new clients tend to come in via personal references, which I prefer, or they see my work in ads, editorial publications, my website, my blog, or via search engines.

I plan on doing more with my blog and setting up a personal stock site. As more and more work comes in it’s difficult to set the time aside for marketing. Generally, I try to head in the direction of working with clients and brands I like to work with and push my efforts in that direction. I have a list of clients who I would like to work with one day and they are always on my radar.

Photos © Justin Bastien

David Sanger: The world of travel photography has undergone profound changes in the last few years with the introduction of digital media and distribution channels. First, an ever-increasing supply of travel images available online has saturated the market for many types of imagery. Second, as a result of competition and the introduction of microstock, the average price for licensing images has declined. Third, the recession has constrained many travel company and tourist board budgets. Fourth, with circulations and ad revenue down, travel publications are in difficult straits. Lastly, there is an increasing move toward crowd-sourcing images from amateurs and semipros in low-end markets.

The consequences for travel photography are that many of the traditional avenues for revenue are no longer viable. Where does that leave the prospective travel photographer?

Photos © Lorne Resnick
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zacsifac's picture
The simple fact of getting in

The simple fact of getting in contact with so many of the world`s civilizations and cultures, this would be enough incentive to me, to start such an adventure, to take on such a challenge. After all, you only need the starting plan, and then it`s on. I am a big fan of mountain activities, imagine some pictures taken in such environment by mid winter. Oh, it would look like a fairytale.

crazymeme's picture
travel

Thank you for providing these great and interesting photos! Traveling is one of my hobbies and I visited a lot of places in the world. Last year I've traveled to Jamaica and I took some amazing photos with the blue mountains of Jamaica.

crazymeme's picture
travel photography

I appreciate a lot this quality post! I am working as a photography to one of the most famous travel magazines and I am traveling a lot. Recently I've spent a weekend in Montreal and I took some great photos there.

JessicaNaoko's picture
Of course all photographers'

Of course all photographers' ideal life is to do travel photos. If you had to choose between a vacation in America and a trip to Iraq, what would you choose? Safety always comes first, but it's tougher to caption real emotions when all is Zen.

Gale's picture
The fact that several

The fact that several photographs state that more than 85% of their photos are being bought makes me believe there's hope for me, as well. What they do is risky, though, it's not safe to travel around the world relying upon the chance that somebody's going to accept your shots. I feel safer with a loan referral program when I go far from what I know and control.

marry's picture
I'm about to go on a family

I'm about to go on a family vacation at niagara falls, the spectacular view should get me some good shots. I still have to get many shots before obtaining a nice one, but I can't possible fail with such a location.

Jools's picture
This must be some sort of

This must be some sort of eternal dream photographers have or at least it should be on the bucket list. I have only managed to travel away from my former city to a corporate video production San Francisco company. Hopefully in a year I'll be able to do more. I have all the time in the world, don't I?

opaler's picture
I read some of his articles

I read some of his articles and i find them really interesting. He really has a down to earth way of putting things. Now i am trying different ways of making money because i don't have the ability to go out my house too often and i need an income.

crazymeme's picture
travel photography

These photos are amazing! I like traveling and I am always taking my camera in my bag in order to capture the most beautiful landscapes. I've recently traveled to Canada and I took some amazing photos at the Niagara Falls.

nicolae's picture
What great photos. I love to

The photos are great. I love to take photos whenever I go on vacation too. Recently I was to Cancun I spent a great time. I found on the internet great Sunset Royal vacation packages

lalit's picture
travel

http://www.travelout.co/
Travel photography is a subcategory of photography involving the documentation of an area's landscape, people, cultures, customs and history.

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