Business Trends
Marketing Your Travel Photography; An Interview With Donna Poehner, Editor Of The Photographer’s Market

Donna Poehner has a unique perspective to offer on the subject of travel photography. As an editor and writer, she has worked for F+W Publications for the past 11 years. In 1999, she became editor of the widely read sourcebook Photographer's Market ( In that time, Poehner has learned a lot about the photographers who have successful businesses as well as those just starting to establish a photo business. She also interviews and talks with the photo clients to find out what they look for when buying photography. Here are her tips, techniques, and suggestions for marketing your travel photography:
Shutterbug: Describe the range of client types you have identified for travel photography.

Donna Poehner: The range is great, and photographers should definitely think beyond the travel magazines and beyond editorial in general. I think a lot of people dream of being a travel photographer because it seems glamorous. They like to travel and they like to do photography, so why not combine the two and get paid for it? These people might not initially think beyond the prominent outlets for travel photography--the colorful, glossy consumer magazines but that is probably not the best place to try to break in.

They should consider book publishers, including textbook publishers who often need a number of photos at once, though they may pay less for each photo than some other markets; paper products (this includes greeting cards, calendars, posters, and gift items); newspapers; galleries; art fairs; stock photo agencies; advertising firms; and the companies in the hospitality and tourism industries.

Travel industry (trade) magazines are another outlet and often pay better than consumer magazines, though they may not have the same visibility and cachet. Trade magazines devoted to banking or financial and economic issues need photos to illustrate the "global economy" and can use travel images. Also consider trade magazines geared toward the hospitality and tourism industries, such as hotel management, etc.

A big area to consider is stock photography. The use of stock images increases every year. Many photo buyers do not have the time or budgets for assignments or photo shoots. Photographers can submit their travel images to a stock photo agency, which will take care of marketing the images and collecting payment from buyers.

SB: What do you recommend are the best ways to research these travel clients?

DP: You can start with the directories. Most are too expensive to buy, but can be found in libraries. If you want to target magazine clients, Bacon's Magazine Directory lists magazines, newsletters, and journals.

If you're interested in getting published in books, see the Literary Marketplace. It lists book publishers in the US and Canada. Visit publishers' websites for more information. Or you can call the publisher directly and ask who acquires photos. If the company is large, a number of people may be in charge of acquiring photos for various book projects.

If you want to work with advertising agencies and public relations firms consult The Adweek Directory. For companies in the tourism industry, The Travel Industry Personnel Directory can help you find companies in this field who may need your services.

Photographer's Market lists consumer and trade publications, book publishers, greeting card and calendar publishers, stock agencies, ad agencies, and galleries. While it does not list every possible market and is not exhaustive in that respect, it gives much more detailed photography-related information than the directories mentioned earlier. For example, it has a subject index, which lists travel as one of the subjects that photo buyers are seeking. It also gives information about how the photo buyers wish to be approached, and often a range for their pay rates, and other pertinent information not given in the directories mentioned earlier.

SB: Regarding marketing tactics, what seems to work best for travel photography given the different promotion tools available?

DP: Most photo buyers these days turn first to the Internet to find what they are looking for. If you can have some kind of presence on the Internet, it will help enormously. As in any case of marketing your photography, find out who buys the photography and contact them. Initial contact is often by mail so send a self-promo piece with your complete contact information, including a link to your website.

Follow up by sending a series of self-promos regularly so that the photo buyer gets used to seeing your work and hearing from you. Target the self-promo to the particular market. You can create your own template for the self-promo piece (post card size is good) and select an appropriate photo from your files to drop into the template, and then print it on your ink jet printer. This is the most efficient way to target the markets you're after. If you don't have your own printing capabilities, you can still have post cards made by a commercial printer inexpensively. Send something that will make the photo buyer say, "Wow," something that will really catch their eye and make them want to hang it on their office wall.

You can follow up with a phone call or voicemail to the photo buyer after you've sent the self-promo piece, but be sure not to become a nuisance to the photo buyer by calling frequently.

SB: What advice would you give to a photographer looking to make a career move into the field of travel photography today?

DP: Don't quit your day job right away! Learn all you can about travel photography.

· Read books and go to workshops to learn all the tips you can, such as researching an area before you go, what equipment to take, using model releases, how to approach people who may not speak your language, how to photograph people in their environment, etc.
· Diversify your marketing by doing a variety of photographic projects, such as books, cards, stock, and fine art.
· Make prints of your best travel photos and have a show of them in a local restaurant or coffeehouse, or sell them at a local art fair. Travel photos are often the type of photographic art people respond to and like to buy. You'll get valuable feedback on which images have the most appeal, and you can use this knowledge for marketing purposes in the future. Plus, you can make some money.

SB: Any special tips on being more successful in the travel market that you would like to add from your unique perspective working with the Photographer's Market sourcebook?

DP: Photo buyers of all types of images report that they need first and foremost photos of people and, second to that, business and industry. Try to combine your travel images with people, and then business and industry, if possible. Photo buyers also need images that illustrate concepts, such as time, success, communication, desire, strength, wealth, etc. If your travel images can also portray these concepts, you can increase your sales. Photo buyers also like images that appear spontaneous. Some other tips:
· Keep up with what is going on in the world and watch trends to know what the current travel "hot spots" are. Tourism in the US is always big, so consider marketing photos you've taken in the US to markets overseas.
· Consider publications on food, wine, adventure, outdoors, backpacking, etc. They are not overtly about travel, but are likely to cover stories on travel or need images of international locales.
· Carry model releases in the language of the country in which you are traveling and get comfortable with approaching and photographing people.
· Write complete, accurate captions for your photos. Tell where it was taken, when, what is going on, who is in the picture, etc. Be very specific about details. Photo editors hate it when they have to guess or have to contact photographers for more complete information.
· When shooting for stock, always take the tried-and-true shots first. Then try something different. Shoot from a different angle. Try several angles. Shoot the scene at various times of day.
· Make sure you photograph the icons of the locale. For example, if you're in Paris, make sure you get various shots of the Eiffel Tower. Then once you've covered the icons, move to lesser-known aspects of the locale and work them.

Finally, go to the newsstand or library and actually look at the photos in the magazines you're considering submitting to. Be sure your work is on a par technically and aesthetically before you submit. And, of course, make sure that you have the subject matter they're interested in. Some of the most frequent comments I get from photo buyers in Photographer's Market are, "read our magazine," "know our audience," and "study a sample copy." You won't make a sale if you don't have what the client wants, no matter how good your work is.