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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Selling your Travel Photography

This is a photo of me hard at work (!) in the Aurukun Wetlands of Cape York, far north Australia. I was there photographing with a group of travel writers and was just about to head out to photograph some brolgas we'd heard calling that morning. It was taken by my good friend Louise Southerden, a wonderful travel writer and photographer.

This was one of those mornings where I just have to pinch myself when I think that I actually get paid to do this! I realise that I am very lucky and I also realise that many of you also probably have a dream of selling some of your images, even if it's only to cover expenses.

So where do you start? I'm not going to turn this into a blog about becoming a professional travel photograher, as I want to concentrate more on the photography itself, but I thought it would be a good idea to point you in the right direction of some resources to help you if that's a road you feel like taking.

Let's start with some books:

Probably the best book I've found on the logistics of running a photography business is Tom Zimberoff's epic book Photography:Focus on Profit. This really is an amazing book and it even comes with free Photo Business software.

The second book is Negotiating Stock Photo Prices by Jim Pickerell. It has a great guide to thousands of possible different uses and the prices you should aim for. It's US based so some of them might be a bit higher than what you can get in other countries but it's a good starting point to give you some idea of the value of your images (hint: they're worth a hell of a lot more than the $1 or so you can get on those microstock sites!)

WhenI first started I used this fantastic book John Shaw's Business of Nature Photography It's a bit dated now in terms of its talk about film cataloguing and text based databases but it's got a lot of great information about starting a photography business in such a specialised field and a lot of what he talks about is very relevant for travel photography as well.

And the last book I'm really going to recommend if you're having trouble keeping up with all your digital files is The DAM book by Peter Krogh. It literally changed my life in terms of the way I work with my digital pictures.

If you're a blog and web kind of person then there are a few great sites. Probably my favourite photography business blog is John Harrington's This is an amazing resource full of lots of good information about running a photography business. He also has a fantastic book which gets rave reviews. I've yet to get a copy but it's on my list!

Another great blog about promoting yourself is the Burns Auto Parts blog by Photo Consultant and all-round photo marketing guru Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua. Or Selina Maitreya's Port Authority site. A couple of women dedicated to improving the lot of photographers.

If you want to look at a couple of stock libraries that might be interested in what you have the ones I use are: Lonely Planet Images, Alamy, and the new kid on the block is Photoshelter

If you'll notice I haven't mentioned any books on how to take photos. That's deliberate. If you want to sell pictures it's a given that your pictures are good enough. The business side of things is what you really have to get a handle on if you want to do more than just sell your soul.

There are plenty of wanna-bes willing to give their work away for peanuts just to make themselves feel good. If you really want to make some money as well as help the photography industry and your fellow travel photographers then I recommend that you get a feel for the business side of things. Don't sell your stuff cheaply, value your worth and take such beautiful pictures that people can't help but pay you lots of money to publish them!

Next week I'm going to take a specific magazine assignment and show you exactly what's involved in preparing for, shooting and then submitting a job. Stay tuned!

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Angela Corrias said...

Hi Paul,
I found your post very interesting. I'm a freelance journalist specialising in travel writing and lately I'm devoting more time to my camera.
I had heard of photoshelter and alamy already and I've also subscribed to both very recently but never had the opportunity to explore them. It's interesting that you mentioned them, how do you find them? I've only uploaded a couple of photos on photoshelter so I'm not able to say whether they are useful or not. What do you think?

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Angela,

I think that both Alamy and Photoshelter are useful, at least more useful than leaving your images on your hard drive doing nothing!

That being said, to make any money out of either of them I think you need to have a lot of images with them.

I mean thousands and thousands. I know quite a few people who have 6000 or more images with Alamy and do quite well with them.

I personally don't have enough images with either yet (not enough hours in the day!) but have had a few nice advertising sales through Alamy.

So far I haven't had anything through Photoshelter but I like where they seem to be going as a company. I read somewhere that the best way to use Photoshelter might be to load a lot of images up there on one specific area - whether it be subject or geographic specific.

For the moment I am using the strategy of uploading all the images from places that I go to on travel writer/photographer famils and trips ie places that I don't have a deep photographic coverage of. For the pictures from my local area I have decided to market them personally as I think I have a better chance then to become known for having a deep photographic collection of this part of the world.

At least that is my hope. I've only just started on this new strategy so I think it'll take a couple of years at least to bear fruit but we shall see.

Hope that helps


Angela Corrias said...

Thanks Paul, that was very helpful. What I found is that freelance photography is even more competitive than freelance writing!
Thanks for the tips,

Paul Dymond said...

You're welcome Angela, I'm glad to be of some help. I think photography in general is extremely competitive and travel photography is the most competitive area of the art form.

Your competition is basically anybody who travels with a DSLR and would like to have their photograph published somewhere.

A total glut of images has meant that the market is flooded with some excellent, but lots of not so good images. One of the keys I think is to try and rise above the rest and really concentrate on honing your skills and remaining true to your artistic vision.

It's a never-ending journey believe you me!

Damian Turski said...

Hi Paul,

It's nice to have stumbled upon your website - I've been looking around for information about LPI as I recently got accepted by them (and now have just over 100 images on their website). What didn't get accepted to their website I'm planning on getting on Alamy (so far just over 120 images there).

I'm pretty excited to (eventually) make some money off my travel photos - and it's really neat to find people who actually make a living off of it.

Hope you don't mind me asking a couple of questions - First off, I'm having trouble getting a reply from LPI regarding this, but how do you track where your images end up? (e.g. should I have a photographer's account to the website or do they just notify me if something gets sold?)
And next, I was hoping you could look through my photos and let me know what you think (don't be afraid to be harsh if need be). Essentially I'm curious to get your opinion because of the amount of images that got accepted relative to what ended up on the site is relatively small.

I've posted up all the photos that were submitted to LPI here: www.pbase.com/damian_turski

Any advice, comments are greatly appreciated!!

If you'd like to PM me, my email is dturski@hotmail.com


Damian Turski

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Damian,

firstly I am so sorry for taking so long to reply. I swore I'd already written back but obviously not!

LPI will send you a statement every 3 months that will list where your pictures were sold and how much for.

And don't worry too much about only a small percentage of what you send in being accepted. I average between 10 and 25% and any more than that is an anomaly!

I will definitely pop on to your website and take a look at your pics and send you an email.

cheers and sorry again for the delay


Damian Turski said...

Hi Paul,

No worries about the late reply - I've gotten used to non-existant replies from LPI and therefore appreciate the fact that you simply wrote back at all.

And take your time with checking out the website - the photos aren't going anywhere and I'm not planning any big trips in the near future anyway (unfortunately!)

Thanks again!


Paul Dymond said...

Hey Damian,

here's an idea. Why don't you post some of the pics to the new Flickr group. That way other readers of the blog can see them and comment as well. If you're up for it!

The address is: