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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Commercial travel photography

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the weekend out and about doing some scouting for an upcoming commercial photo shoot. Travel photography comes in two flavours - editorial and commercial. And they can be very different, or they can be pretty much the same thing.

With editorial travel photography the style is very much dependent on the type of publication. Upmarket travel magazines tend to run tight, close-up shots of wine glasses, crumpled bedsheets and salt and pepper shakers. You've all seen those I'm sure.

Other travel magazines tend to run pictures of travellers interacting with locals and enjoying themselves in the location. And yet others will only feature images of local people, scenics and food taken in a more 'general' style for want of a better word.

My photography tends to naturally lean towards the 'general' storytelling style. When I'm out photographing I don't tend to notice the salt and pepper shakers! And I'm usually too busy stuffing the food in my throat to remember to photograph it. :) Which doesn't mean I don't photograph that stuff when the assignment calls for it, but it's not in my general nature to photograph that stuff otherwise. In other words it's not my passion.

When it comes to the commercial side of things that passion translates really well to the world of travel and tourism. I'm big on being as natural as possible. I like to get the models out and about and really doing the stuff that they're supposed to be selling. So if it means me getting out on a kayak (and destroying my mobile phone in the process!) then I'm all for it.

I usually find that local clients tend to want to hire me without seeing any of my work and the first thing I do is send them to my website. Why? Because I'm certainly not the photographer for every job and not every client is for me. It sounds crazy to turn down work if people want to hire you, but in order to follow that passion and stay true to your vision you're often best to pass on some jobs.

When I know that there are other people who would do a better job than me I always recommend them to the client. I would rather do this and have the client be 110% happy with the job then have me do it and not have the images live up to their expectations. I know some photographers like to accept more than they can handle and work like crazy to do a good job but I prefer to work on projects that I know I can knock out of the park.

One of the biggest differences I find between commercial and editorial clients is what they want to show. Commercial clients (particularly those who don't have a lot of experience hiring photographers) want to show everything literally. If they have nice rooms they want to show the whole room exactly how it is.

Editorial clients often want you to take more of an approach of showing what it feels like to visit a place. So you might concentrate and focus in on a small part of a place to give a feeling of the whole, as opposed to showing everything. Editorial often likes to leave a bit to the imagination, whereas commercial often tends to hit you over the head with a big, blunt object telling you that this is exactly what it looks like and what you'll see when you visit.

Which is why I often advise my commercial clients to think a bit laterally and aim for images that tell a story. Give the viewer a feeling. Leave a little bit to the imagination. And in that way my commercial travel photography often looks just like my editorial travel photography. Which fuels my passion and helps me stay true to my artistic vision.


Roger said...

Great article, Paul. I wish you continued success.

Paul Dymond said...

Thanks so much Roger,

and I wish you continued success and happiness.



Graham said...

Paul out of interest mate, do you vary HOW you get work in each field? By that I mean do you advertise for one style but freelance for another? Or do you treat all styles the same?

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Graham,

I am the official posterboy for a crappy advertiser! I got my break in this field by writing travel articles and winning a couple of awards and since then work seems to come to me by word of mouth.

I have a commercial section on my website www.dymond.com.au but apart from that don't really advertise. Terrible I know.

Andrew Ptak said...

For years I've tried to convince commercial clients to 'tell a story" and they just won't go for it. So I know exactly what you mean.

Paul Dymond said...

Hi there Andrew,

yeah I think maybe that's a problem with local more than national clients. I find it mostly when I'm working for clients directly, as opposed to through an agency. They tend to want to show just what's there, as opposed to creating a mood and feeling about what people can experience.

I usually get around this by shooting what the client wants first and then shooting my own stuff afterwards. Sometimes the client looks at my point of view and loves it, and sometimes they don't.