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

Monday, February 15, 2010

How long does it take for a travel photo to date?

Some kinds of photography date pretty quickly. How many of us are still wearing flared corduroys with fat paisley ties? But travel photography, in particular nature based travel photography, isn't one of them. After all, places like Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) in central Australia have looked exactly the same for hundreds of thousands of years. Even if your picture was taken 100 years ago chances are you wouldn't be able to pick it.

Which becomes a bit of a problem with digital photography and publication. Because magazines always like to think they're getting the most recent pictures of everything. Which, when the subject of the photo may change rapidly like a city skyline etc, is quite reasonable.

But what about when the subject of the picture is something that just hasn't changed. Is timeless. Like a close-up of a fern, or a giant redwood, or a wild deer. In that case does anybody need to know when the picture was taken? I would say no. As long as the photographer is sure that the capture date is irrelevant then it's nobody's business but themselves.

A few years ago I had an editor came to me for pictures of a certain national park. Unfortunately I hadn't been there since I was in university (believe me that's a long time ago now!). But I had some images that were timeless. Nature shots, scenic views. That sort of thing. Because the editor was a friend I let him know when the pictures were taken and he didn't mind in the least. They were taken in the park and if somebody had gone there the very next day they could have seen exactly the same thing.

In the last two months I have licensed an image I took in India more than ten years ago three times for a total of close to $1000 US. A generic shot of spinning prayer wheels. Did the client care when they were taken? Not a bit.

So before you go throwing out all your old pictures because you think they don't have any value any more, or don't want to put them out for sale because you think they're too old. Go back and have a second look. Some pictures really are timeless and can continue to bring in income long after you pushed the shutter.

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