Travel photography is something we all do, every time we go on holiday, take a trip or visit a local attraction. We all want to take perfect travel photographs to remember our vacations, and with the popularity of Instagram and Facebook, we want everyone to be wowed by our holiday snaps. I love taking photos, but I am by no means an expert! To learn more, I asked Charlie from World Travel Photography to share some of his top tips for improving travel photography – and a couple of ways to make money from our travel photos!
Let’s face it, how many times have you come home from your travels and started to go through your camera roll with friends and family only for them to start drifting away and losing concentration? As much as they try to pretend they are interested in seeing the 10th photo of that cute dog on the beach that day, they just can’t stop their eyes from glazing over.
To be honest can you blame them? It doesn’t mean they love you any less, but they didn’t experience that day and therefore can’t empathise with what you are showing them in the same way you do. You can still hear the waves crashing, you can still smell the salty ocean air, you can still picture the rest of the scene that isn’t captured in the photo. THEY can’t.
If you use a few simple photography tricks to help capture the essence of a moment instead of just the scene immediately in front of you, then you can make them feel as if they were there. Telling a story by incorporating other elements of your surroundings and using them in a way that stirs up feelings and emotions in the viewer will get the cogs in their brain turning. Once you’ve done that they will naturally want to know how the story ends. It’s basic human nature, we don’t like to finish a story we are interested in without knowing the ending – that explains all of those nights spent watching Netflix until 3am
Stick around until the end of this article and I’ll even show you a couple of ways you can potentially make money from travel photography – IF you take this all on board and hone your skills until you get that WOW factor from friends and family.
When it comes to taking great photos the most important thing to think about is your composition, and trying out different things until you find something that works. Going back to what I was saying before about having ten photos of the same thing; it is far better to get one photo of a subject or scene that is well thought out than ten that are very similar and lack substance.
The three main things to focus on when considering your composition are:
- Leading lines
- Using an ‘anchor’ in your photos
Leading lines are naturally occurring elements in the frame which form lines (either straight or bendy) that lead the eye into the photo and towards the main subject.
In the photo above of a sunset over Barcelona, the main subject or scene I wanted to capture was the setting sun. As you can see I made use of the dirt path as a leading line. It naturally leads the eye into the photo and towards the sun as it sets over the mountains. You could also say the tree line formed by the palm trees on the left-hand side is a leading line as it bends around and also ends up leading the eye towards the sun.
Making sure a scene has good lighting is essential if you want to turn a good photo into a great one. After all, the word ‘photography’ has its origins in the ancient Greek language and means ‘drawing with light’. As we are talking about travel photography let’s forget about artificial lights and focus on natural sunlight. The best time of day to take photos is either in the morning just after the sun has risen, or in the evening about an hour before it sets. This way the sun is low in the sky and you get beautiful diffused golden light instead of the harsh and unflattering midday sunlight.
The photo above is an example of how the first hour of sunlight in the morning is warm and golden – you can see that it really makes a difference. If I took that photo midday it just wouldn’t be the same. Sometimes to get the shot that matters you have to get up and out early (unfortunate, but totally worth it), or have dinner an hour or two later and be out with your camera in the evening to make the most of the ‘golden hour’ as it’s called by photographers.
Using an ‘Anchor’ in Your Photos
Lastly, making use of something called an ‘anchor’ can make all the difference. An anchor is simply an element in the foreground of a photo that does what the name suggests – it anchors your eye into the frame. It can be anything, a rock, a bicycle or even yourself (if you have a tripod and a self timer function in your camera). The photo below is an example of how a rock can be used as an anchor.
You can even use yourself as an anchor which is a very popular method being used by a lot of Instagrammers these days. You’ll probably start noticing this method even more now I’ve pointed it out! Use a tripod, compose your shot and set a 10 second self timer and quickly get into position.
Earning Money from your Travel Photography
The question you need to ask yourself first (and be honest!) is:
Is my work good enough to charge people money for?
There are plenty of photographers out there and really the world doesn’t need any more, so what makes you different? If you can find a unique selling point that sets you apart from the crowd, as well as having great images, then you’ve got a chance at turning your hobby into a part-time or even full-time job.
Do you travel to a lot of unique places? Great, people are always looking for new imagery of exotic destinations but seriously, there is no need to take another photo of the Eiffel Tower, it’s been done.
Your best shot at making some money is going after editorial work. That means pitching companies such as tourism boards, travel magazines etc… and offering them a chance to license some of your images. These kinds of companies are always hungry for new and exciting images to sell tours, promote tourism or illustrate an article, all of those kinds of things. It’s not easy and you will get turned down 90% of the time, but don’t get discouraged as eventually you’ll get an offer if your photos are good enough. It’s all about making the 10% success rate good enough to make being turned down the other 90% of the time worthwhile.
While editorial work is your best shot as a beginner, it takes a lot of work. Writing personalized pitches to hundreds of different companies is time consuming.
Another option is micro stock. Websites like Shutterstock and iStock provided a low barrier to entry and you can get started almost straight away (once your sellers account has been approved). The only problem with micro stock is you often only get a few cents (0.25$ or something like that) for each photo you sell. The good news is that big micro stock agencies sell thousands of images per hour so it’s a high turnover rate. The bad news? You will most likely need hundreds, if not thousands, of photos to make any substantial amount of money. My advice is to upload as you go, and eventually (it may take a year or two) you’ll start seeing your pay check grow each month.
Thanks for reading, if anyone has any questions they want answering then leave a comment below and I’ll reply to each and every one!
Charlie is a travel photographer who, for the last couple of years, has been travelling the world photographing and documenting everything interesting that he finds. His blog World of Travel Photography is where he shares the things he comes across. He has recently started to focus on sharing his experience of turning his passion into a full time job and helping people to get on the same path. You can also find Charlie on Instagram and Twitter.
Do you need help with your travel photography? Or have any tips to share? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.
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Last updated: October 13, 2017