Travel photography captures your personal experiences so you can look back on them forever. But you don’t have to keep them to yourself. In fact, people will pay top dollar to be transported by your travel photos. Learn how to take professional-grade photos that look so good, they’ll fund your next trip.
1 INVEST IN HIGH-PERFORMANCE GEAR
Sellable travel photos aren’t shot on a smartphone. You’ll need a quality camera that is light and compact enough to travel with you. Less bulky than a DSLR but more powerful than a point-and-shoot, a mirrorless camera is perfect for travelers.
Every on-the-go photographer should also have a flexible tripod with built in grips. They can be affixed to anything or placed directly on the ground, making it easy to take night shots and long exposures.
Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Christopher Armstrong | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 Lens
2 VARY FOCAL LENGTH
Using different lenses will broaden your shooting capabilities. Here are a few of the essentials for travel photography:
A standard zoom lens (for example a 14-42mm) mimics what we see with our naked eye. It’s ideal for portraits, street photography, and unique architecture.
A wide-angle lens (for example a 9-18mm) expands views and stretches proportions, creating dramatic landscapes and skylines.
A telephoto lens (for example a 75-300mm) can pull your subject closer without sacrificing clarity. It’ll be your best friend when you’re trying to include distant details.
3 CAPITALIZE ON LIGHT
During Golden Hour, which occurs right after sunrise and right before sunset, subjects glow and shadows are longer. This adds the illusion of depth. Just after the sun goes down presents another big opportunity. It’s when the vibrant colors of night first emerge.
As a general rule, you should shoot with the light at your back so your subject is illuminated. If you want to create dramatic silhouettes, turn this logic on its head and shoot into the light.
4 CONSIDER SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Keep a pulse on the types of photos that sell and the locations that are in high demand. You can use the popularity filter on photography sites to see what you’re up against. Themes like food, architecture, and landscape tend to do well, but they’re also saturated.
Mix it up by shooting real people doing real things. Frame landmarks with the action happening around them. Shoot parts of your destination where most tourists don’t go. Seek out events that highlight cultural diversity. Authenticity never goes out of style.
Olympus User Gallery Contributor, Christopher Raborn | Shot with an Olympus OM-D Camera | M.Zuiko 14-150mm F4.0-5.6 II Lens
5 MASTER THE STYLE
There’s a particular style of travel photos that tend to sell. The more versatile, the better. For example, human connection is a powerful tool, so photographs that capture relationships are always a good bet. Another popular theme is showing small figures in an impressive landscape. This concept can be used to both encourage people to get outside and overcome a challenge.
6 SHOOT IN BULK
If you’re serious about selling, you’ll want to bring a few SD cards on your trip. The more distinct variations you can capture of the same subject, the better. Whether it’s lighting, angle, or composition, small differences allow customers to find exactly what they’re looking for.
7 GO BIG
When someone pays for a photo, they expect high quality. The best way to guarantee your photos will meet your customers’ needs is by taking photos at your camera’s highest possible resolution. This way, the images can be used for anything from social media to print. Typically, your camera’s default setting is at its highest resolution, but it’s always smart to double check to make sure you’re capturing the best quality images.
8 MINIMIZE NOISE
Distorted and pixilated areas, also known as noise, distract a viewer and make photos harder to sell. To avoid taking noisy pictures, shoot at a low ISO setting. Try to keep your ISO below 1600.
9 DON'T OVER-EDIT
Photos that aren’t excessively cropped, blocked, or feathered are more marketable. Of course, you can make basic corrections for the technical aspects of a photo, like framing and exposure, but avoid heavy processing. You don’t want to do anything that detracts from your subject.
10 KNOW THE RULES
There are a few legal aspects to keep in mind when you’re selling your travel photos. For one, images with people almost always require model releases. Download a model release app on your phone or keep a few extra copies in your camera bag when you’re out shooting. Second, be wary of trademarks and logos. Edit out any brand-specific content before putting your photos up for sale.
Last but not least, keep in mind that you may not be able to sell images privately once they’re available elsewhere. Read through your agreement and make sure you’re comfortable with the terms before committing.
Taking sellable photos means striking a balance between mass appeal and standing out from the crowd. It isn’t easy, but it may just pay off.