Naxos Images
Stock Photography Travel Photos by Brendan van Son

Make Money on Stock Photography with Travel?

When people think of stock photography, I think they often jump to visions of people in business suits in an office. Or, really tacky shots of family on a solid white background.  But, the reality is that there are a lot of ways to shoot stock photography.  And in my experience, travel is as good as any a genre to make money from stock. But, having said all that, there are some things you should know.

This my guide for how to make money on stock photography for travel.

Stock Photography

Avoid People From Whom You Can’t Get Model Releases

There are two kinds of stock photography: commercial and editorial.  In editorial photography you don’t need a model release to sell or use an image.  But, most of the stock photography sales come from commercial. And in commercial photography it’s the law that you need to have signed model releases from anyone who is recognizable.

So, you’re going to need to shoot locations that don’t have people.  Or use one of the many techniques to remove people from your photos.

Stock Photography
I couldn’t use this in stock photography due to the person in the frame. Unless I got a model release.

Avoid Brands

Like people, brands can’t appear in commercial stock photography.  So, if your subject has billboards all over it with brands like MacDonald’s and Coca-Cola, the images are going to get rejected.  This also comes to clothing. If you have a model with a branded backpack where the brand can be read, it’ll be rejected.

In some cases you’ll be able to clone stamp out the brands, other times you’re just going to have to find another subject to photograph.

Stock Photography
The NBA logo on this hat means I can’t sell it for stock.

Look Up Property Releases

Before you spend an entire day, night, or morning photographing a certain piece of architecture be sure you check to see if it’s on a list o buildings that require property releases to be used for commercial purposes.  The list is higher than you think.  For example, the most famous case is The Eiffel Tower.  As soon as it’s lit up at night, you can not use imagery of it for commercial purposes because it’s designated as “art”.

If a prominent building is in your photograph, check with you stock photography site if it’s on their list of buildings.

Stock Photography
Research if any of the buildings, or art in this frame make it impossible to sell, for example.

Be Technically Spot On

I can’t stress this enough. You need to be technically sound.  There are so many images on the stock photography sites now that there’s no need for “good” images.  They only want images that are perfect.  You need the photo to be 100% sharp, you can’t blow out highlights, you can have clipped shadows, and it can’t have chromatic aberrations or other technical issues.  If it does, it’ll be rejected right away.

Stock Photography

Stock Photography Needs to Sell Something

An image being a great image isn’t enough on stock. It needs to sell something.  If you’re shooting travel photography, you’re either trying to sell the destination or the dream of being the person who travels.  So, your images have to work in a way that makes people want to buy a trip to the destination your photographing.  Better yet, the imagery should be easy to recognize. You should see the image and think: that’s Crete!

Stock Photography
A really recognizable vista from Crete, Greece.

Have a Model

These days most travel photography has a model in it.  The model serves to give the illusion (or if you’re less cynical – sells the idea) to the viewer that the person in the frame could be them.  It gives a perspective.  So, if you’re travelling it helps to have a model. May that be your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or friend.  A person that’s willing to sign a model release will make your images very sell-able.

When I was starting in travel photography, I’d often convince people from the hostels I was staying at to come out with me and model. They’d get some cool photos of themselves, and I’d get some stock photography photos to sell.

Stock Photography
Having a model in this frame makes it much easier to sell; as long as you have a model release.

Find Unique Locations and Angles

There are 1000s of images of most of the iconic places in the world.  So, there’s really only 2 things that can make your image stand out.  The first thing is strange or different weather conditions.  The second is different angles.  Finding unique angles of iconic places is so key to selling images. Potential clients are looking to buy stock photos of recognizable places shot in ways no one has seen before.  If you can make unique images of iconic places, you will make money in travel photography.

Stock Photography

You Need Dead Space

I think this is the hardest thing for most photographers.  You need dead space in your images.  Dead space refers to the vacant space in an image.  In stock photography, this space can be used by the client to put text or graphics.  It allows them room to work with the image.  If the photo is too packed with things, it might be a more powerful image, but it’s hard to work with.

Stock Photography
Look at all that dead space on the top left!

Don’t Forget Video

My biggest mistake in stock photography is that I didn’t submit video.  In general, video does really well in stock; especially about 5-7 years ago.  Things like time lapse, and drone footage can do really well.  But so can simple clips of buildings, flags, and empty streets.  Of course, if you do stock video footage 4k is best.

If you’re a vlogger, why not sell your best clips?  I haven’t been doing this, but I haven’t had the need to recently. Here’s my latest vlog.  How many clips from this video do you think I could put in stock?  I count at least a dozen.

What’s Next on The Photography Blog?

I’m on a roll with the blog posts!  And, the roll is going to continue.  Note that there’s going be blog posts every Tuesday and Friday – days where I’m not posting to my YouTube channel – going forward.  If I have time, there’ll be posts no random days like this one!

On Tuesday, there’ll be a post with some images from my recent trip to Naxos, Greece.

Then, on Friday I’ve got a post with some of my favourite street photographers.

As for life, we’re here in Crete, Greece. This coming week we’re heading to Santorini and Mykonos which I’m really excited for. I’ve also got a big travel photography workshop announcement coming at the end of the month.