The Secret to Selling Your Vacation Photos

Photography: retepnetsiuhdlev

Usually, people go on vacation to get away from work. But when the work is taking pictures — something most photographers look forward to doing even on their own time — then earning on vacation can be both a pile of fun and a great way to contribute to the cost of your trip.Here’s how you can take sellable images while you’re soaking up the sun.

Text on the Beach
One of the most marketable forms of photographs taken on vacation is beach shots. That’s not just because people always want to escape into a beach scene. It’s also because they’re very easy to use: beach photos tend to leave plenty of empty space for designers to add headlines and other copy. Of course, with careful framing, that’s a technique you can use on any landscape.

Check out some of the beach photos in magazines and understand why the designer bought them. Then create some of your own. Even texture shots of swimming pool surfaces and sand dunes have been known to make magazine covers.

Broaden your Horizons by Shooting Landscapes
Take a peek in most photographers’ hard drives, and you’ll find landscape photos as far as the eye can see. Many of them will have been taken on vacation, the time when they’re most likely to come across breathtaking views just begging to be captured.

They might be good photos, but are they sellable photos?

They can be… if they’re exceptional.

Instead of simply trying to capture the scene, try to capture a mood such as serenity, hope or optimism.

Magazines are more likely to use landscape photos that illustrate the thrust of a story than images that simply look good. They’re also less likely to care where the picture was taken than the effect it has on the viewer… and the chances that the photo will make the viewer interested enough to read their copy.

For a vacation photo to be sellable it has to say something beyond “I was here.”

Make your Landmark
Some of the biggest buyers of vacation photos are microstock sites. Shots of you lying on your beach towel might not get past the site’s reviewers, but instantly recognizable landmarks that publishers can use to represent a location do sell. Take a look at Fotolia’s Travel category, for example, and you’ll find photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Pyramids. Make your shots of famous sites professional quality and you should find there’s an easy market for them.

Bear in mind though that landmarks can be copyrighted — and in strange ways. Publishers can use images of the Eiffel Tower shot in daytime for example, but not when it’s lit up at night. Feel free to shoot but try to find out the copyright status either at the location or by asking the site before you upload. The rules will affect your ability to sell the photo for commercial use.

Feast on Food Photos
Traveling isn’t just a feast for the eyes. You also get to tuck into strange food in exotic locations. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to get a professional quality shot by pointing your camera at a restaurant table but street food can be scenic and fill a need for culinary sites and travel publications.

Photography: slack13

Once you’ve got the shot, you can either approach food publications directly or put them on Flickr. The site is increasingly used by media companies looking for hard-to-find photos of specific subjects. Keyword the photo carefully, including the name of the food and the main ingredients, add a Creative Commons license to a low quality version to act as bait, and offer buyers a higher quality shot for a fee.

Teach Students a Thing or Two
Probably the biggest travelers aren’t National Geographic staffers but students… which means that some of the biggest markets for travel photos are student magazines., for example, takes images submitted by freelance contributors. The magazine only pays $20 per image but even that amount can go a long way when you’re traveling on a budget.

Pitch Before You Go
Usually, you’ll be making your sales once you get back, but it might be worth calling around some travel magazines before you leave and telling them where you’re going. It’s unlikely that they’ll have a budget to send a photographer on location but if they hear that someone is visiting an area that they’ll be covering in a future issue, they could hand you a shopping list of shots they’d like to use.

They won’t make any promises but if you know what they want — and can deliver it — there’s no reason why you can’t help them out, and get paid for it.

Send a Postcard
It’s strange to think that in the age of email, people still send postcards. But an icon in Outlook just isn’t the same as a handwritten picture card sent the old-fashioned way.

And that’s when the postcards get sent. It’s quite possible that many postcards end up as souvenirs, stuck to fridge doors and pinned to cubicle walls.

Take your pictures, then either approach a postcard company or keyword them well, upload them to a website and offer them for sale directly to people surfing for information about the places they’re going or the sites they’ve seen.

Go the Extra Mile
The challenge of selling vacation photos is that there are so many of them. Everyone goes on vacation, everyone takes their camera on vacation and everyone who knows how to use their camera wonders if they can’t sell the photos they take.

One way to stand out from the crowd then is to go where the crowds aren’t.

Yosemite might be photographed a thousand times a day but there aren’t too many shots available of North Korea, Ulan Baator or icebergs in Antarctica. Go to strange locations and you should find that buyers will be interested in what you’ve seen.

Do Extraordinary Things
In general, if you put yourself in your travel photos you’ll be taking your picture out of the market. One of the few exceptions to this rule is if you’re doing something extraordinary… such as standing on the top of Kilimanjaro, bungee-jumping from a hot air balloon or snowboarding down a vertical slope. In those instances, the story isn’t the location; the event is. But it’s still sellable, especially in extreme sports markets.

Create your own Outlet
All of the suggestions we’ve made so far require putting your photos in front of buyers. But you can also cut out the middleman. Put your photos on a travel blog, update it regularly and stuff it with ads, and you can create your own online travel magazine.

It’s unlikely that you’ll make enough money selling your vacation photos to fund a first class trip around the world, but you can make cash when you pack your camera. If you know what to shoot and avoid standard snaps, there are buyers around who’ll take your images.

Check out the images used by Lonely Planet and tell us about your experiences of selling vacation photos.

[tags] sell vacation photos, selling vacation photos [/tags]

9 comments for this post.

  1. Juha Ylitalo Said:

    While going to where "noone has gone before" probably has its value to stock agencies, there is also other side in the coin.
    At least on my own website, which monetizing is based on revenue from ads, I've noticed that popular holiday destinations gets more visitors than other albums (at least among those, who like to do hiking trips on their vacations).

  2. Adam Said:

    Are there sites like flickr that are good for joining for selling of pictures? I had come across a post about this topic some time ago, but have not run across it again.

  3. Ravi Vora Said:

    Try shooting during an event. You can then sell to a local magazine or national because of the publicity.

  4. Bryan Lewis Said:

    You can monetize your images through some user-contributed stock photos sites. I am fond of buying from You only get a percentage of each sale (and the amount you gets depends on the size you sell), but it is a good site nonetheless.

  5. The Q-bicle Said:

    Although photos of what we want to communicate shouldn't be dismissed, event photos have a reporting history of doing very well. Check your local newspaper (the free/bargain types) or and closely follow events, equally surprising is video footage you can take and re-sell to local media and media companies. Hence event calendars are an excellent predictor for the local freelance photographer. I've written some on these types of subjects on my blog. Hope this helps!

  6. Casey Crisler Said:

    Adam, you might try You can post photos for sale up there and set your price or percentage. Plus they have framing options, etc. They have a free account option or you can upgrade for a price (of course).

  7. seth Said:

    hello, I was wondering if you people could give me info on submiting my photo website to difrent companies.(calandars, postcards, books, exct.) thank-you seth.

  8. Krabi Said:

    I agreed with Casey Crisler...

    Imagekind is really great place for selling or buying quality and creative Photographs.

    I really like these secrets for selling vacation photos.

  9. Holiday Cottages Mid Wales Said:

    Yeah! When you are away from the work even you can work with a camera for the money. It is very useful money making hobby and quite easy to do. At the beach it worked more because of lots of variety. You can take photo of mountain at the edge of the sea or in middle, photo of different people visiting here, swimming child and women, and lots of things.

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