Travel Photography: Selling Stock Photography

Have you ever looked through a stock photography website and thought that you could do better than their travel photos? The truth is that you’re probably not that far off.

Novice Monks in Bagan
Novice Monks in Bagan

Most travel stock photography actually comes from amateurs just like most of us, who happen to take the occasional good shot during their travels. And considering how well a good stock photo can sell, you should definitely put your camera to some good, productive use if you’re interested in joining that market. It’s easier than you might think!

Afternoon visit to the temple
Afternoon visit to the Shwezigon Pagoda

Be original

This one sounds obvious, but so many people get it wrong. You have to be original with your stock photos, so don’t just go around taking the exact same pictures everyone else already has. Here’s the thing though – you shouldn’t push it to the other extreme, either. Don’t take pictures of things nobody wants to see (and by extension, use in marketing materials). Think about your target audience and try to meet their specific needs, focusing on those particular types of pictures in your next session.

Burmese Kid in New Bagan
Burmese Kid in New Bagan

Know your camera

Whether you’re shooting with a phone or a professional DSLR camera, it’s important to know your equipment and understand its features well enough. Sometimes, the perfect shot is only a matter of using the right settings, but if you don’t know how to navigate your camera’s menus in the first place, you won’t be able to easily find what you need in the short period of time you’ll usually have available to take your picture.

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Shadows inside Sulamani Temple
Shadows inside Sulamani Temple

Use online backup services

It’s always a good idea to have your travel pictures ready and uploaded to the cloud while you’re taking them, so you can have them easily accessible for editing and filtering once you’re back at home. This is usually easy to setup with most phones and cameras nowadays, so take the time to do it and you’ll never have to go through the hassle of manual transfers again. In addition, you’ll never be at risk of losing your work because you’ve lost your device, so you’ll be able to at least partially recover from a disaster like that.

Temple Brass Bell
Temple Brass Bell

Don’t overdo the editing

Editing is always important, and you must make sure your pictures look good in the end. However, stock photos are usually appreciated for having a natural, genuine look – so overusing Photoshop on your pictures might actually degrade their selling value. Always keep that in mind before you go on a filtering spree in Photoshop, but on the other hand, don’t leave a picture with an obvious defect just because you’re afraid to do a little touching up. Finding the right balance is what truly matters.

Sunrise over ancient Bagan, Myanmar
Sunrise over ancient Bagan, Myanmar

Shoot a dozen times until you get it right

We don’t use film for storage anymore, and with the huge sizes of most digital cameras and smartphones, you should never have to worry about taking one picture too many. Use this to your advantage, and take many different shots for each good scene that you see. Then do some cherry picking once you’re back at home. It’s much easier that way, plus, with the help of modern photo editing tools, you can really bring out the best from your photos by using multiple shots. For example, you can clear the crowd from a shot by combining several ones and overlaying them, and this can be done with just a few clicks in most modern photo manipulation tools.

Typical horse cart in Bagan copy
Typical horse cart in Bagan

The more shots you have for a given scene, the better your chances will be that you can get something truly nice out of it, so don’t be afraid to click that button a few extra times just to make sure that you’ve got enough good pictures.

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