Travel Photography - Photos That Sell

It may seem a glamorous lifestyle to travel the world, photographing its huge variety of cultures and landmarks, but it is also an expensive lifestyle. Most photographers, professional and amateur, must fund their trips out of their own pockets. To continue doing this, it goes without saying that the photos you take along the way need to be saleable to sustain a business. This article takes a short look at the types of photos that are popular with image buyers.

Obvious subjects

Most photographers look to create images that are original, that aren't found anywhere else in the marketplace. By focusing on subjects that are not so widely covered you create a niche for yourself. This can either be a profitable tactic, or a complete failure depending on whether there is a market to support your niche. Photography, like most other industries, follows trends. Places and themes that are popular today may not be in a few years time. There are some subjects, however that never go out of fashion. Why do we see so many photos of say, the Eiffel Tower for example? Because people keep buying images of the Eiffel Tower. By all means, take the shots you want to take of lesser known subjects, but it is worthwhile to get the obvious ones first. They will likely be your most profitable images. But take them in your own style. Differentiate them from those you've seen.


Pictures of people sell. They always will. Especially pictures of people doing things. For example, Balinese farmers tending their crops, or street performers entertaining crowds in London. These images sell because they illustrate day to day life in a particular part of the world. They give a sense of place. These images can also work on a broader level by illustrating more general themes, like "work" or "entertainment" irrespective of where they were taken. Simple portraits also show the character of people. Whether they are known as a happy, relaxed people or hard working and straight faced, this is your chance to show them as such.

There is also the issue of model releases when photographing people. As a general rule, a release is required if the image is to be used for commercial purposes. I.e. to sell something. If the image is to be used for editorial purposes, to illustrate something, a release is not required. In many cases you will not know what the image might be used for when shooting it. Having a release broadens the appeal of an image and increases its prospects for sales. Therefore it is best practice to obtain a release whenever possible.


If you are a travel photographer, people will likely want to use your images because they say something about a particular place or people. To educate the viewer by showing what life is like in that part of the world. The photo that sells is not necessarily the "best" in terms of technical proficiency, but the one that illustrates what the buyer is trying to say.

Putting some serious thought into the subjects you want to cover can make all the difference to your success as a travel photographer. Do some research on what has been covered, and what hasn't. Think about how you can make the subject your own and you should come home with some saleable images to help fund your next trip.