Friday, 6 June 2008

Is travel stock photography dead?

A lot of people starting out in travel photography think they will be able to make a living from selling stock. They aim to travel the world shooting everything they see, upload it all to Alamy and carry on shooting.


Well I hate to be the one to shatter your dreams but think again. Yes, millions of pounds a year are made from selling travel stock images, but they won’t be yours.


Why? Because the market is already saturated. Do a search for pretty much any travel destination on Getty or Corbis (who distribute 50% of the world’s stick between them) and you will get thousands of hits. And most of the shots will be beautifully executed, high quality images.


But when you submit your collection of high quality travel shots they won’t be interested. You just did the search right? So you know why - their collections are already stuffed with similar images, and they’re no longer taking on contributors for traditional travel imagery. That leaves you with the smaller players who, while they are viable businesses, will never sell enough of your images for it to be a viable income to you.


So how can you make any money from shooting travel stock? Well, the stuff that Getty and Corbis will still take on, and that sells for more money, are highly produced ‘travel lifestyle’ images. You know the kind of thing – you’ve seen them in adverts, in brochures or on billboards for resorts or tourist boards – fun, active or romantic images of beautiful people enjoying a stunning location. But these images are expensive to produce – they have high production values and use models, exclusive locations etc.


So what’s the solution? How can you shoot highly produced lifestyle travel imagery without breaking the bank? Simple: shoot for high end magazine and commercial clients, make sure you retain rights to your images and then use the outtakes as stock.


Stock travel photography isn’t dead. But to make any money out of it you’re still going to have to focus on high-end commercial and editorial clients. 


  1. Nice post.

    I think it understated the work and cost that goes into shooting "lifestyle" imagery. The models, location, styling, etc..all come into play. It's very difficult to get in on an entry level.

  2. That's exactly right. The production costs for good lifestyle imagery are too high for self-funded stock shoots, but they are what you need to shoot if you want to make any real income from stock. So the solution is to get someone else - i.e. a client - to pay for the production, and then use the out takes as stock.

  3. Very useful, thank you.
    But Julian how do you shoot lifestyle picture from hotels, do you organize and ask permission before you go in the country? Do you stay at the hotel?
    If so, great life.

  4. I usually shoot lifestyle images while I'm staying at a hotel or resort on an assignment. That way the hotel, model, stylist etc are already paid for. Usually you won't have time to shoot your own images, but if you make sure your contract allows it, you can often use the images you shot for the client as stock after a certain period of exclusivity.

  5. I agree with you! its quite hard to earn from travel stock photography due to a lot of issues. even how good you are. You cant be good enough, you should be good, great and amazing! and smart.