The Business Of Travel Photography; Lots Of Clients, But Plenty Of Competition, Too

Travel photography is one of the most oft-named areas of interest by photographers polled in my marketing workshops and classes. The allure is undeniable--it seems to be all about exotic places to visit and fascinating people to meet. While lots of photographers want to get into travel photography it's also one of the most competitive fields in free-lance photography.

Like any very competitive photography market, you need to specifically target and then research your clients before you begin any marketing or selling. Search the library source books, the Internet, and mailing list agencies that compile travel clients' names. Don't stop there--take a hard look at your prospective clients and assess whether or not your work is best suited to their needs.

Travel photography is really two fields of work: the photography of travel and the photography for travel. The photography of travel will be clients in advertising and the goal of the images is to get people to drop what they are doing and buy something--a ticket, a time-share. The photography for travel is more geared toward storytelling and clients will be in editorial and publishing. Which do you prefer?

Finally, look at the diverse subjects of the photography. Depending on the client and the goal (of travel or for travel) you will be shooting architecture ("sticks and bricks"), food, portraits, lifestyle, and people with products--just about every subject under the sun! But they all have one thing in common--the business of travel.

Prospective Clients For Your Travel Photography
Here's a quick look at all the different types of travel clients. The big "divide" is between the more commercial (advertising) clients and the more editorial (publishing) clients.
· Corporate clients (retailers, wholesalers, vacation clubs, leisure products and sports products manufacturers--even educational institutions)
· Graphic design firms with travel clients
· Magazines that feature travel stories (note that this is not limited to "travel magazines")
· Governments, travel bureaus
· Book publishers
· Paper products
· Stock and fine art sales

Marketing Tips From Travel Photographers
For marketing tips, let's talk to some travel photographers. For some, the personal approach is still the best. Tom Reid ( starts with the basics as recommended earlier and researches his prospective clients by checking out their websites.

Reid says, "Websites start everything for me. At any moment, I might find that they have a good shooter but haven't done a lot of new images for many different reasons and have nothing on the horizon. If so, I move on. I also find clients I'd love to work with whom I know I could shoot great images for, but they like who they are working with. I'm happy, they're happy and I work on another prospect at that point. I've basically been hitting very high percentages with book (portfolio) presentations and maybe that's the key--sales calls, shake hands, let them know you're just like them. Seriously, personal presentations with the book go a long way. I wish I had a week every month just to show my book."

© 2005, Allan A. Philiba, All Rights Reserved

Allan A. Philiba ( agrees with Reid on the value of the one-on-one approach. He says, "For me, having worked in the New York metropolitan area, the personal touch works best: sales calls, followed by appointments and return appointments at later dates, each time with better and better photos. A top art director at one of the largest advertising firms in New York with many large travel accounts told me something I never forgot. He pointed to a wall full of business cards from photographers behind him and told me that `every one of those photographers is very competent and would probably do a great job on most assignments, like you. However, you and I have built a great rapport, and that's why I give you the assignments rather than them.'"

© 2005, Allan A. Philiba, All Rights Reserved

For new technology marketing, Doug Plummer ( gets the most out of using the Internet. He says, "I think marketing is getting more casual, in terms of portrayal of image and what some clients are looking for. Case in point: my primary creative outlet lately has been my daily photoblog. It is the opposite of a refined, thought-out, structured portfolio. There's no sexy, titanium case. There's no fancy Flash code. I just photograph every day. I pick one to post. It's just one photograph after another, day after day. I printed and bound the first hundred days of my photoblog, and started showing it as my portfolio. One designer completely keyed into what I was doing and she's someone who has been on my `hit list' for years. I think what the blog shows is my truest photographic sensibility, my daily response to the world. Formatting is less important in this environment. I think the image really is the message. That I've kept it up, and at a high level visually, speaks to a level of discipline and commitment that is the meta-message about how I'll act with a client. The right people are going to get it."

© 2005, Doug Plummer, All Rights Reserved


leonardo85's picture

I am trigger-happy shutterbug and like to capture all the moments of life using my camera. Last year while I was attending a seminar in beijing I got a chance to enroll myself for the "My Beijing" photo competition and to my utter surprise I came third at the competition. It was one of the most memorable moment of my life.

leonardo85's picture

The trick to win the competition is to present a view that no one has been able to do. If you are covering european cities for your next assignment try to highlight aspects of the cities which are rarely found in travel magazines.

leonardo85's picture

Travel photography is a great career option you can visit so many places and you can also learn about many interesting facts. Beyond pleasantries there are many more aspects to a particular place which you can learn about.

leonardo85's picture

It is true that there is intense competition in this sector and the competition is healthy you should provide useful information to help the readers have a blissful travel.

leonardo85's picture

The competition would intensify even more there is a huge growth in tourism and tourists now depend on travel magazines and blogs for information, so there is a huge demand for images too. When I decided to take a trip to Cancun I found out all about the place including the beautiful Sunset Royal Cancun on a blog.