Business Trends: Targeting Your Travel Photography

Travel photography is a specialty and a passion. Most photographers love to travel, and many pursue assignments for the access to people and places to shoot for stock. It is often the after-market sales that bring in the money. If you are going to pursue travel photography clients, it is important to immerse yourself in every aspect of the industry. With such a specific target market, you need to pursue the greatest number of types of clients for these images. They want your images as much as you want to travel around the world!

Here are some examples of the clients to target for assignment and stock travel photography sales:

· Advertising agencies with hotel/ travel/resort clients for advertising to consumers

· Ad agencies with hotel/travel/resort clients for trade (business to business) advertising

· Design firms for brochures, web sites, and other collateral materials for travel clients

· Hotel/travel/resort clients and properties directly for needs not met by the above

· Real estate development, restaurants, cultural dinner/dance theaters, casinos

· Editorial, both consumer and trade publications

· Commissioned private collectors and corporate fine art

· Fine art and book publishers

· Paper products (calendar, greeting card, and poster publishers)

· Catalogs of travel-related products

Denise Rocco ( has been free lancing for six years and has targeted adventure travel clients. To illustrate the variety of clients out there, here is her client list: Microsoft's Mungo Park Online Adventure, Travel Magazine, Terra-Quest, Virtual Travel online, Peterson's Photographic, American Photo, Moun-tain Travel, Sobek, National Geographic Online, Sports Illustrated Women, Against All Odds Productions (they create online and book projects such as Passage to Vietnam, One Digital Day, 24 Hours in CyberSpace).

Bruce Dunn ( has been a photographer for 20 years and he recommends this approach to travel clients, "I started out in this business 20 years ago by selling photo/story packages. If you have a complete package to sell, your chances of getting published in travel publications improve. Use industry software such as fotoQuote ( It helps you sell your stock photos by giving you access to over 2000 prices in over 140 categories. Everything you need for pricing and selling your stock photos is instantly available on one screen, from a working price range for your specific sale to complete step by step guidance on how to get your price for the photos. You're a professional providing a professional product. You have value. Once you establish yourself as an amateur, you'll always be an amateur in your client's view and you'll get even less respect."

After deciding on your potential clients and approach, the next thing you need is a marketing plan. For the best use of your time and money, strive for a balance of personal and non-personal promotion in your plan. Personal promotion is any one-on-one contact such as portfolio presentations, phone calls, or correspondence. It is a large investment of your time. Non-personal promotion of your travel photography style or expertise is "broadcasting" to a larger audience by buying source book ad space, being featured in articles like this one, and planning a direct mail campaign. Though non-personal promotion takes money, it continues your marketing and allows you to spend more time shooting. You need both to get clients to call you and to sell to them.

You also need a plan for clients to want to come back. Rocco says, "Clients come back to me for the experience I have out in the field with digital photography technology in Third World countries and the ability to do more than just be a photographer. Especially in the world of new technology, you have to have the skills to be a producer in the field of all types of media. You learn to deliver not just a travel image but an immersion experience for the viewer."

Here are some of the more usual marketing tips and techniques for travel photography:

· A presence on the World Wide Web, either a web page or web site.

· Sending out mini-portfolios of travel photo stories you have had published.

· Promoting word of mouth by asking everyone you meet for referrals.

· Target small to medium resort properties not working through ad agencies.

· Treat your current clients like gold! Send them post cards from travel locations.

· Prospective clients should be continually looking at your new work.

· Contact the tourism office of the country you are targeting and check on locations that they want to promote.

· Network with professional travel communicators (writers, photographers, filmmakers, television producers, and radio show hosts).

· Join and get involved in industry and professional organizations.

Dunn adds, "Join ASMP or SATW and you can access The Travel Connection web site and get press trip notices, along with lots of other useful info and forums. Travel communicators are admitted to this site on an organization-by-organization basis." Refer to the qualified and participating organizations list.

Here are a few other ideas from photographers interviewed for this article.

Ken and Mario of Kenario ( suggest, "A portfolio web site with updates after each trip. Send e-mailings with small travel images attached and think about starting an e-mail newsletter for prospective clients. Mail handmade thank you cards after each job to your clients."

Rocco has taken on the digital adventure travel market. "A lot of my work is using digital cameras, a laptop and satellite system for immediate delivery of stories and images. Creating this niche has allowed me to work for the past five years in the online content world of live event adventure travel."

To get the work, you have to show the work. However, in the field of travel there is often the dilemma of the high cost of travel on your own to shoot for your portfolio. Dunn presents a unique idea for trimming the travel expenses of shooting the self-assignments as well as ideas for packing efficiently: "Travel as an air courier! Visit the web site, for ideas. In some cases, you can check a bag in addition to your carryon limit of two bags, but usually the deal is carryon only. Traveling light is actually a benefit and forces you to take only the bare minimum in clothing and gear, which makes travel much more enjoyable. Essentially, you only need one change of clothes and a toothbrush, no matter how long you'll be away. Other cheap airfare sites are: and You'll find that around-the-world tickets start at $1000!"

From a completely different perspective, Dan Heller ( recommends the barter system. It is just one of the business "models" (a format for making money) that he uses as a photographer. Here's how it works for him: "It is very unusual for a photographer to make a living on his photographs from just one activity or source. Thus, it's a fantasy to think you're going to be paid by a client to produce images, and that's the end of your revenue stream. Photographs are your assets, and you need to reuse your assets to create an annuity that generates residual income flow. Once a picture is taken, the cost of doing it is complete--so any sales after the fact is profit. The barter arrangement gives you the best opportunity to go on trips on someone else's bill, and everyone wins: you come back from a trip with hundreds or thousands of usable images that you can sell to anyone for any use/price, including fine art (my revenue model). The client, in return, gets the right to use `selects' for whatever use they want. (Usually, the selects from a photo shoot are 25-50 images.)"

Because of the exotic and desirable character of the travel photography world, many photographers jump in without any sense of the industry standards and business practices. This is the photographer who is more likely to get taken advantage of and go out of business. It also spoils the client for the other photographers struggling to maintain a professional working environment. You may feel that the following suggestions are not easy. No, they are not. They are however simple if you stop and take the time to learn the business side now, before you get into trouble with a client or a job.

Here are a few important business suggestions when approaching travel photography clients:

Scott B. Smith (, "The single most important business practice I have learned by experience with travel photography is making sure all parties associated with the assignment fully understand every aspect of the requested photography and what is involved in producing the product. It is very time consuming and costly to return to the location and re-shoot certain aspects of the shoot. Also I have found clients wanting to change the scope of the assignment on the fly or on the run. This will cost the photography team time and additional supplies. (Remember you are on location!)"

Rocco, "Learn to run a stock photo business. You can be the greatest shooter but if you don't know how to organize your stock file, negotiate with clients and market yourself you are just one of a million shooters. I think this is one of the hardest businesses to be in these days, especially with royalty free stock discs, but I truly believe if you create a niche for yourself you can stand out and get noticed."

Dunn, "Establish a professional contact/cataloging/invoicing system. The paperwork you send with your images helps reinforce the fact that you are a professional businessperson as well. The best photography business software on the market for Windows and Macintosh platforms is from HindSight ( It has all of the forms, complete with legal terms and conditions designed to protect you, that are essential to your survival as a photographer. There are other software titles out there, one is even free, but you get what you pay for, as the saying goes. I've been using InView and StockView since 1995. If you make a portion of your income as an editorial photographer, then join Editorial Photographers (

Finally, I just bought this book and I think it's a must-have for travel photographers: The Writer's and Photographer's Guide to Global Markets by author Michael H. Sedge. The book includes hundreds of potential markets for articles and photographs and more than 1000 e-mail addresses around the world. Chapters cover working with agents, editors, Art Directors, book publishers, and stock houses overseas; selling to foreign magazines and periodicals; how to approach various markets; taxes; and networking in cyberspace."

Qualified And Participating Organizations

ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors)
ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers)
BGTW (British Guild of Travel Writers)
MTWA (Midwest Travel Writers Association)
NASJA (North American Ski Journalists Association)
NASW (National Association of Science Writers)
NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association)
PWAC (Periodical Writers Association of Canada)
SATW (Society of American Travel Writers)
SEOPA (Southeastern Outdoor Press Association)
SWTW (SouthWest Travel Writers Association)
TMAC (Travel Media Association of Canada)
TOWA (Texas Outdoor Writers Association)