Ten tips for selling your travel photos to the tourism industry


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Kathryn Burrington
Kathryn is a professional travel photographer, writer and blogger. Having worked in the travel industry for over 18 years, Kathryn loves sharing her passion for discovering new countries, cultures and cuisines on her blog Travel with Kat.
Kathryn Burrington
Kathryn Burrington

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L'Ile Rousse, Corsica

Are you a travel blogger who enjoys photography? While travelling have you built-up a huge collection  of beautiful images from around the world. Have you ever thought of selling your photographs to the tourism industry through a photographic library or by approaching the tour operators themselves? And if you already have tried this, but without much success, are you wondering why your photographs aren’t selling?

Having worked within the industry for many years, as a photographer and a photographic editor, I would like to share some hints and tips on how photographs are selected and how you can improve your chances of selling your photographs to the tourism industry. And don’t forget the small independent tour operators who specialise in specific destinations. The Association of Independent Tour Operators has a useful list of UK companies.

1. Blue skies and sunshine

It may seem obvious but the aim here is to sell holidays and tour operators will want their brochures full of glorious sunshine and clear blue skies (maybe with just a few fluffy white clouds). Even a skiing brochure is full of photographs with brilliant blue skies. A moody sky with interesting cloud formations may create a much more artistic image that would look superb hanging in a gallery but in the main it won’t sell holidays.

2. Shoot a variety of subjects

Don’t just limit your photography to landscapes, cityscapes and the obvious iconic symbols of a destination but extend your collection to all the things that represent that destination. Images of traditional cuisine, flower stalls, shop window displays, smiling locals, interesting architectural details and so forth all make useful supplementary images. That doesn’t mean you should not take images of say, crumbling buildings if they are evocative and beautiful, but keep in mind that the aim is to sell the destination.

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Apples, rue Montorgueil, Paris

Fish Benechin, The Gambia

Tour operators often send photographers on assignment to not only capture destination shots but also images of properties such as hotels, villas, swimming pools and interiors so if this is something you would like to do, build up a selection of appropriate images for your portfolio and then approach companies directly. Perhaps they would like to hire you to photograph some holiday homes in an area you are about to visit.

3. Create space for copy

L'Ile Rousse with text

When a designer is laying out a page they will sometimes want to use an image that has large uncluttered areas of uniform colour where they can lay text over the top so that it will still be clearly legible. This is common on front covers of magazines

and brochures but also on internal spreads. So remember to take some extra shots of that stunning view that intentionally allow for this.

4. Take both portrait and landscape orientation shots

Taking this one step further, where possible shoot both portrait (vertically) and landscape (horizontally) orientated photographs to give the designer the greatest choice of layout.

5. Leave space for cropping

Don’t crop in too tight to your subject. Designers are often working with fixed templates where the photographs are a certain shape and size so you should leave space around the main subject in your photograph to allow for it to be used in a variety of picture box shapes.

Holiday Apartments, Corsica

6. Wide angle lenses

Using a wide angle lens is great for capturing interiors or making swimming pools look large but be careful to not overdo this so that a pool looks Olympic sized when it is no more than a splash pool. For interiors don’t use a lens that is so wide that it creates distortions.

7. Photo enhancement

Most photographs can be improved upon after they have been taken by tweaking the levels, sharpening etc. The best software is Adobe Photoshop and even Photoshop Elements, which isn’t too expensive, will allow you to do basic enhancements. Lightroom is another popular choice by professionals. The tourism industry generally likes bright, saturated colours but, as with the sharpening, don’t overdo it; keep things looking natural.

8. When to use digital manipulation

While it is perfectly permissible to alter images for fine art purposes, photographs that are to be used within the tourism industry do need to be an accurate representation of the subject. By all means remove unwanted items from a photograph, such as rubbish on a beach, or even the odd person or two to make it look a little less crowded but never remove an object that is a permanent feature. While it is fine to remove something that is temporary such as a crane, scaffolding or a car, it is not OK to remove overhead cables or telegraph poles that are permanent structures.

9. Model and property release forms

The rules vary slightly from country to country and even from state to state within the USA but if possible always get a signed model release form from anyone that is recognisable in a photograph and this doesn’t just apply to professional models. For minors the form must be signed by a parent or legal guardian.

Likewise it is advisable where possible to obtain a signed property release form stating that the owner of a certain property, such as a building or even a pet, has given you consent to take the photograph of that property and to use it.

Sometimes this just isn’t possible but not having a release form will limit the saleability of an image to editorial purposes only and will entirely exclude some uses including advertising.

More information on property/model release forms can be found on various stock photography websites. Sample forms can be found on Shutterstock. Some photographic libraries require model release forms for ALL images in which a person is recognisable even if you cannot see their face.

10. Less is more

It has been said many times before but it is so often overlooked that I felt I should include this point; it is possibly the most important and applies to all areas of photography; be selective and super critical. When choosing images for submission or for an online gallery only show your very best work and only show a few variations of the same subject (see points 4 and 5). You may have many superb photographs but these will be hard to spot among a sea of mediocre images and even just a few poorly selected images can ruin an otherwise first rate collection.