Selling Your Images
The travel marketplace, in my opinion, is probably the most healthy in all of stock photography right now. I would say it's a pillar of selling your images and your library images and the reason is because there's an abundance of content needed. Think about all the travel images and things that you see on social media. Every time I get on and I look at Instagram or whatever and I see all these photos, they're all just destination photos, destination photos, lot of 'em are produced by different companies and brands. There are more start ups in travel than ever before. They need content. So there's a lot of opportunity but advertisements, the other thing is, I can't tell you how many banks and financial institutions buy travel imagery. Why? Well, 'cause you save money here, you get to go and live this life there. You're conveying a message and a story, you're conveying some sort of a theme that people want to have on their brands. So advertisements are probably the biggest one. The other...
thing is not only just thinking of banks but think of the magazines and the different spreads and the physical ads that they take. There's just a ton of those, billboards. Everyone aspires, not everyone but most people, aspire to travel. You always hear people say, oh, well, when I retire, what am I finally gonna do? I'm gonna go on that roadtrip or I'm gonna travel the world, right? I mean, it's something that people aspire to do, therefore, you have a broad marketplace for it and so advertisements are really, really good and advertisements are also gonna be the best paying. Advertisements also mean you need to have releases for your people, Unless you're in public or it's a public location, in which case you don't need it, like that first shot we started with in Positano of the hillside, right? But then you look at the next shot of the woman with her foot in the water and that's released. So advertisements are huge. Magazines from luxury brands, I point this out because this is a little vague on a couple different levels and I've had some really interesting discussions about where they actually fall. So a lot of hotels and resorts have, especially the higher end ones, have full on magazines, like very robust magazines. Most magazines these days that are successful don't rely on advertising at all. They are membership based such as like a non-profit, you know, maybe like one, a great example that I work with, I think they might have ads, and some of 'em have ads as well but they don't rely on it for their revenue which means they can persist and they have budgets so National Parks Magazine is a great example of that. I've been doing assignments for them. They're part of the National Park Conservation Association. They publish in a magazine four times a year, something like that but they're not relying solely on ads and so that's an interesting area, now with non-profits that's one thing, they typically are gonna be a little more clean as being a commercial venture, right, 'cause of their status but what about these giant hotels that have these incredible, beautiful produced magazines but the editorial is, is it or not? Because technically, they might have writing, they might have original articles and ideas that have nothing to do with the hotel but they're still branded with that hotel name on it, right? Same thing with credit cards and places like that. A lot of credit card companies, especially the higher end ones, the metal cards and all that other stuff have their own magazines and so you have to figure out, well, are they editorial or are they not? There's not a clear distinction on that. Most of the stock imagery and licensing is saying it is and most of those places will say they are and it's because the line, it is a little gray, and I think it'd be interesting from a legal perspective to better understand that but you wanna play it safe as much as possible with that but that's why the city skylines are always the best way to go because they're generic, they're safe, they're protected by law (laughs), you're in a public location but if you've got people inside of a magazine in a luxury brand, probably not a bad idea to have them released, have model releases for it. Not all of them are going to be created equal so a lot of tourism boards will say, well, we publish a magazine four times a year, they've got ads in it, they have editorial, they win editorial awards, magazine awards, and literally they call them, there are a couple of them that are actually editorial awards but they might be deemed a product. It depends. Most of what I'm seeing is they're leading editorial though, these days but it can be a gray area depending on the brand and how it's used is also important. Tourism boards and travel companies are huge. Again, every, almost every major city probably has a tourism board and has a need for images of its city. There are a lot of other associated travel companies and brands and information centers and so on so this is a great opportunity to sell your work and by the way, these luxury brand magazines are also great opportunities to sell your work because they're not relying on the revenue from advertisements. They're relying on revenue from people actually going into their rooms or ordering room service or whatever it is that they do. So it's a great area to market your work for sure, huge! Tourism boards and travel companies, also great. Airline magazines, same thing. Notice none of these really rely on, I already kind of talked about hotel specific magazines but none of these really rely on a lot of advertisements themselves. I mean, there's a lot of just general editorial magazines out there and those are also good but they're competitive and budgets can be a little challenging these days. These are the places with the best and healthiest budgets currently. Every airline has a magazine. Every time you sit on there and you, on an airplane which I spend half my life on an airplane it feels like sometimes, everyone reads the magazine. A. It's a captive audience so it's great. It's great for building your name. It's a great marketing piece as well if you're trying to pitch marketing. Airline magazines are amazing like that but they have budgets, they're great, and they constantly need new images of destinations. You want to know what you should shoot? It's a great research tool. Any of these things are great research tools. When I go to the airport, I flew into Seattle yesterday, first thing I do, I take pictures of all the different covers. There's probably, I think, like 13 or 14 magazines just here alone for the Seattle area and then you get the Washington stuff and then you get the different neighborhoods. Each neighborhood, I think, in Seattle has its own magazine. It's amazing. I can't get over how many there are and a lot of cities are like that. So those are all opportunities to work with people. Not all of them pay well but not all of them have big circulations. So you might be willing to take $50 for an image instead of the normal $ but if the circulation's only 6,000 versus 600,000, well, maybe that's something that you'd be comfortable with and it helps you get out there and it helps you figure out what's selling and what's working with your images. And I already talked about hotel specific magazines a little bit under luxury brands. You know, I think that the credit card companies, all those places that have sort of their own magazine, hotel specific magazines are a great area to go in. The thing that's cool about hotel specific magazines is if you can get in and start working with them, they can help you get access to the hotels themselves. So there's a really nice angle to working your way into the hotel world and making sure you have releases and all the other appropriate protections. Any questions about any of that? It was a lot but there's a lot to it, travel photography. Yes?
So with the horse back riding and the cooking classes, well, if you have only the hands and the rolls, I guess it's not a big problem but if you do want to put people in there, do you actually have them sign releases?
Yeah, I mean if you have multiple people in a shot, you wanna get releases if you can. I mean, if you're doing editorial and you get an email and you get permission from the place and you give them some photos, I might be more apt to loosen the reign a little bit on that but you're only gonna be limited to editorial, definitely want to go commercial but I would not recommend it. I mean, I think whenever you're behind the private wall so to speak, you'd wanna have a release. Horse back riding may be in a public location. So the second you cross from private property into public, even if the horse is technically private, you may need a property release for the horse and you might be being led on a guided trip and the guide may need one but editorial, no, you wouldn't need one. Only in the commercial sense would you need it though on the horse back riding. So it's all about where you are when you take the picture. If I'm standing right here and this is public and I take the picture of an area then I'm in the clear for editorial. If I step over that line and you can tell that I've stepped over that line, I'm now on private property. You need a release. So it does change in that way. Another question, yeah?
So selling to all those places,
You mentioned stock photography. Obviously these are not all necessarily stock photography pick up kinds of places. Can you talk a little bit about the selling approaches?
Sure. That's a great question, selling approaches. Well, all of these will buy stock photography and they will all buy from library and they will all assign. So all three of these have different approaches to how they get their images. I'm sorry, all of these, not three but five. All five of these have different ways in which they bring it in and so an advertisement really does depend these days, I'd say it's 50/50, will be 50% stock, 50% assignment. The luxury brands, I would say, almost all of them, not all, I would say about 75% of it is probably assigned work. So you're gonna wanna go in with a portfolio or with something to show that you can tell that story. One thing we've seen a lot with the hotel specific magazines or luxury brand magazines is people who can write or have a writer that they work with, a lot of times you see a husband and wife teams or something like that, help quite a bit in selling it 'cause you can now sell the whole package and get the assignment eventually too. So we've had, we've actually had a photographer I work with in tandem all the time, he, we sold a lot of his work to this magazine and it was actually another good magazine brand to think about is car magazines, a lot of cars have their own magazines as well and those are great for the road trip and the travel and everything, right, it's all destination oriented. They were buying stock only and then we started to pitch the idea of well, you keep buying the same two or three photographers' stock. Why don't we talk about actually guiding the editorial around an actual trip? And one of the stories that was just picked up not long ago, not picked up but rather was assigned was about apple picking and they, I think he writes and shoots, yeah, he writes and shoots the stories, his wife is usually the model so he gets the releases, you're picking the apple or whatever and they happen to drive the car for that brand so they always have the car sort of in the background or somewhere like that. It doesn't always have to be, by the way. Most of the time it doesn't have to be but it definitely helps, definitely helps.
I have a follow up question.
Sure, of course.
Just real quick. I used to be an advertising director and one of the challenges we always ran into was we needed to be able to crop tighter or a different part of the picture.
So can you talk a little bit about shooting for edges? Where are the edges compared to the subject matter and how much latitude you give the art director on how to use the image?
Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I think you wanna, a big part, like you look at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you've got a lot of options, I had probably another 40 more options there and you do wanna think about, you wanna think about placement and how it's gonna be used, whether it's in a magazine or in an ad, where will the text go? I always say shoot like every shot's gonna be a cover too especially if you know you're like at a great moment coming together then put space at the top. You know, we just recently had a big meeting with a lot of editors and I've heard that they're now buying images off of Instagram if they're shot with the iPhone because it was high enough quality for the cover but to be on the cover, you've got to still hit all their cover criteria and so your question's great. Art directors and a cover's a great example, and they have a pretty interesting presentation about it but it goes through testing, rounds of testing, they'll do three or four of 'em, they'll test them. Is it on brand? They look at it, well, and then they go into the details of like well if there's a campfire, it is a legal fire? Is it a legal camp site? There's a lot of stuff that goes into it and all of those things from paying attention to having clear borders and edges and nothing jutting into your frame from the sides which is very important. You don't want anything too distracting unless, of course, the shot, it works that way but you wanna have room, if you think about a layout, you wanna have room for the text or for the layout to fit it, yeah, and horizontal and vertical is a good point. Thank you for pointing that out (laughs). It's true. Everything I do, I shoot both horizontal and vertical as often as possible and as an agency we take both. If we have both presented to us, we usually take both for that purpose because editors and art directors want to be able to have the options that they can choose from. So, yeah, thank you for pointing that out. Great question. So what kind of images should you shoot? What works? One thing, I had like a trend for a bit where I was using this orange filter on the top and it actually worked out pretty well for me for a bit. I was just sick of getting these boring white skies and now you can do this in post so I probably wouldn't do it as much and these days, I am doing a lot more of my dodging and burning in post but one of the things that, what should you shoot? Well, you wanna tell a story. This is where the Ganges River begins, where two rivers meet and so that's very relevant to telling the story of the place 'cause the Ganges Rivers feeds life to all of the continent, the Indian continent. So I wanna make sure I have it It's also a very holy place. I wanted to get a sense of a strong area. You want images that bring people in and give you that strong sense of place. What is the experience like? What stories are you telling? What does it feel like to be there? I always remember how sick I was when I see this photo. It's actually interesting. I got pretty sick on this particular trip. I don't know why I do but I remember being on a boat not feeling all that well but beautiful, beautiful location. These are not released so they're limited to editorial. An art director or editor might use this or maybe darken it so that the people become non-recognizable which is one way to do it but you'd be surprised how many places will run it anyway and take on the risk. I was here for this purpose with permission and I wanted to get as close and be as much a part of the action as possible and so this is at an ashram in the base of the Himalayan Mountains and they had, I think, I forget the name of the ceremony. It's a fire ceremony, I think it's actually called fire, or light ceremony or something like that but I was able to get right in there. Again, not technically amazing image but you feel like you're part of the action. I've got all of the (inaudible), you have wonder, and you're trying to figure out what's going on, you got the sparks. You're getting the whole sort of feeling of what's going on in the scene and that's what you want to do. You want people to be like, well, what am I looking at? How do you, let your eye wander around a little bit. These are Merlot grapes, I think. I remember trying to photograph this with a macro lens, 50 millimeter macro. It was so wild trying to get a good focus on it. It was very hard because grapes move in the wind ever so slightly and it took a long time to do it but you know, I've always liked it especially when you get like morning dew and things like that but it works. I mean, a travel photograph, you're doing a story about wine country and you mention putting text on this. There's plenty of room to put text on this without it being distracting even though the whole frame is busy but a shot like this of Santa Fe in the square might be much harder to find a way to put text. There's not a whole lot of room on it. So really, it limits itself. Sometimes text itself can kind of be interesting. This is something I saw on the beach just walking by, the black sand beach. Is it a travel photo? What do you think? Yeah, it could be. It could be about destination weddings. We went to Hawaii for our wedding and we got married on a black sand beach. I love you forever (laughs). Is this a travel photo? Absolutely, but it's not super specific. It's more experience based and that's the piece that really makes it work and you know why it works? I happen to be, actually this was the bike I was riding at the time and went to get a coffee and I parked it there. Didn't even think about it being a shot until I started walking back with my coffee. Always looking. The bike makes the picture, right. This is in Kauai. Aloha, public beach. This was a friend who was traveling with me at the time, We worked together for a couple years, and is a staged shot but had to make it look authentic and it was 'cause we were out on the beach and we were hanging out. We were shooting a travel story in Hawaii. I saw this thing which said, the name of the beach, Aloha real big, kinda generic-ish, not the best shot in the world, sold many times and I said to her will you walk through it for me? And then I just had her walk back and forth a bunch of times until I finally got a shot that felt authentic enough. Again, travel photo. Easy to do, can do it from the road, generic, could be anywhere. It just says zinfandel, right? It could be anywhere, could work for an Italy story, well, probably be in Italian, right? But it could certainly work for anywhere in, could work there, could work certainly for any part of California with, you know, for as a travel destination. This is what I want to remind you to do. Don't skip the nature photos. The nature photos are very, very important. I'm talking about a lot of the other stuff because I think, certainly for me, I used to go and try and get these shots. This is in Maine. Beautiful, beautiful state and it just always has an abundant opportunity and the fall colors, oh, God, I came up with so many images from that trip but this stuff works for travel and I also photographed the lobster rolls and all the other stuff that come with Maine and it gives me all those different opportunities and as a business, you wanna think about how you can diversify as much of your imagery and as much of your subject matter as possible. So if you're on your way to take the landscape photo which is what I love to do then you want to make sure you get the other stuff as well but this absolutely constitutes a travel photo and these are some of the biggest sellers in travel. So I know I'm talking a lot about the other stuff, the cafes and all the other experiences, entertainment, food, drink, all that but you want to make sure that nature stays part of your core if that's what you're interested in doing and it's fun. Landscape photos are fun and also going back to that same point of text, usually nature photos have lots of room to put lots of text and so that's why they make such great openers and they have a lot of appeal you don't have to worry so much about. Permits and model releases and everything else that tends to be sort of the last (inaudible) let's go out and have fun and still make a few bucks off of it. Look and feel is very important. I mentioned in the beginning sort of how I warmed up a lot of my images. That's something I do more than ever before. I find myself shooting most of my travel work with my iPhone these days, lots and lots and lots of phone photos. It's the camera you have with you, right? And so I'm doing that. I haven't actually even started to market them which is sad but even on there I notice I'm also pushing that exposure up, getting them a little bit brighter, littler happier, little warmer, you might want to create a style. I originally and still do, I love the vibrant image, I love a lot of color and if you look at my portfolio of my images, they all look like my images. I've created a look and style that are my own. It doesn't have to be 100% original, right? But there are ways to do it and there are ways, I still am amazed, I go on social media and I look at these photographers and they create looks and styles simply by their angles and maybe a little bit of post-processing but a lot of it is just sort of what their eye is attracted to and it's so well curated and you want to do that. You want to create a style for yourself. There are post-production looks you can certainly, obviously, we know on social media you've got all the filters, that's essentially what we're talking about, looks, there are also plenty of those that you can plug in and you can use in lightroom or wherever. Be careful though because essentially everyone else can download the same thing and add it and just change your image right up. I still produce all my images individually. I don't do any bulk looks or things like that. I mean, I'll do a bulk batch if all the images are of the same set up but generally speaking, I don't have like a default filter for my photography. I have a default style but most of that's happening when I'm out on location. I'm looking for those vibrant colors and dramatic light and so on, I'm like looking at my own images on the wall over here so I can use a reference (laughs), have a reference point to what I'm actually doing. Light, have a lighting strategy, mid-day versus evening shots. You know this is something that's really interesting about travel is you can shoot in the middle of the day. Landscapes, people always say oh, you got to go out at sunset and the magic hour and all that stuff but more than ever before I'm seeing that brighter, middle of the day look and set up and it is very successful so, even in the nature genre, it doesn't have to be those moody or very intense colors. Those can be good for some outlets but have a strategy and the nice part about doing all this is you can photograph it almost all day long. I'd say the only time is at night is probably the biggest challenge but even then with city lights coming on you get a little bit of a window but have a strategy, what you're going for. If you're photographing a subject know if you're gonna be able to get it all during the same time of day. If it's part of a story, you want it to feel like it's all part of the same story. You might want, like one great evening shot as an opener and then maybe you have more, like your maybe your mid-day shots like your foods and interiors are done during the middle of the day when you have window light coming in and giving you that nice soft sort of look. I think it's important to just figure out what are your images gonna look like and give 'em a look and feel.