If this applies to you, have you thought of selling your photographs to the tourism industry through a photographic library or by approaching the tour operators themselves? And if you have but without much success, are you wondering why your photographs don’t sell?
Having worked within the industry for many years both as an in-house photographer and a photographic editor, selecting images from a wide variety of sources including independent photographers, I would like 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 although with regards to tourism that should be everything that represents it in a positive light. 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.
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.
3. Create space for copy
When a designer is laying out a page they will sometimes want to use an image that has large uncluttered areas of uniform colour (such as that glorious blue sky) 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. 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.
5. Take both portrait and landscape orientation
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.
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 such basic enhancements. 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, and I would positively encourage you to do so, remove unwanted items from a photograph such as rubbish on a beach, or even the odd person or two to make it look less crowded but never remove an object that is a permanent feature. While it is fine to remove a temporary structure 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 Alamy.com and on Shutterstock. Some photographic libraries, including iStockphoto, 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 amongst a sea of mediocre images and even just a few poorly selected images can ruin an otherwise first rate collection.
Post image by Rick Nunn