I decided to become a travel photographer at a Great Escape Travel Writing Workshop in San Francisco in 2012.
I was there to learn about writing but I fell in love with the idea of traveling the world, capturing great images, making tons of money, and spending the rest of my life using my TSA Pre-check and Global Entry Cards at destinations that would make the common man jealous.
Only thing was, I then went home and realized I wasn’t actually that good at taking pictures. The truth was, I never tried to be. I just wanted to jump ahead to that jet-set guy… but the real me still had to take his shoes and belt off at the airport.
It was at this point I decided to do two things:
1. Become extremely proficient with my camera
2. Learn how to finance my lifestyle as an international man of mystery and intrigue
The camera part was easy if you call a year of taking pictures with purpose “easy.”
I shot and I learned… and I shot and I learned.
After I had somewhat accomplished this, I was confronted with the second goal of actually turning these pictures into income.
Would anyone be interested in paying for my photographs?
For me, fine-art prints filled a niche in my interior design business that was sorely lacking.
Clients were looking for something unique and personal that couldn’t be bought at Hobby Lobby. And by showing them a variety of images that I thought would complement their décor, I started selling images faster and for more money than I had anticipated.
Here’s, ultimately, what I learned in this whole process that applies to anyone selling images in any market: Someone needs and wants what you have to offer; your job is to find them.
I believe everyone can benefit from this simple axiom: You can have anything in life that you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.
The images that sell the best in my market, without question, are those that are local in focus. Obviously here in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky, that means beautiful horses, bourbon, and basketball. Since my focus is primarily landscape photography, I spend a considerable amount of time at horse farms, Keeneland Racecourse, and touring distilleries.
My best-selling images include one of the bourbon barrels at Maker’s Mark, a stallion and a mare with her foal at a prominent horse farm, the Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh, and beautiful barns at horse farms.
Even though each of these has sold very well in the Lexington market, I have found that local clients want local images — be it in Cincinnati, Los Angeles or Houston.
My Kentucky images don’t sell in Cincinnati, and my Cincinnati images don’t sell in Kentucky.
If you’re thinking about images for publication, then I suggest studying a specific publication and seeing what their style is. Most of them will post a calendar online of the stories or themes that will be featured in the coming months. That helps you create a shoot list so you can focus on taking photos that sell.
Ask your client what they want or need. Many times what my clients tell me they want is not what I would have chosen, but that is why I always abide by the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules!”
Many of my clients like images of local architecture or of someplace that has meaning to them, and listening to your client’s or editor’s needs greatly enhances the sale of your work.
Typically, artistic people have a disdain for anything sales-related, but when you develop your ability to listen, you’ll be amazed how your ability to market yourself and your images increases.
Being successful is a game of offense, not defense.
You need to get out there and charge forward with the ball.
I hope to see you soon in an airport with your shoes on, belt fastened – and your pockets full of travel spending cash!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Five Fun Ways To Get Paid To Travel: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]