Yesterday, professional photographer Shelly Perry told us that to take saleable travel photos — whether for stock or editorial — you should think “iconic.” If you missed that issue, you can read it in our archives.
Today, we’ll hear from travel photographer Holger Mette. Once a lawyer in Australia, Holger is now able to travel for a living on nothing but his stock-photo income. A quick look at any of his online portfolios (he sells photos on iStock, Dreamstime, Shutterstock, Bigstock, Crestock, and more… ) reveals not only how far and wide he’s traveled, but also a collection of very saleable, iconic images.
Paper lamps in Japan, the Taj Mahal, koalas in Australia, the Great Wall of China… it’s easy to immediately recognize the places he’s been through his photo subjects.
Scroll down to read more about Holger’s life as a travel photographer…
Director, Great Escape Publishing
P.S. Holger’s photos are better than your average travel snapshot. They’re unmistakably professional.
But they’re also quite simple. And I’m willing to bet you already have similar shots in your travel portfolio that you could sell online. Start by picking out your best photos.
Then, submit them for sale to a few stock photo agencies from our directory. The directory covers the top-selling agencies on the web as well as lesser-known sites that are easiest to break into.
Interview with Travel Stock Photographer, Holger Mette
By Bonnie Caton in Portland, Oregon
Just three years ago, Holger Mette was a lawyer in Australia. Photography was his hobby. Now, he is able to travel for a living, camera in tow, selling his travel photos online as stock.
I caught up with Holger, currently traveling in Bolivia, to pick his brain about selling travel stock images…
** BONNIE: Thanks for talking with us, Holger. So what made you give up being a lawyer to go out and make a living off of your travel photography?
** HOLGER: Initially when I left I had every intention of returning to work as a lawyer. Over time, as the income from photography increased, not returning became more of a serious option.
** BONNIE: Many of our readers are travelers who are interested in selling the photos they take on their adventures. What’s your best-selling stock photo subject when you’re on the road?
** HOLGER: My most popular sellers on microstock sites are typically good images of iconic landmarks and cityscapes, frequently at nighttime. Standout individual images are from the Pyramids in Egypt, and the Taj Mahal in India. However, a very large part of my regular sales come from images of locations that are less well covered.
In terms of editorial stock, images from interesting and often poorer locations such as the Davari Slum in India are popular.
** BONNIE: In which agency do your photos sell best?
** HOLGER: The standout agencies for me are iStock and Shutterstock. I have a much larger portfolio on Shutterstock, but in terms of downloads per photo, iStock is my best- selling agency.
** BONNIE: Are you noticing any trends in your best-selling photos, recently?
** HOLGER: Sales overall have been down during the northern summer, however they have picked up noticeably in the last few weeks. I’ll be adding a lot of new images in the next few weeks, so will naturally be watching those!
** BONNIE: Do you find that different photo subjects sell better at different agencies?
** HOLGER: My portfolio is fairly heavily geared towards travel and nature images, and I find that images are generally consistently popular (or not!) across all the microstock agencies.
** BONNIE: With all of the traveling that you do, how much time, on average, do you spend post-processing your images?
** HOLGER: In total, my post-processing time is around 10 to 20 minutes per image. The key for me is to get the image to look the way I want it at the time I take the photo, rather than trying to fix things afterwards.
In general, I convert images from RAW using Olympus software and try to limit additional manipulation. Additional post-processing will sometimes include removing trademarked material.
** BONNIE: What programs do you use for post-processing, and how do you find time while you’re on the road?
** HOLGER: I use Olympus Studio for converting files, then Apple Aperture to add keywords and Metadata. If I need to remove trademarks from my images, I use Photoshop Elements. I also create stitched panorama images with a free (but very powerful) application called Hugin.
I upload to iStock using Deep Meta and to other agencies by FTP using Photoshelter (though I’m currently also testing a new online product called isyndica as a replacement).
For me, the problem isn’t so much finding the time to post-process, as much as finding places where I can work comfortably and accurately. At times (like the last month or so in Peru and Bolivia) I spend a lot of time in places with no internet and even no electricity. Generally, it’s easier to spend a decent amount of time traveling and taking a lot of photos. Then I can catch up in blocks of time in a location where I have access to fast internet and a comfortable place to work.
** BONNIE: What’s your favorite country to photograph, and why?
** HOLGER: This is probably the hardest question! Peru, where I’ve just spent the last six weeks, is a standout — particularly due to the range of subject matter (people, inspiring landscapes, ancient architecture) and the quality of the light at high altitude. It’s also a country where you can be part of a large traveling community and see something truly spectacular, or go a short distance down the road and experience something equally amazing away from travelers — almost to yourself. If you want to get right off the beaten path, there are plenty of little-known places that in other countries would be national landmarks in their own right.
Other standouts for me include Syria, India, Egypt, and the Philippines.
** BONNIE: And finally… how long would you like to continue traveling and selling your photos? What’s the next step?
** HOLGER: After spending the vast majority of the last two and a half years traveling, I’m reaching a point where I’d like to slow down just a little bit. I’ll be spending the next few months in Buenos Aires, to catch up on a big backlog of photos, but also to take some more Spanish lessons and enjoy life in one place for a while.
** BONNIE: Thanks, Holger!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]