Here are some tips from Lonely Planet Images to help guide you through the daunting challenges of the new travel photography marketplace.
Provide something unique — With the flood of digital images in the marketplace, it’s more important than ever to make your photos stand out. Much of a successful photographer’s work is planning (having the right equipment and getting to the right place at the right time) and persistence (waiting for just the right light or expression). "I look for images containing strong, simple compositions with a clear point of interest that will inspire people to travel," says LPI photo editor Glenn Beanland. "They should offer something new or unusual to the collection, or present a well-known subject in a different or interesting way. We don’t want images that are obviously just holiday snaps."
Be selective about which agencies you use — Before you edit your submission, always look at the collection to see what images have already been included. The current collection should give you some visual clues as to what types of images are likely to be accepted. You should also be assessing if the collection matches your style. Make sure you’d be happy to have your images appearing in the mix.
Take into consideration the marketing capabilities of the agencies you’re evaluating. Getting exposure through web crawlers is one way that agencies market their images. They may also seek subagents in markets where they don’t have great reach. This can be both good and bad because it will mean further dilution of your commissions, so you should try to find out more about who they partner with. Agencies should also use social media to get the word out with newsletters, e-mail blasts, blogs, Facebook fan pages and tweets.
Be strategic about the content you are submitting — When you’re researching a collection to get a feel for its visual style, you should also assess what’s strong and weak in terms of destination coverage. A simple keyword search on LPI.com, for example, will reveal that we have only 219 images of Albania, in contrast to 7,889 images of Thailand. All agencies will have a list of destination holes they’re hoping to fill. If you’re proactive and ask various agencies via e-mail to obtain their "want list," you can select your images to fill some of the gaps. Agencies are always looking for photos that include up-to-date skylines and people engaging in a city’s offerings and stunning landscapes.
You don’t need to go far to make a winning submission – Photographers often mistakenly think that the only travel imagery worth its salt has to be shot on the most unattainable mountain peak in a destination requiring three planes, two buses and a mule to get to. The economic downturn has tightened wallets, making some opt for "staycations." This means there’s a market for images taken in your own backyard. Don’t miss an opportunity to make an extraordinary and successful image submission just because the photographs happen to be taken in your hometown environs.
Follow the technical guidelines — Most agencies have a minimum number of images required to submit, in order to discourage stray submissions from people who once went on a fabulous trip and don’t plan to travel again for a while. If an agency requires 500 images, as is the case with LPI, it doesn’t mean you should submit 50 strong images, shot in a range of situations and perspectives, and another 450 that just fill the gap.
In addition, technical requirements are established by agencies to ensure that they can control their workflow for scan uploads and to allow for quality control. This is also one way that agencies can be selective and separate amateurs from pros. Most stock agencies ask that images be shot in DSLR RAW format and then converted for submission to a TIFF or JPEG file. The RAW option is not available on many prosumer point-and-shoot cameras that have only JPEG capture. Each agency is likely to have different specifications and submissions standards, so take the time to make sure you understand them and have the capacity to follow them.
Do accurate postproduction work — If you’ve taken all the steps required to travel to a destination and take a beautiful photograph, it is important that you spend time on the very essential step of importing standard IPTC metadata caption information into your digital file. Make sure you have a good deal of detail in the caption. Otherwise, your wonderful photograph may not show up in a keyword search. Having a GPS longitude and latitude tag in your metadata is also beneficial. And the good news for photographers is that postproduction offers a second chance to perfect your vision.
Follow through on model and property releases — Obtaining a model release for any image with a recognizable person is highly recommended. Without the model release, the image is basically not usable for any advertising work because of liability concerns, and commercial work is the most lucrative for photographers. You should also be careful with images containing trademarks, such as billboards or recognizable properties, because they may require additional releases to be used in any commercial work. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a model- and property-released image may be worth thousands of dollars.