Three Things You Can Get Paid to Photograph on Your Next Vacation

To most travelers, a vacation is a time to relax, take in a few museums, enjoy coffee in an outdoor café, eat out, and meet new people. But to me, a vacation is also an opportunity to make some easy cash.

Take Paris, for instance. (I’ve been there twice.) I enjoyed the cafés … the lavish meals … the leisurely strolls along the Seine. And I took pictures as I went – just like we all do when we’re on vacation.

The big difference for me is that I don’t just slide my pictures into an album when I get home. I sell them. And the truth is, thousands of websites, magazines, and travel agencies buy vacation photos from travelers like me all the time. And it’s not hard to find those buyers …

I sell a lot of my photos to online stock photo agencies, also known as “microstock sites.” And I make enough money, in some cases, to cover the cost of my trip. Some of the leading sites are: iStockphoto.com, Bigstockphoto.com, Shutterstock.com, and Dreamstime.com.

These sites are happy to work with amateurs, but they do expect near-perfect photographs … so you’ve got to have a good digital camera and an eye for composition.

Travel agencies, art directors, and even high school kids looking for photos to illustrate their MySpace pages or their geography and history papers are all customers of these online stock sites. It doesn’t cost you anything to upload your vacation shots, and their buyers can download whichever pictures they choose for anywhere between $1 and $15 a pop, depending on the size of the image they want.

You get a percentage of that fee. And though $.50 might not sound like a lot, keep in mind that you’re looking at volume sales.

I use iStockphoto.com, and I average $.90 per image (per month) or $ $1.83 per download for the photos I have on file with them.

Over time, I’ve uploaded 1773 images from my travels – and even shots from my home town. I don’t have to do any marketing … these photos sell even while I’m sleeping. At the end of the month, I get a check for a thousand or so dollars for my efforts.

It’s fast, easy, and fun.

Here are three things to photograph on your next trip that you can sell for stock. Keep them in mind when you travel, and you’ll have fun, take lots of pictures, and make some extra cash to boot.

  1. Farmers’ Markets

    Farmers’ markets are teeming with stock shots … from the repeating patterns and colors of seasonal fruits and vegetables to signs scrawled in chalk and people picking out their wares.

    Almost every online stock agency requires you to submit a model release for images that include recognizable people, so I suggest you focus on the fruits and vegetables at first. Model releases are specific to each site, so get your account up and running before you try to submit people photographs.

  2. Your Hotel

    One photo of a front-desk bell has sold 1,021 times on iStockphoto.com. And I’ve sold photos of curtains, pillows, and more. Do some research and look up hotel pictures on these stock sites before you leave, and get acquainted with your competition. It’s okay to photograph the same things – just be sure to make your shots unique. But look for what’s selling and what’s not. Put your efforts into taking the kind of photos that sell best.

  3. Textures and Patterns

    People like to buy photos of textures or patterns to use as backgrounds for their websites … fine art on their walls … and a myriad of other things. Keep an eye out for these as you travel. Peeling paint, rusted metal, brick walls, cracks in the sidewalk, bark on a tree … all make for interesting backgrounds.

One final word of advice: Make sure you read the online stock agency’s technical requirements and submission guidelines before you start uploading pictures.

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Published: April 30, 2008

1 Response to “Three Things You Can Get Paid to Photograph on Your Next Vacation”

  1. I bought a decent camera (not a DSLR) thinking it would take sellable quality photos, but that's not the case. Is there such a thing as an inexpensive camera that will take sellable photos? If so, can you suggest some?

    Mary CFebruary 16, 2014 at 7:24 pm


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