3 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 cafe, eat out, and meet new people. But to me, a vacation is also the ticket to some easy extra income…

Take Paris, for instance. (I’ve been there twice.) I enjoyed the cafes… 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 buyers…

Online stock photo agencies, also known as “microstock sites,” are how I make most of my cash. Enough, in some cases, to cover the cost of my trip.

They’re 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 page 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 buyers can download whichever pictures they choose for anywhere between $1 and $20 a pop, depending on what size image they want.

You, in exchange, get a percentage of the sale. I average 80 cents per image per month for all the photos I have on file at the stock agency I use (Istockphoto.com). That may not sound like a lot – but, at the end of the month, I get a check for a thousand or so dollars for my efforts.

Over time, I’ve collected several thousand images from my travels, and even pictures from inside my hotel room and from my house and backyard. I don’t have to do any marketing. I just upload the photos and they sell in my sleep.

It’s fast, easy, and fun.

Here are three things you can photograph on your next trip to sell for stock. Keep these in mind when you travel, and you can have fun, take lots of pictures, and make some extra money 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 contain 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, tassels, pillows, and more. Do some research and look up hotel pictures on the stock sites before you leave to take inventory of your competition. It’s okay to photograph the same things – just be sure to make them yours by making them unique. But look for what’s selling and what’s not. Put your attention on the type of photos that sell best.

3. Textures and Patterns

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

Make sure you read the site’s technical requirements and submission guidelines before you start uploading pictures. Some of the leading sites are: Istockphoto.com, Bigstockphoto.com, Shutterstock.com, and Dreamstime.com.

[Ed Note: Shelly Perry specializes in documentary or lifestyle portraits. Her images have been seen all over the globe on music CD covers, books, magazines, catalogs, websites, ad campaigns, and even on the American Music Awards. She’s a contributor to Turn Your Pictures Into Cash: A Comprehensive Program in Taking and Selling Amazing Photographs. Find more ideas for how to turn your vacation shots into cash here.]