Uncover how professional photographers go about capturing beautiful travel photographs for Instagram and stock portfolios.

Capturing beautiful travel photographs that are a perfect fit for Instagram is one skill we love here at Shutterstock. Shutterstock and Offset clients are constantly searching for inspirational travel imagery from around the world that showcase the diverse cultures of places around the globe. On Instagram, travel sells. Travel accounts are exploding on the image-sharing platform, with brands around the world using inspirational travel photography to sell a certain lifestyle.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Aspirational Lifestyles
Image by Shaun Jeffers

On Shutterstock and Offset, we’re seeing the same travel-inspired trends. No longer are customers looking for simply standard images of beautiful landscapes and cityscapes. They’re looking for travel images that tell stories, and inspire audiences around the world through that content.

That’s why we’re sharing our top tips on how you can take beautiful travel photographs that sell on Shutterstock and Offset. These are the tips you should keep in mind before your next trip so that you can maximize your ability to earn money through your uploaded content.


Before Your Trip

Scout Locations

Scouting locations before your trip is a perfect way to set yourself up to photograph some incredible moments and places. An example is a trip to Paris. Of course, you know the hot spots that should be photographed in this extremely recognizable travel destination. But what about the hidden spots in Paris?

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Scout Locations
Image by Vlad Teodor

To scout locations, consider Instagram as a great tool to find unique spots and composition inspiration. Try to find some general travel accounts by searching “Paris” in your search bar through locations or accounts. Once you’re there, you can find other photographers that have taken photographs of spots around Paris. Save those images to an Instagram Collection so you have your own little travel guide in your pocket on your trip.

Finding Models

Another great way to use Instagram for travel photography is to scout friends and models to shoot with. Find local photographers, and check out the models they shoot with. Consider hosting an Instagram meetup, or looking for creative meetups in the area while you’re there on blogs and forums. Connecting with other creatives is a great way to get a local perspective of the area. Models may be interested in shooting with a visiting photographer, as it’s a great way to gain exposure in a new market.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Network with Models
Image by Monkey Business Images

Get Model and Property Releases Ready

Whether you have them available on your phone for people or places you photograph, or you have a notepad ready to write down emails for after, make sure you’re ready to get model releases. Without model or property releases for recognizable locations and people, your content won’t be accepted on Shutterstock or Offset. You never know when the opportunity may arise, so always be ready.

Gather Local Hashtags

Time to open up your phone notepad, and write down new hashtags from that area. Hashtags are a great way to add exposure to your travel photos. Search for ones that are used in the destinations your visiting, or use the #MyCustomView hashtag from @shutterstockcontributors to get your images seen and featured by our social media team.

Images by Dmytro Gilltukha and Fokke Baarssen

Prepare Your Camera

While we accept phone-quality photographs on Shutterstock, this may limit you in terms of how many places you can put your photographs. Consider investing in a good quality travel camera, such as a Fujifilm X100F, or bringing along your more expensive full-frame. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you should sacrifice quality. This is especially important for Offset, as we’re looking for higher quality imagery that inspires people around the world. Using sharp lenses and high-quality cameras is the first step to capturing beautiful travel photographs.


On Your Trip

Geotag Your Posts and Instagram Stories

Geotagging your posts on Instagram and Instagram Stories is a great way to remember the specifics of where you took a photograph. This comes in handy when you’re uploading travel images to Shutterstock and Offset, so you can add keywords specific to that time and place. This is also a great way to get connected on Instagram. Your images will show up in more places, thereby increasing the visibility of that post.

Tell Stories with Your Images and Videos

Your imagery has the unique ability to tell stories about people and places. Imagine you are walking in a market in Bangkok. Capture as many details about the scene and place as you can. Take wide-angle photographs of the streets, capture the day-to-day of people in motion (with permission of course), and zoom in on smaller vignettes of details. Creating a story through your images is not only a great way to experience a destination, but it’s great to provide options for clients to purchase more images from your work.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Tell Stories
Image by Galyna Andrushko

Get up Early and Go out Later

Depending on where you are traveling to, during the day the light is usually at its highest and harshest. While it might be hard to battle the jet lag, getting up earlier when traveling is always worth it. Whether you capture the perfect morning glow or wander through tourist hot spots with no crowds, this is a great way to capture photographs of popular destinations.

In addition to getting up early, capture night and blue hour photographs. These are the photographs that you can only really capture with high-quality cameras, and they give a unique perspective to a place. For more tips on capturing good blue hour photographs, check out this article.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Go Early
Image by anek.soowannaphoom

Photograph Local Culture

Look up some local magazines, websites, and blogs to find out what events are happening while you’re in a certain location. On Shutterstock, we’re constantly looking for images of events specific to geographical locations. Whether you’re in Germany for Oktoberfest or Sydney for Australia Day, these are great opportunities to grab some images while you’re there.

However, when you photograph events, try to think outside of the box. Instead of a photograph of, say, a parade on Patriots Day, try to take some more inspirational lifestyle images that you can imagine a client using. An example might be a well-manicured hand waving an American flag from the top of the Empire State Building, or a couple sitting on a couch cuddling with star-spangled bunting flags behind them. This is the type of inspirational travel imagery clients are searching for on our networks.

Find Local Foods and Drinks

Local food is a great way for you to experience the local culture of a new place, as well as earn money from it. Whether you are grabbing a pretzel in Germany, or a Vietnamese Coffee in Vietnam, photographing the local food and drinks of a location will help create a story around a destination.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Find Local Foods
Image by Saravutpics

Capture Top Spots

When you visit a new place, consider searching what the top tourist destinations are within that location. Although these places are photographed consistently, having a unique perspective and eye can give your photograph attention on our network.

For example, while in New York you could shoot and submit content from Central Park, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. But try to find a unique perspective of these highlighted destinations. Consider a skate during Christmas at Central Park, decked in plaid and warm winter clothing. Or a girl with her long hair waving in the wind from the top of a building, and a view of the New York skyline blurred in the background. These are the travel images that sell on Shutterstock.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Hit the Hot Spots
Image by Ana Gram

Don’t Forget about the Hidden Gems

While the hot spots should always be on your list, don’t forget about the hidden gems. “Hipster” coffee shops, or cool walls of brick or stone. These images might be more discrete in terms of location, but they give clients the opportunity to be less overtly branded and a little more subtle. Taking photographs in these destinations also gives you the opportunity to earn more money by having a wide variety of use cases for a single, impactful image.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Find the Hidden Gems
Image by song_about_summer

Get Lost Once in a While

Wander down alleyways, or sit on park benches. Find the mom-and-pop shop that serves the best ice cream in town. By getting lost, you never know what opportunity might arise. While planning your trip is a great start to capturing beautiful travel photographs, you should also leave room for the unexpected. Be a local for a day or two.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Let Yourself Wander
Image by nd3000

Watch for Monuments and Buildings That Are Trademark Protected

We cannot accept photographs and videos of buildings, monuments, or logos that are trademarked and copyright protected. Consider this before you take a photograph of a recognizable location. For a full list of places to consider, click here.


After your trip

Organize Your Photographs by Location

Whether you save your content to a hard drive or memory stick, organize your photographs by location so that you save the data in a way you can easily recognize it. Take note of your favorite images by putting them in a separate folder to edit. A good organization tip is to keep a folder of the images you want to upload to a stock network, such as Shutterstock or Offset, and another folder that you want to save for social media or your own portfolio.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Organize Your Work
Image by Yuliya Yafimik

Lightly Edit Your Travel Photographs

Edit your travel photographs to make them pop, but try to refrain from adding any severe filters or dramatic editing techniques. Travel photographs that sell nowadays are reflective of real life, where a person can imagine being in that moment. Keep it simple when you edit, and simply enhance the photographs slightly to reflect your style. You can edit your photographs more severely for your own portfolio, but for Shutterstock and Offset less is definitely more in most cases.

Upload Your Images and Videos to Shutterstock or Offset

Whether you have an account on both of our stock networks, or use one over the other, organize your edited content and upload. On Shutterstock, feel free to upload the bulk of your content so clients can browse comprehensive collections of your work. On Offset, curate your best, highest-quality work and upload images that inspire our high-end clientele to purchase.

Top Tips for Capturing Beautiful Travel Photographs That Sell — Upload Your Best
Image by anek.soowannaphoom

Remember to add keywords that relate directly to the content you upload. Try to refrain from using generic keywords or copied descriptions. Instead, dedicate time to creating titles and keywords that matter. For more tips on keywording your images and videos, check out this article.

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Featured image by Maridav.


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